Kosovo-bound Russian aid convoy finally gets green light
According to Associated Press, a convoy of 25 Russian trucks was escorted by three armored EU police vehicles on Friday.
It had earlier been reported that the convoy was being delayed at a border crossing as local Serbs objected to the number of EULEX vehicles accompanying the convoy.
Prior to that, Russia’s ambassador to Serbia had announced that Russia and the EU had reached an agreement to allow the convoy, carrying humanitarian aid for Kosovo’s Serbian population, through into northern Kosovo. The convoy had been held up by EULEX forces at the Jarinje border crossing for three days.
“The agreement to resolve the situation around the convoy was reached yesterday during the Russia-EU summit,” Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Konuzin told reporters on Thursday at the border crossing. He said the humanitarian convoy would move on Friday morning.
However, despite this agreement being reached, the convoy could not start moving as local Serbs were refusing to allow entry to the EULEX vehicles accompanying the convoy, saying there were five of them instead of the stipulated three.
Following talks with Konuzin, Radenko Nedeljkovic, a Kosovo Serb leader, said that an agreement had been reached for the convoy to be accompanied by three EULEX vehicles.
“We didn’t want to politicize this issue any longer as it had been politicized too much already,” Nedeljkovic said, as quoted by Adnkronos news agency. “We want the aid to reach those for whom it is intended.”
The convoy, consisting of 25 trucks of aid, including power-generators, blankets, food supplies, furniture and other necessities, was stopped by EULEX on Tuesday at one of the troubled border checkpoints. Moscow claimed it was a purely political move. The aid convoy was headed for Mitrovica, the largest city in Kosovo’s Serb-dominated north.
Two trucks were able to enter Kosovo through the Jarinje border checkpoint, but the rest were not allowed through by the EULEX police in charge of the post.
EULEX said it wanted to escort the convoy on its route to Mitrovica, but Russia said the region was safe and there was no reason for EULEX to accompany its trucks. Conversely, Kosovo Serbs did not want to allow EULEX police through, as they saw it as an opportunity for Kosovo customs officials to sneak into their region.
EULEX also said Russia could use another checkpoint at Merdare. However, Russia refused this offer because the checkpoint is under the control of Kosovo, a country Russia does not recognize.
The stand-off came as a new twist to a nearly five-month confrontation in the majority Serb-populated northern Kosovo.