Kosovo deports arrested Russians, Serbs after illegal crossing

Photo by Drew Lockwood, U.S. Army.

Kosovo police declared that 11 people carrying Serbian and Russian nationalities who had illegally entered Kosovo have been released. The group included five men and six women, aged between 15 and 51. According to sources, they were detained in a village near Podujevo, on the border with Serbia.

The Basic Court in Pristina has decided to "deport" all those detained to Serbia, and order them to pay fines of EUR 250 each, reports said later in the day.

"The situation has been resolved. According to the decision of the court in Podujevo, they paid a money fine and left Kosovo accompanied by Russian officials in Pristina," Imer Beka, the head of the basic prosecution in Pristin said.

Reports on Wednesday said that the six Russian and five Serbian citizens, who have been named by the Kosovo police with their initials and year of birth - were arrested on Tuesday for illegally crossing the administrative line.

The Kosovo police said in a statement that they had "obtained information in advance" that Serb and Russian citizens would try to illegally cross into Kosovo from central Serbia, in a village near the town of Podujevo. The prosecutor, the Bar Association of Kosovo, and the Russian liaison office in Pristina have been informed about the case, the statement said.

Beka suggested earlier on Wednesday that the prosecution suspected that the group was connected to people that reportedly held military exercises in northern Kosovo in January.

Kosovo’s public broadcaster RTK reported in January that over 300 members of paramilitary units from Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo had held military exercises in the mountains of northern Kosovo, allegedly training for a potential new armed conflict.

Reacting to this, head of the Serbian Government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, on Wednesday demanded the urgent release of the group.

In a written statement carried by Beta, Djuric said he "most severely condemned the treatment arbitrarily inflicted by the provincial police and judiciary of the group of Serbian and Russian nationals, who were detained near the administrative line, while visiting Kosovo and Metohija, as well as an attempt to politically abuse this case."

Djuric underscored that their release was deliberately delayed on the pretext that the relevant court was too busy to deal with their case.

"I would like to stress that among the arrested are a pregnant woman and a minor, which makes this unnecessary traumatization of Serbian and Russian nationals even more inhumane," Djuric said, pointing out that the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, through the liaison officer and in cooperation with the Russian diplomatic and consular network, had provided the necessary legal assistance to the arrested.