Air raid sirens were heard in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo on Sunday afternoon, with reports by local media indicating that a large presence of emergency vehicles was seen throughout the area. The sirens were stopped after three hours, according to local reports.
The sirens come as Kosovo officials prepared to require Serbians visiting Kosovo to replace their Serbian passports with a temporary ID while in the country and to require Serbian license plates in the country to be replaced with Kosovar license plates. The decision was made as a reciprocatory move to similar requirements already issued for Kosovars when they enter Serbia.
Kosovo Police announced on Sunday evening that they had closed the Bernjak and Jarinje border crossings to traffic due to roadblocks set up on these roads. The roadblocks were reportedly set up by local Serbs who were protesting measures set to be put in place by Kosovo overnight. Other border crossings are working as normal according to police.
Later in the evening, police reported that shots were fired towards them in multiple locations. No injuries were reported.
"It is known that the Serbs have always gathered when they heard the sirens, because this has always meant a response to some danger. It was unexpected, but somehow expected. We have gathered in protest against the Kurti Government's decisions regarding IDs and license plates," a Serbian protester in the village of Rudare told Radio Free Europe.
Kosovo blames Serbia for 'aggressive actions'
Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti issued a statement on Sunday evening, stating that Serbians began blocking roads and shooting ahead of the planned issuance of temporary documents. Kurti claimed that "aggressive actions" were planned in statements and meetings ahead of time, blaming Vucic and Petar Petković, Serbian director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, for the unrest.
"The law and order and security bodies of our state are gathering information, monitoring the situation and will act in defense of the law and citizens, our sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the prime minister, warning citizens to follow announcements from official sources and not Serbian or pro-Serbian media.
"The following hours, days and weeks can be challenging and problematic. We are facing the Serbian national-chauvinism that we know well. We will work day and night, we will be at the top of our duties, for you as citizens and for our democratic republic. And, together we will manage to maintain law and order by placing them in every corner of the country," said Kurti.
'Serbia has never been in a more complex and difficult situation than it is today'
On Sunday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated that Serbia has "never been in a more complex and difficult situation [regarding Kosovo] than it is today," according to N1 TV.
Vučić asked for all sides to keep the peace, but warned that "If they don't want to keep the peace, I'm telling you - Serbia will win."
Additionally on Sunday, Serbian politician Vladimir Đukanović wrote on Twitter that "Everything seems to me that Serbia will be forced to begin the denazification of the Balkans. I'd like to be wrong." Russia had claimed that it wanted to "denazify" Ukraine shortly before launching its invasion of the country in February.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to the tensions on Sunday evening, saying that Kosovo's plan to require temporary documents for Serbs "is a step towards their expulsion from Kosovo."
"Russia calls on Pristina and the US and EU behind it to stop provocations and respect the rights of Serbs in Kosovo," added Zakharova. "The leaders of the Kosovars know that the Serbs will not remain indifferent when it comes to a direct attack on their freedoms, and deliberately escalate in order to launch a military scenario. Of course, Belgrade is also at the forefront of the attack, which the West wants to additionally 'neutralize' with Kosovo Albanian hands."
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs tweeted on Sunday evening, "Closely following events in the Northern #Kosovo, everyone, especially in #Serbia, should keep cool head and should avoid inflammatory rhetoric and actions."
The KoSSev news site reported on Sunday evening that it had been targeted by a DDOS attack, adding that it's IT team was working to restore functionality. The attack began about two hours after the sirens began sounding in Mitrovica, according to the site.
This is a developing story.