Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts A Tale Told Thrice: In North Kosovo, “Pure Provocation” or “Brutal Lynching”?
A Tale Told Thrice: In North Kosovo, “Pure Provocation” or “Brutal Lynching”?

A Tale Told Thrice: In North Kosovo, “Pure Provocation” or “Brutal Lynching”?

Political war may be combined with violence,
economic pressure, subversion, and diplomacy,
but its chief aspect is the use of words, images, and ideas.

                                                                        – Paul A. Smith, Jr., On Political War

I felt as if imprisoned by ISIS terrorists, not
arrested[1] . . . They sang on the ride to Priština,
shouting Allahu Akbar.[2]

                                                                           – Marko Đurić


Executive Summary

In late March, Kosovo internal security forces detained and then expelled a senior Serbian government official, Marko Đurić, who traveled to a North Kosovo ethnic Serb district known as North Mitrovica. While Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić was adamant that Mr. Đurić complied with the 2013 Brussels Agreement’s pre-notification requirement for official visits, Kosovo’s First Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli earlier warned Serbian officials they would be arrested if they tried to enter Kosovo. Returning defiantly on 8 April to attend Easter Liturgy at the Banjska monastery along with the Kosovo Serb leader Goran Rakić, Mr. Đurić declared, “Serbia will always be with its people in Kosovo and Metohija.”[3] “The only moment when emotions overwhelmed me during all these days,” he said, “was after President Vučić spoke to President Putin, who conveyed Russia’s strong support and guarantees . . . Serbia has a strong ally for the difficult struggle ahead.”[4]

Despite Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi deriding Mr. Đuric’s “spectacle”[5] (inskenim) as “a pure provocation by Belgrade”[6] (ishte provokim i pastër nga Beogradi), Serbia strongly disputed claims Mr. Đuric was in Kosovo illegally. His expulsion caused Kosovo Serbs, led by Deputy Prime Minister Dalibor Jevtić, to quit Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s coalition government, despite efforts at damage control by his deputy, Mr. Pacolli, who claimed unconvincingly a week after the incident that he acted on his own authority without President Thaçi’s prior knowledge.[7] Even a leading Albanian political figure suggested Mr. Đurić’s detention and deportation “was not about the rule of law and constitutional order, but instead about political games.”[8] Another questioned “the use of special units and the entire Kosovo police arsenal to arrest a person who, in other conditions, would probably require two ordinary cops.”[9]

Never one to mince words, however, President Thaçi saw fit to double down and compared his Serbian counterpart, Mr. Vučić, to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, adding, “The Serbian president’s phone calls with the presidents of Russia and Belarus are the best indicator of his political orientation.”[10]

Mr. Thaçi had no monopoly on bombast. A Russian agitprop portal quoted Mr. Vučić saying, “That for the same reason the Germans found themselves without Königsberg, the Serbs can never abandon Kosovo . . . the Germans are one thing, however, and we Serbs are far from Germans.”[11] The Russian government joined the fray to accuse the NATO-led international peacekeeping force Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo[12] (EULEX) “of frankly taking a conniving position” (popustitel’skuyu pozitsiyu) and “making no effort to prevent the unlawful actions of the Priština authorities.”[13] Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused NATO of using the “pretext of an aggravated security situation in the province [Kosovo]” to bolster its presence on the ground[14] and “to establish a Kosovo army according to NATO standards.”

The incident involving Mr. Đurić fed three narratives—one Serbian, one Kosovar, one Russian—fueled by a daily cascade of new provocations both real and imagined. Take Mr. Đurić’s revelation of a “secret” Plan Prištine to “annul Kosovo Serbs’ collective political rights . . . altering the ethnic structure in Serb communities south of the Ibar” (promena etničke strukture u sredinama južno od Ibra) so that “Albanians become the majority” (Albanci postaju većina).[15] Mr. Thaçi’s government mouths “colorful lies” (šarene laže) while his secret plan—“prepared for the United States and the EU”[16]— “includes the planned construction of Albanian settlements, a massive influx of new residents and registering new voters, as well as intimidation and arrests.”[17] The Kosovar narrative is just as abject. A legal adviser to Mr. Thaçi warned a federalized Kosovo that fulfills the 2013 Brussels Agreement’s commitment to Kosovo Serbs will cause Kosovo to “become a dysfunctional state and begin its ‘Bosnia-fication’. And we’ll give Serbia far more than Milošević demanded—the explicit partition of Kosovo his successors demand.”[18] “Serbia,” said Kosovo’s former chief negotiator, Edita Tahiri, is only interested “in ways to change borders, with the aim of creating a Greater Serbia inspired by a dangerous Russian geopolitical agenda.”[19]

It is true that Russia’s instrumental strategy around geographic “gray zones”—think Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transdniestria—is to erect obstacles to NATO accession. One can argue its companion is the instrumental use of disinformation and ambiguity—maskirovka—to erect what Levi Maxey called a “gray zone between peace and war.”[20] However, Mr. Vučić’s Königsberg metonym was not meant to say he wants an enclave within Kosovo. He meant instead that should he ever concede Kosovar sovereignty over North Kosovo, it will, like German Königsberg, be lost forever. So it is puzzling that the United States invariably sides with the thuggish Mr. Thaçi, who among other things, stands accused after a three-year criminal investigation by a European Union task force of having led a crime network, the Drenica Group, that flourished in Kosovo and Albania and smuggled human organs, weapons and heroin during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war. Actions that feed ethnic Serb separatism unquestionably serve Russia’s end of blocking further NATO accessions in the Western Balkans. These actions include implacable American insistence that borders only recently fixed are now immutable. The Trump administration tempts danger by continuing to prosecute policies in the region whose principal effect is to feed the Russian narrative and deny communities’ aspirations to reunite with Serbia.

