The arrests of two Kosovo Serb officials over corruption charges prompted President Aleksandar Vucic to claim the government of Kosovo is ethnically cleansing Serbs from the country.
On Wednesday (March 16), Kosovo police arrested a customs officer and a former Shterpce municipality officer suspected of having helped former Shterpce mayor to accept bribes for issuing illegal construction permits in the Sharr mountain in the southern Serb-majority municipality.
Operations over the “Brezovica” case – named after a village on Sharr mountain – started in December 2021 with arrests of ten people of both Albanian and Serbian ethnicity, including former mayor Bratislav Nikolic (2014-2018). Nikolic faces charges of accepting more than €1.3 million in bribes in exchange for at least 22 illegal construction permits, according to Kosovo media Kallxo.
More operations were conducted in capital Prishtina, in Ferizaj and Shterpce in January, resulting in arrests of seven people, including two former senior officials of Albanian ethnicity in the Ministry of Environment.
This week’s arrests of two more former officials suspected of corruption related to the same case prompted Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to claim that the government of Kosovo is conducting ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo.
“Their goal is to clean the Sirinić parish, so that Serbs could not stay in the south of Kosovo. And all that is hidden behind the false concern for honesty in the management of Brezovica,” Vucic told reporters after the latest arrests, Serbian media B92 reported.
He slammed the international community for not defending Serbs’ rights in Kosovo: “Should we expect someone to say something in Serbs’ defense? Don’t be naive and expect something like that.”
This is not the first time Serbia denounces the Kosovo government of ethnic cleansing. Similar accusations are waged after every police operation that may include Kosovo Serbs as suspects, including operations throughout the country over energy theft and fight against organized crime and smuggling.
Serbia waged a brutal war against Kosovo during 1998-1999, killing over 8,600 civilians of which 1,600 are still missing, and displacing nearly 1.5 million or 90 percent of the Albanian population. More than 1,000 Kosovo Serbs were killed during the war, while about 200 thousand were displaced.
As Serbia’s Minister of Information of the genocidal government of Slobodan Milosevic, Aleksandar Vucic played a key role in the ethnic cleansing of Albanians from Kosovo only 3 years after the Srebrenica Genocide in which Serbian troops killed over 8,000 civilian men and boys in just about 10 days. While the genocide was ongoing, Vucic threatened the international community from the Serbian parliament: “Come and bomb us, kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims. And then we will see whether the international community dares to attack.”
Especially since the end of war following the NATO operation against the Milosevic regime, Aleksandar Vucic, who denies the Srebrenica Genocide despite multiple international court decisions, has based his politics on the portrayal of Serbia and himself as victims of the United States and European countries’ policies, further feeding nationalist sentiments among Serbs.