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News 28 Jul 17

Kosovo Serb Leader Blames Arson On Political Enemies

Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic said his political activism ahead of the Kosovo local elections probably explains why his car was torched in the night between Thursday and Friday.

Filip Rudic, Sanja Sovrlic
BIRN
Belgrade, Mitrovica
Oliver Ivanovic. Photo: Beta

Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Freedom, Democracy, Justice Party, said that his politics are the reason why unknown perpetrators set fire to his car in the divided northern town of Mitrovica.

"Some people obviously find my views unpleasant," Ivanovic told a press conference on Friday.

His car was torched at around 4am in front of a pharmacy in northern Mitrovica. The police considered it a case of arson, the Kosovo Police Service's deputy commander, Besim Hoti, said.

Ivanovic said he did not believe ethnic Albanians were behind the torching, and asked the municipal authorities in the mostly Serb-populated town to condemn the attack.

"The municipal government must condemn this explicitly and call upon the Kosovo Police Service to do something. If the KPS can’t do it, then the [EU rule of law mission] EULEX or [NATO peacekpeeping mission] KFOR have to," Ivanovic said.

A former mayor of the northern town of Zvecan, Dragisa Milovic, whose own car was torched on Wednesday, called the arson attacks a political message.

"Someone obviously doesn’t like the fact that Dragisa Milovic has been meeting Oliver Ivanovic ... Maybe they felt that someone was disturbing the 'idyllic' state we currently have in the northern municipalities," Milovic said.

He added that the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo had paid a lot of money to install security cameras, which did not work on the night of the attack.

"If the Kosovo Police Service does not uncover the perpetrators who torched our cars, I will consider this a coordinated action between certain criminals and the police", Milovic said.

The Serbian Office for Kosovo condemned the incident in Mitrovica, calling it an attempt to cause fear and uncertainty among the Serbian population.

But the Office accused the Kosovo authorities and part of the international community of not wanting to create a safe environment in Kosovo.

"The lack of reaction from the authorities means approval and support for these acts and to those who do not care for peace and prosperity in Kosovo," the Office said in a press release.

Though nominally part of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, the northernmost, Serb-run municipalities are effectively beyond the day-to-day control of the authorities in Pristina.

Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in jail for war crimes in 2016. However, an appeals court annulled the verdict and ordered a retrial.

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