Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the Serbian army to raise combat readiness to the highest level on May 26 after tensions escalated in northern Kosovo.
Serbia’s Defence Minister Milos Vucevic said that the Serbian army has deployed its members to positions along the border with Kosovo.
The move followed violent clashes between Kosovan police and local Serbs in northern Kosovo.
Police were deployed to a protest by Kosovan Serbs, who were trying to prevent newly elected mayors entering the municipal buildings in three Serbian-majority municipalities.
Police announced their engagement to manage the situation and allow state officials to exercise their legitimate rights. However, the police encountered opposition from the protesters, leading to clashes in which five police officers were injured.
"In line with the official duty, today, Kosovo police is assisting the mayors of the northern municipalities Zvecan, Leposaviq and Zubin Potok, to exercise their right to work in the official facilities of the respective municipalities," the police said in a statement.
The protests in Zvecan took a dangerous turn as demonstrators resorted to throwing explosives and various tools at the police and official vehicles, causing injuries among law enforcement officials, Kosovan broadcaster RTK reported. Several police cars have been damaged.
Explaining Belgrade’s move, Vucevic claimed in a statement that there is an ongoing attempt to occupy all municipalities in the north of Kosovo by the “illegitimate and illegally elected” municipal leadership, under the patronage of the Kosovo police.
Amid the tense situation, Vucevic urged the Serbian population in Kosovo to remain calm, despite the dramatic circumstances. He emphasised the importance of international entities, particularly KFOR and EULEX, demonstrating their full capacity to protect Serbs in the region.
There are reports that around 10,000 Serbs from northern Kosovo who were bussed to Belgrade to take part in a pro-government rally will soon be on their way back to Kosovo.
Kosovan broadcaster RTK confirmed that the mayor of Zvecan, Ilir Peci, managed to enter his office in the municipality building and began performing his duties as the newly elected mayor.
EU and US officials condemned the clashes between protestors and the Kosovan police. US ambassador to Kosovo Jeff Hovenier said that the US strongly condemns the actions by Kosovo’s government that are escalating tensions in the north and increasing instability.
"We call on Prime Minister @albinkurti to immediately halt these violent measures and refocus on the EU-facilitated dialogue," Hovenier, tweeted.
Earlier this month the Serbian community in northern Kosovo warned that it will start “resistance” starting from June 1 if the Kosovan authorities and the international community fail to address what they called the repression of Serbs there.
The statement was made on the day when the new mayor belonging to the Albanian ruling party in Kosovo was sworn into office in the predominantly Serb-populated Mitrovica North and became the first Albanian mayor of the city.
These events followed the boycott of the April elections in northern Kosovo by the main Kosovo Serb party, the Serb List.