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news 09 Aug 17

Kosovo Readies to Deport Arrested Russians, Serbs

A prosecutor told BIRN that 11 Russian and Serbian citizens arrested on Tuesday for illegally crossing the Kosovo border are likely to be deported soon.

Die Morina, Labinot Leposhtica
Kosovo's Justice Palace. Photo: BIRN.

Imer Beka, the head of the basic prosecution in Pristina, which is in charge of the case of the 11 people arrested for illegally entering Kosovo from Serbia, told BIRN on Wednesday that they are likely to be deported soon.

“It seems that they will be deported, as so far the only criminal offence is illegally passing the border,” Beka said.

Beka suggested earlier on Wednesday that the prosecution suspected that the group was connected to people that reportedly held military exercises in northern Kosovo in January.

Kosovo’s public broadcaster RTK reported in January that over 300 members of paramilitary units from Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo had held military exercises in the mountains of northern Kosovo, allegedly training for a potential new armed conflict.

However, despite the prosecution’s earlier suspicions, it is now only charging the 11 people arrested with illegal border crossing.

On Tuesday evening, border officers received information that some Serbian and Russian citizens were expected to enter Kosovo illegally.

Border police then stopped two suspect vehicles with Serbian license plates in the Podujeva/Podujevo area and arrested six Russians and five Serbs.

Russia’s embassy in Belgrade confirmed the detention of six of its citizens.

"A total of six Russians were detained, two of whom are local residents, members of a Serbian citizen’s family," embassy spokesman Yuri Pichugin told Russian news agency TASS on Wednesday.

Marko Djuric, the head of Serbian government’s Kosovo office, condemned the arrests, and said that among those people was a pregnant woman and a minor.

“[This] makes this unnecessary traumatisation of the Serbian and Russian citizens even more inhumane,” Djuric said in a statement on Wednesday.

He added that his office, along with Russian diplomats, provided legal aid to the arrested group.

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