Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group cooperate with Serbian paramilitaries to smuggle weapons and unmarked military uniforms into Kosovo.
Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said this in an interview with The Telegraph.
Osmani said that the covert operation is intended to lay the groundwork for a possible hybrid attack by Serbia to seize Kosovo’s territory.
“They bring weapons and uniforms but are not formally part of the Serbian army. Serbia wants to achieve its goals without calling it a military operation,” Osmani said.
According to her, Serbia’s goal is “to prepare the situation for possible annexation – not through a traditional military operation, but through a hybrid attack.”
Serbia’s alleged preparations have parallels with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, when Russian soldiers in uniforms without insignia, nicknamed “little green men,” paved the way for the peninsula’s seizure.
Osmani said Belgrade continues to escalate tensions in the region in cooperation with the Russian Wagner group, which recently began posting ads for Serbian recruits to fight in the war against Ukraine.
Serbian activists have accused Russia’s private military company Wagner of enlisting Serbs to fight in the war in Ukraine in criminal accusations filed against the group.
Osmani said that the covert strategy of smuggling weapons for the alleged annexation has been underway for at least six months and is “exactly” the same as the one used by Vladimir Putin in Crimea nine years ago.
“If you look at what Putin did in 2014, it’s a complete copy; it’s the same program of action. First, he used the Russians who lived there. He created all kinds of false flag operations, and then he sent these paramilitary groups,” Osmani said.
“There is clear evidence that Serbian paramilitary groups planned and organized this (with Wagner). How many of them were on the border or inside (Kosovo) is a question still under investigation,” she added.
There was an escalation on the SerbiaKosovo border in December 2022, KFOR said that the reinforcement of troops was made due to the possible presence of criminal groups among the Serbian protesters. The Wagner mercenaries attempted to storm the border.
These hybrid efforts are backed with a disinformation campaign, as Russia did it before its invasion of Ukraine. Darko Brkan, the founder of the Raskrinkavanje portal, claims that the Kremlin-controlled media are actively supporting the spread of disinformation in the Balkans.
Earlier, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he agreed to implement the plan for normalizing relations with Serbia developed in the European Union.
According to this plan, Serbia will no longer object to Kosovo’s membership in any international organization. Kosovo agrees to establish a new body that will have the right to speak on behalf of all 10 Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.
There was also a grim warning from Kosovo on the danger of Serbia-Russia alignment in December 2022.
The two countries also pledge to support each other’s accession to the EU and “will continue EU-mediated dialogue to conclude a legally binding comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations.”