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Army of stones: Serb barricades stand firm

Published time: October 18, 2011 08:15
Edited time: October 18, 2011 14:53

Mitrovica: A man walks by a concrete reinforced barricade in front of the main bridge, one of the two bridges built between the south, the ethnic Albanian-dominated part and the north, the Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica. 2011. (AFP Photo)

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As the deadline for Serbs in northern Kosovo to dismantle their border barricades nears, they remain firm in their protest. The barricades are meant to stop attempts by Kosovan police, and NATO and EU forces to take over border crossings with Serbia.

Stones and sand of the barricades are the only weapons the Serbs living in Kosovo have in their arsenal to make the others listen to them.

The roadblocks they have set up throughout the northern part of the region are making headlines and getting feedback.

Local resident Voityla is reading a leaflet that KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, has been distributing here recently: “We ask you not to participate in any event that may threaten your safety or may have negative consequences for you and for your country!“

He comments: “Bastards! They are talking about us! While they are the only negative here.”

“Look at their propaganda! We will not buy it! We don’t want them here, those occupiers; we don’t even want to talk to them!” he adds as he crumbles the leaflet and throws it into a campfire.

Unlike the barricade sentries, the mayor of the Northern Kosovo town of Leposovic is talking to KFOR. Branko Ninic has been among the four delegates from Serbs to negotiate with the peacekeepers on dates and terms for the barricades’ removal.

KFOR announced a Monday deadline, but then postponed it till Tuesday. The Serbs have claimed they need even more time.

Initially designed to prevent Kosovan customs officers from reaching the checkpoints at the northern border with Serbia, rubble on the roads has made trouble for many.

The KFOR complain they have no land access to their troops in the north. They are using helicopters to transport supplies and soldiers.

And the Serbs themselves are suffering too. They are building new alternative roads to reach Serbia from Kosovo, because the main routes have been blocked – by Serbian barricades – in the last several weeks.

The only other alternative is a train, but it runs only once a day and is always packed, so it is not necessarily a viable option.

New bypass roads appear with phenomenal speed. An RT crew has seen at least seven of them.

“This is stupid. We have many roads but we have to make more! But we have no choice – they make us do that! And we’ll not give up. Never,” says Vladimir, a road engineer, who is involved in constructing bypass roads.

Vladimir is one of the volunteers. He is a Kosovan Serbian and says he speaks for all of them.

“This is our state. It’s ridiculous to think we’ll ever recognize an ‘independent’ Kosovo. We’ll never give up,” he vows.

Back at the barricades people are still waiting. All of them have regular jobs as teachers, engineers or miners, but here they call themselves soldiers and use war rhetoric.

“This is our land. We will not surrender!”
they say. “That’s for truth. For the future. For our children and Motherland!”

They say one man cannot win a war, but together people may form a real army. Even if their weapons are just stones and sand.

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