News 21 Jan 13

Serbian Memorials Destroyed in Kosovo

Police stepped up security near Serbian monuments and graves after several attacks amid heightened tensions over Belgrade's removal of an Albanian memorial.

Edona Peci

Three people have been detained after a World War II memorial was demolished in the town of Vitia and more than 60 Serbian graves were attacked across Kosovo on Sunday and Monday, police said.

Twenty-seven Serbian graves were demolished in the municipality of Klokot, while 38 gravestones were attacked in the town of Prizren - 18 of them destroyed and 20 others moved.

Police however insisted that the attacks were not a reaction to Belgrade’s forced removal of a controversial monument to ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Presevo in south Serbia on Sunday.

“No connection should be made to the developments in Presevo,” Kosovo police spokesperson Brahim Sadriu told Balkan Insight.

He said police had tightened security in areas where there are Serbian graves and monuments and had already detained three people over the Vitia monument demolition.

Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga called the destruction “unacceptable and intolerant”.

Jahjaga urged the authorities to “catch and bring to justice the perpetrators of this vandalism”.

The government also condemned the destruction of the Serbian graves, saying it was “contrary to Kosovo’s efforts to fulfill European civil values”.

In a statement, the government called on Kosovo citizens and ethnic Albanians in Presevo to show their displeasure “in a democratic and civil manner, without falling into provocations from Serbia”.

The EU rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX also called for the vandalism to stop.

"Peaceful protest is normal in any modern, democratic society but the deliberate desecration of cemeteries and religious sites is to be absolutely condemned," EULEX said in a statement.

Belgrade on Sunday carried out its threat to remove the memorial to fighters from the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac that was erected last November in Presevo, home to some 50,000 ethnic Albanians.

The ethnic Albanian guerrilla force sought to unite southern Serbia with Kosovo in the late 1990s but disarmed in 2001 following an internationally-brokered peace deal.

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