The Selfish Fatherland[21]

The fatherland must be guarded, it must be
defended. It must be loved until the grave and the
escutcheon are covered by ivy.[22]

                                                                                                                   – Isidora Sekulić c.1912

Asked what he considered the major achievement of Soviet diplomacy during his 50 years with the Foreign Ministry, Andrei Gromyko replied, “When I was a young diplomat, there was one Germany. Today there are four.”[23] So, too, it is in the Western Balkans, where from unitary “Heavenly Serbia”[24] [Nebeskoj Srbiji] today there are four. There is one the United States formally acknowledges—the Republic of Serbia [Republika Srbija]—and two it does not—the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohij [Kosovo i Metohija “KiM”] aka the Republic of Kosovo, and the Serb Republic [Republika Srpska] established under the 1995 Dayton Accord as one of two entities that comprise modern Bosnia and Herzegovina [Bosna i Hercegovina “BiH”]. Croatia subsumed the fourth—the Republic of Serbian Krajina [Republika Srpska Krajina]—under the 1995 Erdut Agreement, something acknowledged by all but the most stubborn revanchists.

This essay’s point of departure is the recent detention and expulsion by Kosovo internal security forces of a senior Serbian official who traveled to a city in one of ethnic Serb-controlled municipalities of North Kosovo (Severno Kosovo). It is the largest component of the Community of Serb Municipalities [Zajednica srpskih opština “ZSO”] intended as an ethnic Serb self-governing entity within Kosovo when it was established under the 2013 Brussels Agreement.

North Kosovo (in orange) (Source: Wikimedia)

In a living example of Mile’s law, where one stands on the senior Serbian official’s arrest and expulsion largely depends on where one sits. Observers like the Kosovo playwright and political activist Milazim Krasniqi fear an unfolding “Crimea scenario” under which the Serbian government simply annexes North Kosovo.[25] On the other hand, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called it “a small test for the full occupation of North Kosovo” (mal test za zazemanjeto na severno Kosovo) and a ruse “to conceal the expulsion of persons associated with the Fetullah Gulen organization.” The latter reference is to the 29 March arrest in Gjakova and Priština of six Turkish nationals, who Kosovo internal security forces handed over to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı “MIT”). Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj disclaimed any prior knowledge of the arrest of the six Turkish nationals, all of whom worked for Mehmet Akif schools in Kosovo operated by the U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen’s Gulistan Educational Institutions. Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said the six were “alleged senior Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members” arrested “following operations against the terror group’s branch in the Balkans.”[26]

All this makes congenial ground for aspiring regional hegemons like Bulgaria and Turkey as well as for disruptive Russian agitprop, which warned “there’s a feeling spreading among many intelligence services in the Balkans that the Albanians [author’s note: the Kosovo government] are planning for something big these days”[27] and “if the Albanians block Serbian municipalities effort to merge [as the Community of Serb Municipalities] they will come into direct conflict [with Serbia].”[28]

The phrase Kosovo je naš Jerusalim (“Kosovo is our Jerusalem”) should inform anyone struggling to understand Serbs’ attachment to Kosovo. Consider this is from a Christmas broadcast by Irinej, the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church:

We know that in Kosovo and Metohija our persecuted people remain behind as martyrs to their worldly Orthodox faith and to boldly proclaim their Serbian name.[29]

The Serbian Orthodox bishop of Milesheva, Atanasije Jevtic, quoted a 1990 Glas Crkve (“Voice of the Church”) editorial, which read, “In Europe without Kosovo or in Kosovo without Europe? The European earthly treasure, or the heavenly Kosovar empire?”[30] A more secular reading goes like this:

Serbia is Kosovo. It’s not just a matter of Serbian identity, it’s a fundamental moral question: will we leave 120,000 of our people behind in a hostile environment? Did we lose Kosovo or did we not? Will we ever return to Kosovo? It depends on us. If we believe, then we will return. If we do not believe, then we won’t.[31]

Appearing on the RAS TV show “And What Do You Think?” (A šta vi mislite?) Miloš Ković[32] posed the following rhetorical question to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić:

Isidora Sekulić says, “Serbia is Kosovo.” But Vučić says, forget about Kosovo, I’m not here to worry about Heavenly Serbia (Nebeskoj Srbiji) but the earthly one instead. The Foreign Affairs Ministry says Kosovo must be partitioned. So my question is, how will you gentlemen do it? Divide it where? Take all the area north of the Ibar and you’ll leave behind 70,000 of our citizens and our relics. Leave them behind for whom? For Hashim Thaçi and Ramush Haradinaj?[33]

