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News 06 Jan 12

Six Detained Ahead of Serbian President's Visit to Kosovo

Police in Kosovo have detained six activists of the nationalist Self-Determination movement, ahead of the arrival of Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Fatmir Aliu
BIRN
Pristina

Six Kosovo Albanians were detained Friday morning ahead of the visit of the Serbian president to a Kosovo monastery for Christmas, local police say.

Kosovo Police spokesperson Baki Kelani told Balkan Insight that the police are verifying information that the six intended to block the main Pristina-Merdare highway, where Tadic’s convoy is expected to pass.

“For the moment the six are not arrested but just detained. We are verifying the information from the intelligence reports we received and will clarify later what it was all about,” Kelani said.

Serbian President Tadic is set to arrive Friday afternoon in Kosovo to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas Eve. He will be accompanied by the Russian Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Konuzin, and their first stop will be the Decani Monastery.

The nationalist Self-Determination (Vetevendosje) movement announced earlier that it planned do everything possible to block the visit of the Serbian leader, and called on the public to mobilize in Decani and Peja/Pec to prevent the Serbian delegation from reaching its destination.

Dardan Molliqaj from the movement told Balkan Insight that the six people detained in the Podujevo region are activists from Self-Determination.

“We are planning to close the Pristina-Merdare highway in different spots, in case Tadic uses the highways to reach the Decani Monastery.

"But what we find bizarre is why police arrested six of our activists, who were sitting inside their vehicle in the village of Lupce close to Podujevo. They were not protesting nor blocking the highway, but apparently were seen as a threat,” Dardan Molliqaj told Balkan Insight.

Based on an initial operational plan, Serbia’s president and his delegation are to be airlifted by helicopter from the Kosovo-Serbia border.

But this plan may be dropped due to bad weather, in which case his convoy would be escorted by the EU rule of law mission EULEX and Kosovo Police for the 100 kilometres from the Merdare border to Decane.

Kosovo Police says that hundreds of its forces may take part in a vehicle escort if the airlift is cancelled.

“Kosovo Police have made all the necessary preparations, and have taken all the security measures, for the visit of Serbian delegation. We will be engaged the entire time, and if the helicopter transportation fails, it means that hundreds of our forces will take part in the operation,” Baki Kelani said.

The ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, but Belgrade has refused to recognise the declaration, and still considers Kosovo as its autonomous region.

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