Serbs in Kosovo Mitrovica stage protest outside Eulex HQ

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In what seems to be an answer to Saturday's scheduled anti-Serbian government #1 in 5 million protests in the northern part of the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica, local Serbs loyal to Belgrade held a protest rally outside the European Union and Eulex mission headquarters on Friday.

The official reason for the protest is allegedly the plan of South Mitrovica’s Albanian Mayor Agim Bahtiri to merge the two parts of the divided town even though the Kosovo government said that was impossible because it ran counter to existing laws.

The crowd carried banners saying The North is Bastion of Serb Freedom; Tarrifs, Attacks, Threats What Next; No Tariffs – No Annexation; Vucic Save the Serbs; No to Occupation of the North.  

“This is a civic protest, one of 1,000 over the past 20 years which we held over Albanian violence, tyranny, terror, the killing of Serbs and in the past few months because of the anti-Serb tariffs,” the crowd was told by Milan Ivanovic, the politically active CEO of the Kosovska Mitrovica hospital. He said the Albanians want to fence off the Serbs with barbed wire and enslave them, adding that they will not allow that to happen.  

Ivanovic said that more people had come to the protest gathering in Mitrovica than took part in what he said are opposition protests in Belgrade.  

Serb List party leader Goran Rakic said the Mitrovica protest is part of a struggle for a better tomorrow. “Tariffs yesterday, annexation today. Translated that means the occupation of Kosovska Mitrovica. They are using unreasonable proposals to assure us that the unification of Mitrovica is intended to economically develop us. That is a lie,” he said.

The crowd marched to the bridge across the Ibar which divides the town carrying a banner saying No Going Back From Here.

On Friday, Pristina University rector, a student pro-rector and the head of Mitrovica hospital called on people to join the protest.

They announced the continuation of protests for the defence of fundamental human rights, such as the right to medical treatment and expressed grave concern over what they see as Pristina’s intention to take control in Northern Mitrovica.

The announcement of the first anti-government protest on Saturday in support of the same demonstrations across Serbia by a group of Kosovo Serbs from Mitrovica caused tensions and concern about their safety.

The organisers said on Wednesday the protest aimed to show that Mitrovica’s people, as well as the Serbs in other parts of Kosovo, wanted to join the demands of those already demonstrating.

In the first official reaction from Belgrade, the head of Serbia’s Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric warned on Wednesday that “north Mitrovica is not a place for divisions.”

He implied the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) opposition grouping, who he branded “political profiteers and manipulators,” was behind the announced protest and warned them to “bypass” the town.

The opposition Democratic Party asked Djuric on whose behalf was he threatening the protest’s organisers.

Marko Jaksic, one of the protest’s organiser, reacted to Djuric’s word in a tweet, telling him that “if anything bad happens to us it will be your (Djuric’s) responsibility.“

He added no one was behind the decision to protest but local people.

The Serb List, political organisation in Mitrovica supported by Belgrade, also condemned the announced protest. It said in a statement that “one thing is clear – this protest will be hailed in Pristina and other parts of Kosovo with the Albanian majority.”