Daily Israel Report

New Russian Presence Complicates Kosovo Impasse on Border

A new ingredient has been introduced by Serbia into the standoff on the border with Kosovo in the form of a Russian base.
By Aryeh ben Hayim
First Publish: 10/18/2011, 8:00 PM

Russia has just set up a "humanitarian base" in the Serb city of Nis only 100 km away from the border with Kosovo.

The establishment of the Russian base, coincidentally, comes less than a week after Serbia felt snubbed by an EU commission report that did not mark progress on Serbia's joining the EU. Serbia felt it had taken a painful decision by arresting and extraditing two Serbs --Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić-- to the Hague to face war crimes charges. It felt that this measure was unappreciated

The Russian base will now figure in a month-long crisis surrounding the attempt by the government of Kosovo to establish border checkpoints on its northern border with Serbia. Ethnic Serbs have established roadblocks made of rocks, mud and logs to prevent access to the border points.

As Kosovo has tried to seal the border the Serbian towns are busily building parallel roads extending to the border to prevent Kosovo from blocking unimpeded access to Serbia. NATO that operates a KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo gave a deadline for the removal of the roadblocks but when it sent a convoy early this morning to one of the roadblocks it was turned back.

Serbian President Boris Tadić commented on the crisis. "We expect international factors to show international responsibility because there is also the Serb reality in Kosovo and not just the Albanian one."

After the setback to the European option nationalist parties in Serbia are weighing in in support of their compatriots in Kosovo and using the issue against the coalition. With Russia now close by another joker has been tossed into the picture.