Mr. Đurić Goes to Kosovo

Kosovo and Metohija is not just a part of our land.
It is the essence of our identity, the fundamental
spiritual and historical continuity on which we are
conceived as a people.[34]

                                                                                                                      – His Holiness Patriarch Irinej

In the heart of my homeland there is no truth or
justice. We simply love our homeland.[35]

                                                                                                                 – Isidora Sekulić

In late March, Kosovo security forces first detained and then deported a Serbian government official, Marko Đurić, who entered Kosovo en route to the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica (Albanian: Mitrovicë) in volatile North Mitrovica, Mr. Đurić is Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, which coordinates Serbian governmental policy in the disputed Serbian autonomous province, which ethnic Albanians declared the independent Republic of Kosovo in February 2008.

Kosovo Security Forces Arresting Marko Đurić (Credits: Tanjug (l) Glas Srpske (r))

Kosovo Security Forces Arresting Marko Đurić (Credits: Tanjug (l) Glas Srpske (r))

North Mitrovica is one of four ethnic Serb-majority municipalities in North Kosovo, and the most populous of the ten that comprise the Community of Serb Municipalities (Zajednica srpskih opština “ZSO”). While the ZSO was established under the 2013 Brussels Agreement, the Kosovo government has blocked its formation since November 2015, when Kosovo failed to obtain sufficient votes to become a UNESCO[36] member-state. In October 2017, the ZSO’s representative political party, Srpska lista (“Serb List”), won 80 percent of the vote in North Mitrovica and a majority in all ten ethnic Serb municipalities across Kosovo.[37]

Marko Đurić Congratulates ZSO Leader Goran Rakić (Credit: Tanjug)

ZSO Leader (and Kosovska Mitrovica mayor) Goran Rakić responded to Mr. Đurić’s arrest by declaring that “such an attack” by ROSU—the Kosovo national police special operations force, whose formation in January 2017 was condemned by ethic Serbs as an illegal effort to “militarize” (militarizacija) and “conquer” (osvoji) North Kosovo[38]—will never occur again in North Kosovo.[39] He praised Mr. Đurić, saying, “He could’ve left, but he didn’t want to walk out of the town meeting. They tried to humiliate him, but he stood bravely in front of his people.”[40]

Marko Đurić in ROSU Detention (Credit: Darik News)

“From my perspective, these people aren’t police officers, they’re an unrestrained terrorist gang sent to attack unarmed and defenseless people,”[41] said Mr. Đurić. Protesting “they led me around like a leashed dog”[42] (kao psa za kravatu po zemlji), he added, “the only reason these animals were left with a false sense of superiority and victory is that we have greater respect for peace and human life”:

[I]n any civilized society, criminals who treat unarmed civilians like this would immediately be committed to mental hospitals or given long prison sentences . . . [T]he sadistic mistreatment of unarmed people, including himself on Monday, was committed in the spirit of the worst crimes of the terrorist KLA.[43]

Asked whether the Serbian government would continue its dialogue with its Kosovo counterpart, Mr. Đurić said this:

So far as talks are concerned, what can I tell you? The international representatives who allowed, and perhaps encouraged, this incident [Mr. Đurić’s arrest and deportation] as well as [the Kosovo government in] Priština certainly demonstrated what they think about talks . . . What you saw in Kosovska Mitrovica was how Priština and the international community ‘promote dialogue’. There’s nothing more I can add. In a single week, their attitude [toward talks] was laid bare by their actions and misdeeds.[44]

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said the Kosovo government’s actions “clearly had the support of some other countries,”[45] to which Mr. Đurić added, “Everything happened with the explicit consent of certain members of the international community”:

Who can say how many foreign intelligence services, how many soldiers of this or that country, how many members of this or that international mission are there?[46]

Mr. Đurić returned to Belgrade in a vehicle festooned with “Kosovo is Serbia! (Kosovo je Srbija!) written in 21 languages,” according to a Newz story republished online by Nova srpska politička misao, an independent Belgrade political quarterly.[47]

Stating a few days later, “the Albanians (Albanci) . . . should be ashamed of what they do and how they do it,”[48] Mr. Đurić condemned “the illegal detention and questioning of three journalists [note: all from the public broadcaster Radio-Television of Serbia (Radio televizija Srbije)] and five lawyers in Kosovo and Metohija . . . by the same people who arrested him on Monday and who, to him, are ‘terrorists’.”[49]

“Pristina carried out a brutal act of folly by arresting the head of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija[50]—apparently with the support of some other countries,” reported the Bulgarian tabloid Chas Pik.[51]

In a speech following a meeting of the National Security Council, [Serbian President Aleksandar] Vučić emphasized that Đurićhad not entered Kosovo illegally, as Pristina alleged, and had declared his trip 75 hours in advance, although according to the existing agreements between the two countries, only 24 hour advanced notice required before entering the country.[52]

Even Kosovo politicians condemned the action against Mr. Đurić. Albin Kurti, the ethnic Albanian leader of the nationalist Lëvizja Vetëvendosje! (“Self-Determination Movement”):

