Special units of the Kosovo police carried out four arrests on Friday morning in connection with the murder of prominent Kosovan Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in January this year at his Kosovo party office In Mitrovica. Ivanovic was known as a moderate representative of the Serb minority in Kosovo.
The arrests were made Friday morning in the north of Kosovo. Three were arrested for Ivanovic’s murder, with another man detained for resisting police. The arrests were made during a series of house searches – including on the home of Milan Radoicic, who was not arrested.
Radoicic maintains close ties with the Serbian government party and in one of Ivanovic’s last interviews before his death he went off the record to name Radoicic as a dangerous power broker in northern Kosovo with connections to organised crime. Ivanovic had asked the authorities several times for protection because he and his family received threats on their lives.
The site of Kosovan special forces carrying out arrests of Serb citizens in Mitrovica, a volatile city divided along ethnic lines, sparked protests by ethnic Serbs in the main square.
The government of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj called for calm in a statement, adding that the operation had no connection to politics.
“I assure all citizens of the Kosovo state and the public order institutions that it [the police operation] will never be oriented against any ethnic or political grouping,” Haradinaj wrote on his Facebook page.
The operation comes amidst rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, who are in the process of trying to normalise their relationship following Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. These talks were temporarily halted when Serbia pulled of them in protest at the killing of Ivanovic in January. More recently Kosovo has accused Serbia of blocking its efforts to join international organisations and responded by slapping 100 percent tarrifs on Serbian and Bosnian goods entering the territory. Belgrade sees the measure as a serious provocation and political pressure to recognise the independence of its former province.
Brussels has called for the tariffs to be dropped and both parties to return to the negotiating table to resolve their differences diplomatically.