Russian Aid Enters North Kosovo, Ending Standoff

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Aid from Russia is finally making its way to minority Serbs in northern Kosovo, ending a tense four-day standoff.

A convoy of almost 25 trucks passed through the border crossing at Jarinje Friday, escorted by European Union police.

The convoy had been held up as a result of an ongoing dispute between Serbia, which has close ties to Moscow, and Kosovo, which separated from Serbia and declared independence in 2008. It finally passed through after an agreement between Moscow and the EU mission in Kosovo .

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga placed the blame for the delay on ethnic Serbians, who have been setting up roadblocks in the border area since July.

She tells VOA the “road blocks erected by the Serbian extremist forces in that part of Kosovo are unacceptable. They have blocked the freedom of movement hurting all the communities regardless of their ethnicity.”

President Jahjaga also said there is no humanitarian crisis.

The Associated Press said several thousand ethnic Serbs greeted the Russian convoy in the town of Mitrovica. In addition to the aid, Russia's ambassador to Serbia also gave ethnic Serb religious leaders an orthodox church icon.

Neither Serbia nor Russia recognize Kosovo, and the Russian convoy had refused to enter the region through any crossing directly controlled by Kosovo.

The ongoing tensions between Belgrade and Kosovo cost Serbia a chance at European Union membership last week. EU leaders delayed any decision on granting Serbia the status of membership candidate until March, citing the dispute.