Serbian armed forces were put on a high combat alert upon an order from Commander-in-Chief and President Aleksandar Vucic, Defense Minister Milos Vucevic told the Tanjug news agency.
“The president of Serbia in the capacity of the supreme commander-in-chief has ordered to put the Serbian Army on high combat alert…,” the minister said. “It ups us to the highest level of actions, which the Serbian Army must follow protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and its citizens.”
Serbia’s Vecernje Novosti daily reported late on Monday citing sources close to a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) that the authorities of the unrecognized Kosovo put their troops on full combat alert preparing for an operation on dismantling barricades in northern Kosovo and Metohija. According to the newspaper, about 1,500 servicemen received orders to remain at their deployment sites or within reach being ready for a possible relocation at the night time.
Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said: “In line with the order of President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Alexandar Vucic, I have ordered to put on full combat alert all units of the Interior Ministry.”
On December 25, the ambassadors of the Quinta countries (the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Italy) demanded from the Serbian president to remove the barricades within 24 hours, threatening that otherwise they would not hinder attempts by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti to resolve the situation on his own. Kurti stressed that the dismantling of the barricades in northern Kosovo may involve casualties and should be completed as soon as possible.
The situation in Kosovo escalated abruptly on December 6, when Kosovo special forces accompanied by EU mission patrols started capturing electoral commission buildings in the northern parts of the region. The Serbian population organized itself and repelled the Kosovars, pushing them past the River Ibar.
On December 8, some 350 Kosovan policemen invaded the Serb-populated northern part of the region using armored vehicles and blocked the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica. On December 10, the Kosovan police arrested Dejan Pantic, a Serb and former policeman, under contrived charges. In response, the Serbian population started mass protests and barricaded highways in several settlements.