For my part, it didn’t take more than two days to show that it [Mr. Đurić’s detention and deportation] wasn’t about the rule of law and constitutional order, but about political games. The rally held yesterday without Đurićis no less problematic than the rally last Monday with Djuric.[53]

Containing the Kosovo Contagion

 Military-political alliances are created to wage war
one day, not to be humanitarian societies.[54]

                                                                                                                 – Dragomir Andjelkovic

A Pro-Russia Demonstration in Belgrade
(Credit: Fond strategicheskoy kul’tury)

Calling Kosovo “Serbia’s most important national issue, one that obviously is not resolved and is once again on the agenda,” the Bosnian Serb president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik continued”

In the sense of our nationhood, this question [the status of Kosovo] concerns all Serbs wherever they live. Our culture and our emotions are tied to Kosovo. It is a mindset that’s important to each of us, whether one is a politician or not, because it’s all centered in and around Kosovo.[55]

Making the Russian argument for federalizing Kosovo, Dragomir Andjelkovic[56] insists the status of KiH cannot be separated from the status of Republika Srpska. Conceding “Albanians control a greater part of Kosovo and Metohija,”[57] he suggests a solution modeled on the 1929 Lateran Accords, under which Prime Minister Benito Mussolini agreed to recognize Vatican City as an independent state and to pay the Vatican financial compensation for its loss of the Papal States.[58] In Mr. Andjelkovic’s conception:

The most important Serbian monasteries in Albanian territory would get extraterritorial status, and monks and other residents would have legal immunity and the highest degree of protection.[59]

While it would be “appropriate to do so,” Mr. Andjelkovic argues, “it is not realistic to adopt this radical solution for the greater part of KiH and then do the same for Republika Srpska.”[60] He suggests as an alternative “the possible (complex) division of Kosovo and Metohija with the parallel recognition of the Republika Srpska’s right to self-determination,” possibly in the “window of opportunity” he sensed was opening with the new Trump administration:

Serbia’s position on the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, and also Bosnia and Herzegovina, has a much greater significance for Putin than the Muslim or Albanian position does for Trump.[61]

As the United States “tries to strengthen its position against Russia, Serbia is often a victim here,” he writes, adding that President Trump is in a fight “with deep state forces . . . trying to provoke conflict with Russia, and everything happens through our country.”[62] As to Serbia-as-victim, the Russian disinformation site Eurasia Daily claims Mr. Vučić analogized Kosovo to German Königsberg:

The Germans today live without Königsberg  . . . But the Germans are one thing, and we Serbs are far from Germans.[63]

Mr. Andjelkovic elaborated and expanded the thought:

It is worthwhile asking another question: is renouncing national self-awareness and national interest the price of improving the standard of living? What will be the consequences of European integration for the Serbian national identity, territorial integrity, and the fate of Serbs across the region? We’re not Romanians or Bulgarians, we’re the people against whom a special war was waged . . . [64]

For the enemies of the Serbian people, the best scenario is an isolated Serbia, one which pleads before the gates of the European Union (which ignores it) and at the same time rejects Russia’s helping hand . . . A great power like Russia should not amiably and passively watch the spread of anti-Russian propaganda in Serbia and other countries that traditionally are friendly to the Russian people and the Russian state.[65]

Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, “This incident [Mr. Đurić’s expulsion] as well as the murder of Oliver Ivanović[66] in northern Kosovo Mitrovica markedly exacerbated the situation in Kosovo.”

The always-provocative Albanian administration of the so-called “Republic of Kosovo” invariably drives its relationship with Belgrade into a dead end. The most recent time was 28 March, when Marko Đurić arrived in the city of Kosovska Mitrovica . . . The European round-the-clock channel Euronews, broadcast in 150 countries, showed Kosovo special forces seizing the Serbian ministerial rank official, who came to participate in a round table discussion. Meanwhile, at the same time, Kosovo special forces were also seen escorting a EULEX motorcade. [ . . . ] The Russian Foreign Ministry stated in response to the March 26th incident, “It’s also obvious the Kosovars, as they’re instructed to do, follow the example of their patrons in the US and Europe, trampling on the foundations of international law and acting on the principle that generally accepted norms of conduct don’t apply . . . This extremely dangerous course is fraught with the risk of relapsing into of armed clashes in Kosovo and destabilizing the Balkan region as a whole.[67]

An unsigned Ekspres commentary titled “Conspiracy Theories” (Teorije zavere) offered this perspective on the Serbian narrative around Mr. Đurić’s expulsion:

Vučić knows very well that announcing court proceedings against all those who participated in Mr. Đurić’s arrest must perforce be read as a clear assertion that Kosovo remains under Serbia’s jurisdiction. And he knows very well that employing terms like “bandits” and “terrorists” also must be clearly understood as a claim that Kosovo remains part of Serbia, and that Serbia is experiencing [in Kosovo] much what Madrid is with [Carles ]Pugidemona[68] and the other Catalan separatists . . . When we add to this the Vucic’s reference to the Constitution, the one that treats Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia, as he did it at the same press conference, it is clear that he is sending the sharpest messages he could sent to partners from the West.[69]

The late Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle once said, “Words should be mild, and arguments strong”[70] (Reči treba da budu blage, a argumenti jaki). Always one of the more temperate voices in the region, Mr. Vučić has clearly decided the time for mild words has passed. 

The translation of all source material is by the author unless otherwise noted. Regarding the title, the Albanian language broadcaster RTV21 quoted President Hashim Thaçi calling Mr. Đuric’s entry a “pure provocation” by Serbia [], while the Serbian language service of the Russian government-controlled Sputnik wrote that Mr. Đurić  “survived a brutal lynching by a special police unit in Kosovo” (preživeo brutalan linč od strane specijalne jedinice kosovske policije) [ Last accessed 29 March 2018]

[1] “INTERVJU! MARKO ĐURIĆ, direktor vladine kancelarije za KiM: ZAMALO NISU STRELJALI SVE SRBE U MITROVICI!” Informer [published online in Serbian 7 April 2018]. Last accessed 8 April 2018.

[2] Mr. Đurić is Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, which coordinates Serbian governmental policy in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, whose autonomous status within Serbia was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).  In February 2008, ethnic Albanian separatists declared the Autonomous Province’s independence and established the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo.

[3] “VASKRŠNJA LITURGIJA Marko Đurić stigao na Kosovo.” Alo! [published online in Serbian 7 April 2018]. Last accessed 8 April 2018.

[4] Informer, 7 April 2018, op cit.

[5] “Thaçi: Hyrja ilegale e Gjuriqit në Kosovës, inskenim i Vuçiqit.” Telegrafi [published online in Albanian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[6] “Thaçi: Hyrja e Gjuriqit.” RTV21 [published online in Albanian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[7] “Këshilltari i Pacollit: Ne e arrestuam Djuric’in, jo Thaçi.” Gazeta Metro [published online in Albanian 2 April 2018]. Last accessed 3 April 2018. Within a few days, Mr. Pacolli was embroiled in another controversy along with an aide, Jetlir Zyberaj. He claimed the Kosovo government acted on the basis of evidence contained in a “secret document” when the Kosovo Intelligence Agency deporting six Turkish citizens to Turkey. The Erdoğan government claimed the six were members of the so-called “Fethullahist Terror Organization” (FETÖ), a reference to the Gülen movement led by the United States-based cleric, Fethullah Gülen.

[8] “Kurti: arrestimi i gjuriqit, film nga Thaçi e Vuçiqi.” RTK Live [published online in Albanian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[9] “Avokati i njohur “godet” keq liderët e Kosovës, zbulon planin e Serbisë për Asociacionin.” Bota Sot [published online in albanian 6 April 2018]. Last accessed 8 April 2018.

[10] “Thaçi për kërcënimin e Vuçiqit me ushtri: Nuk iu kish kthye asnjë ushtarë në Serbi.” [published online in Albanian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[11] “Vuchich sravnil Kosovo s Kenigsbergom i zayavil, chto serbam daleko do nemtsev.” Eurasia Daily [published online in Russian 4 April 2018]. Last accessed 5 April 2018. Eurasia Daily aka EADaily is a Moscow-based news portal “established in 2015 to provide objective coverage of political and socio-economic processes on the Eurasian continent” through its “own correspondents and commentators work in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAPC), Ukraine, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.” A number of analysts consider the English and Russian language Eurasia Daily portals to be a “soft power” type Russian disinformation website, including the European Union East StratComm “Mythbusters” joint task force formed in early 2015 to identify and counter suspect Russian disinformation.

[12] The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is the largest civilian mission ever launched under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The central aim of the mission is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas. See: Last accessed 4 April 2018.

[13] “Zakharova: Rossiya zametila usiliya SSHA po formirovaniyu armii Kosovo.” EurAsia Daily [published online in Russian 4 April 2018]. Last accessed 4 April 2018.

[14] Camp Bondsteel is the headquarters of NATO’s Multinational Battle Group-East (MNBG-E), which conducts peace support operations as one of the two MNBGs that constitute KFOR. Located near Ferizaj in southeastern Kosovo, MNBG-E has approx.

imately 1000 troops from Hungary, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and the United States.

[15] “Promena etničke strukture u srpskim sredinama na KiM – albanski plan razrađen do detalja.” Radio-televizija Srbije [published online in Serbian 7 April 2018].–albanski-plan-razradjen-do-detalja-.html. Last accessed 8 April 2018.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] The speaker is Tomë Gashi, a Kosovo Albanian lawyer and legislator, and a legal adviser to President Thaçi.  “Avokati i njohur “godet” keq liderët e Kosovës, zbulon planin e Serbisë për Asociacionin.” Bota Sot [published online in Albanian 6 April 2018]. . Last accessed 8 April 2018. The reference is to former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, who stood trial for war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in a five-year trial that ended without a verdict when he died in his prison cell in March 2006 of a heart attack.

[19] It reads in the original Albanian “idetë e ndryshimit të kufijve me qëllim të krijimit të Serbisë së Madhe dhe që janë të frymëzuar nga agjendat e rrezikshme gjeopolitike ruse.” See: “Tahiri: Serbisë nuk intereson asociacioni, por ndryshimi i kufijve.” Gazeta Blic [published online in albanian 8 April 2018]. Last accessed 8 April 2018.

[20] Levi Maxey (2017). “Maskirovka: Russia’s Gray Zone Between Peace and War.” The Cipher Brief [published online 8 November 2017]. Last accessed 8 April 2018/

[21] The 20th century Serbian writer Isidora Sekulić suggested the ideal of the “selfish fatherland” in her Balkan War era prose poem, “The Question” (Pitanje).

[22] In Vojislav M. Jovanović & Miloš Ivković (1913). Srpska čitanka za treći razred srednjih škola. (Belgrade: Geca Kon) 261-262.

[23] Michael Dobbs (1990). “Soviets Reluctantly Accepting Idea of a Unified Germany in NATO.” The Washington Post [published 31 May 1990]. Last accessed 5 April 2018. Mr. Dobbs wrote, “The comment by the veteran Soviet foreign minister provided a succinct summary of the importance to the Kremlin of the neutralization of a long-standing geopolitical threat.”

[24] A Serbian Orthodox conception depicting an idealized Serbia, today “Heavenly Serbia” (Nebeskoj Srbiji) is a synecdoche for Serbian nationalism.

[25] Interview with the Kosovo playwright Milazim Krasniqi, who cofounded Kosovo’s second-largest political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo. See: “Prof. Krasnichi: Opasno e, ako se prilozhi krimskiyat stsenariĭ za aneksiraneto na severno Kosovo.” Epitsentŭr [published online in Bulgarian 5 April 2018].–Milazim-Krasnichi/151162/11/0. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[26] “Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan’dan Kosova Başbakanına tepki. Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan, Kosova Başbakanını FETÖ operasyonuna yönelik tutumu konusunda eleştirerek.”Kimin talimatıyla sen böyle bir adım attın?” dedi.” Anadolu Agency [published online in Turkish 31 March 2018]. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[27] “HSrbite gi grupiraat tenkovite, ako Kosovo go blokira formiranjeto na srpski opštini Srbite ke počnat so voeni napadi.” Sloboden Prostor [published online in Serbian 6 April 2018].србите-ги-групираат-тенковите-ако-кос/. Last accessed 7 April 2018. The same storyline run in several Serbian nationalist outlets, for example” “RUSKI MEDIJI JAVLJAJU: Albanci se spremaju za rat, Srbi grupišu tenkove ka Kosovu! EVO ŠTA ĆE SE DESITI…” Komersant [published online in Serbian 6 April 2018]. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[28] The second quote was written by Paul Antonopoulos, who is frequently cited by the Rusisan government-controlled Sputnik and by Russian disinformation sites like Eurasia Daily. According to Media Watch, he is the “pro-Assad deputy editor of Al-Masdar News forced to resign over racist comments” in March 2017. See: Last accessed 7 Aptil 2018.

[29] “Božićna poslanica patrijarha Irineja – Kosovo je naš Jerusalim.” Radio-televizija Srbije [published online in Serbian 4 January 2018].—kosovo-je-nas-jerusalim.html. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[30] “Mit o nebeskoj Srbiji: polazište osvajačkih ratova i zločina u 20. stoljeću.” Večernji list [published online in Croatian 30 March 2011]. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[31] “Dogodine u Prizrenu!” Valjevska iskra [published online in Serbian 2 April 2018]. Last accessed 5 April 2018. The full quote in Serbian reads as follows:

“Srpstvo je Kosovo. Nije to pitanje samo srpskog identiteta, to je osnovno moralno pitanje: hoćemo li da ostavimo 120,000 naših ljudi dole, u okruženju neprijateljski raspoloženom . . . Jesmo li izgubili Kosovo ili nismo? Hoćemo li se nekad vratiti na Kosovo? To zavisi od nas. Ako verujemo onda ćemo se vratiti. Ako ne verujemo, onda nećemo.”

[32] Miloš Ković is a Serbian historian at the University of Belgrade.

[33] For the full television interview (in Serbian) see:  at See also: “Miloš Ković: Kome ostavljate Srbe i svetinje na Kosovu – Haradinaju i Tačiju?” Srbi na okup! [published online in Serbian 3 April 2018]. Last accessed 6 April 2018. The “Ibar” reference is to the Ibar River, which divides ethnic Serb-dominated North Mitrovica from Mitrovica’s ethnic Albanian south. The “relics” reference is to Serbian Orthodox historical and cultural sites in Kosovo outside North Mitrovica:

“According to the registers of protected cultural properties from 1986 and 1994, there were over 400 protected cultural properties in Kosovo and Metohia, whereby a significant had been protected previous to issuance of these registers. The only monuments in Kosovo and Metohia recognized by UNESCO as part of the world cultural heritage are the Serbian Orthodox sacred/holy places.” See: Sima Avramović, DušAn Rakitić, Mirjana Menković, Vojislav Vasić, Aleksandra Fulgosi, Branko Jokić (2010).  The Predicament of Serbian Orthodox Holy Places In Kosovo and Metohia: Elements for a Historical, Legal and Conservational Understanding. (Belgrade: University of Belgrade Law Faculty) 8.

Novosti writes,“The largest number of Serbian sanctuaries is in Kosovo and Metohija. They are, however, dangerous. The sites are guarded by the so-called Kosovo police, and the clergy suffers great pressures.” See: “Patrijarh Irinej: I glas crkve se mora čuti.” Novosti [published online in Serbian 6 April 2011].Патријарх-Иринеј-И-глас-цркве-се-мора-чути. Last accessed 7 April 2018.

[34] “Đurić: Srbija će uvek biti uz svoj narod na KiM.” Kancelarija za Kosovo i Metohiju, Vlada Republike Srbije website [published online in Serbian 8 April 2018]. Last accessed 9 April 2018.

[35] In Vojislav M. Jovanović & Miloš Ivković (1913). Srpska čitanka za treći razred srednjih škola. (Belgrade: Geca Kon) 261-262.

[36] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

[37] “Kosovo: Serb List wins in 9 out of 10 Serb municipalities.” B92 [published online 23 October 2017]., Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[38] “Priština planirala da osvoji.” Sputnik [published online in Serbian January 16 2017]. Last accessed 2 April 2018. ROSU is an acronym of Regional Operational Support Units, which are specialized units attached to the Kosovo national police force. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić condemned the ROSU deployment to North Kosovo, saying it “violated all agreements reached with Brussels and NATO. I do not know whether they have had a permission from NATO, but there was no permission from the Serbs.” See: “Specijalce „Rosu” obučavali američki instruktori.”

[39] ROSU is an acronym of Regional Operational Support Unit, or specialized law enforcement units attached to the Kosovo national police force. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in January condemned the ROSU deployment to North Kosovo, saying it “violated all agreements reached with Brussels and NATO. I do not know whether they have had a permission from NATO, but there was no permission from the Serbs,” Vucic said, as broadcast by the PINK channel. See: “Special Forces Presence in North Kosovo Violates All Agreements.” Vaseljenska TV [published online in Serbian 17 January 2017]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[40] “Rakić: Odluka Srpske liste danas posle konsultacija sa Vučićem.” Blic [published online in Serbian 27 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[41] “Marko Đurić i predstavnici Srba sa KiM na konferenciji za novinareĐurić: Vukli su me kao psa i pevali ‘Alahu ekber’.” Sputnik [published online in Serbian 27 March 2018]. Last accessed 30 March 2018.

[42] “Đurić: Vukli su me kao psa.” Politika [published online in Serbian 27 March 2018]. Lastv accessed 30 March 2018.

[43] “Marko Đurić Enveru Hodžaju: Životinje iz Mitrovice, ni ja, ni Vučić, ni Srbi sa Kosova i Metohije ne plašimo se vaših kundaka, suzavaca i noževa.” Dnevnik [published online in Serbian 28 March 2018]. Last accessed 29 March 2018. See also: “Marko Đurić Enveru Hodžaju: Životinje iz Mitrovice, ni ja, ni Vučić, ni Srbi sa Kosova i Metohije ne plašimo se vaših kundaka, suzavaca i noževa.” Nova srpska politička misao [published online in Serbian 27 March 2018]. Last accessed 29 March 2018. The “terrorist KLA” reference is to the c.1990s Kosovo Liberation Army, also known by its Albanian acronym UÇK (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës). The UÇK began as an ethnic Albanian paramilitary that grew by the late 1990s into a well-armed force of some twenty thousand combatants, including some thousand foreign mercenaries from Albania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, BiH and Croatia. It sought the Kosovo’s separation from Serbia and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania. Kosovo’s current president, Hashim Thaçi was a senior UÇK leader known at the time by his Albanian nom de guerre, Gjarpëri, or “the Snake. Eventually, the UÇK took the pathway of “transformation, not dissolution” in the words of one scholarly study and evolved into the Kosovo Protection Corps (Trupat e Mbrojtjes së Kosovës), which was active from 1999 until 2009. The KPC was established as a civilian emergency service agency but in fact functioned from inception as a paramilitary internal security force, a status it formally adopted in 2009 when it was renamed the Kosovo Security Force (Forca e Sigurisë së Kosovës). For more on the UÇK’s transformation, see: Armend R. Beka (2010). The KLA and the Kosovo War: From Intra-State Conflict to Independent Country. (Berlin: Berghof Forschungszentrum für konstruktive Konfliktbearbeitung) 27.

[44] Politika, 27 March 2018, op cit.

[45] “Marko Đurić proteran sa Kosova.” Vostok [published online in Serbian 26 March 2018].Đuric-proteran-sa-Kosova. Last accessed 30 March 2018.

[46] Politika 27 March 2018, op cit.

[47] “Marko Đurić stigao u Beograd u policijskom vozilu na kojem na 21 jeziku piše “Kosovo je srbija”.” Nova srpska politička misao [published online in Serbian 27 March 2018]. Last accessed 29 March 2018.

[48] “Đurić: Podržavamo nameru Srba na KiM o uspostavljanju ZSO.” Politika [published online in Serbian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 29 March 2018].

[49] “Đurić: U Prištini spremaju rat.” In4S [published online in Serbian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 29 March 2018.

[50] The Office for Kosovo and Metohija (Kancelarija za Kosovo i Metohiju) coordinates Serbian government policy on the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (Autonomna Pokrajina Kosovo). In September 1992, Kosovo Albanians proclaimed the Autonomous Province the independent Republic of Kosovo.

[51] Vuchich za aresta na Marko Dzhurich: Tova e brutalen akt na bezumie.” Chas Pik [published online in Bulgarian 27 March 2018].вучич-за-ареста-на-марко-джурич-това-е-брутален-акт-на-безумие-news738213.html. Last accessed 27 March 2018.

[52] Chas Pik, 27 March 2018, op cit.

[53] Kurti: arrestimi i gjuriqit, film nga Thaçi e Vuçiqi.” RTK Live [published online in Albanian 29 March 2018]. Last accessed 2 April 2018.

[54] WikiLeaks (2012). The Global Intelligence Files. “SERBIA/NATO/RUSSIA/MIL – 5/15 – Paper sees neutral Serbia wavering between western, eastern military alliances” [published online 18 October 2012]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[55] “Dodik: Kosovo je uz BiH dokaz propalih pokušaja Zapada.” Radio-televizija Vojvodine [published online in Serbian 28 March 2018]. Last accessed 31 March 2018/

[56] Mr. Andjelkovic is a Belgrade-based political analyst. He is associated with a Moscow think tank, the Strategic Culture Fund, which is “known for taking a pro-Russian stance” according the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s understated description. [“Serbia to Host Another US-Russia Meeting on Ukraine.” Balkan Insight [published online 7 November 2017]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[57] “Anđelković: Status Kosova povezati sa statusom Republike Srpske.” Blic [published online in Serbian 4 August 2017]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[58] Mr. Andjelkovic’s point is perhaps more subtle than it appears at first blush. It should be recalled that Mussolini preconditioned negotiations that led to the Lateran Accords on the Vatican dissolving the Partito Popolare Italiano, which it had organized in 1919. When the Vatican did so in June 1923,the effect was to shift large numbers of Catholics into Mussolini’s Partito Nazionale Fascista.

[59] Blic, 4 August 2017, op cit.

[60] Ibid.

[61] “Serbiya rasschityvayet na rossiyskiye MiGi.” Fond strategicheskoy kul’tury website [published online in Russian 4 March 2017]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[62] “10 GORUĆIH pitanja koja kroje našu sudbinu.” Vivovdan [published online in Serbian 30 March 2018]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[63] “Vuchich sravnil Kosovo s Kenigsbergom i zayavil, chto serbam daleko do nemtsev.” Eurasia Daily [published online in Russian 4 April 2018]. Last accessed 5 April 2018. The former capital of East Prussia, Königsberg was annexed by the Soviet Union and renamed Kaliningrad, which today is a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

[64] Dragomir Andjelkovic (2011). “Novaya antirusskaya kampaniya na Balkanakh- II.” Fond strategicheskoy kul’tury website [published online in Russian 2 May 2011]. Last accessed 31 March 2018.

[65] The first sentence of the quote is from the first part of Mr. Andjelkovic’s essay “New anti-Russian campaign in the Balkans”. See: “Novaya antirusskaya kampaniya na Balkanakh- I.” Russkaya narodnaya liniya [published online in Russian 4 May 2011]. Last accessed 31 March 2018. The second sentence is from the essay’s second part. See: Andjelkovic, (2011). Fond strategicheskoy kul’tury website 2 May 2011,  , op cit.

[66] “Zakharova: Rossiya zametila usiliya SSHA po formirovaniyu armii Kosovo.” EurAsia Daily [published online in Russian 4 April 2018]. Last accessed 4 April 2018. Mr. Ivanović, a Kosovo Serb politician, was assassinated by unknown assailants on 16 January 2018 as he entered the office of the political party he founded led, Sloboda, demokratija, pravda (“Freedom, democracy, justice”). Mr. Ivanović had served as the State Secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija (2008-2012) and as a member of the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija (2001-2008). He was arrested in January 2014 on suspicion over war crimes during the 1990s and sentenced by a panel of EULEX judges in January 2016 to nine years in jail. The guilty verdict was annulled on appeal in February 2017 and a new trial was ordered that had not convened by the time of his assassination.

[67] “Kosovo: proizvol i yego zapadnyye pokroviteli. Serbiya khochet khoroshikh otnosheniy s Rossiyey.” Fond strategicheskoy kul’tury [published online in Russian 2 April 2018]. Last accessed 5 April 2018.

[68] Carles Pugidemont is a Catalan nationalist leader who declined to seek reelection as the President of Catalonia after he was indicted by the Spanish government and fled the country, later concluding that his fugitive status meant he would beunable to lead a new Catalan government

[69] “Teorije zavere.” Ekspres [published online in Serbian 2 April 2018]. Last accessed 5 April 2018.

[70] Pavle was the 44th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church from December 1990 until his death in November 2009. In: Patrijarh Pavle (2010). Patrijarh Pavle-Kosovska iskušenja, Nađe Andrejević, ed. (self-published Nađe Andrejević).