Kosovo buys Turkish Bayraktar drones

PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo has bought a batch of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones, its leader said on Sunday, at a time when it faces unrest in the north where ethnic Serbs refuse to recognise Pristina authorities.

In a Facebook post showing him in front of a drone with his defence minister, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said latest security spending was making the country safer.

He did not give the number or cost of the drones, Kosovo’s first, nor say what they would be used for. Bayraktar drones have gained popularity globally after being used by Ukraine’s military against Russian forces.

“Kosovo is now even safer and always proud,” Kurti said, adding that his government had in the last two years raised troop numbers by 80% and the defence budget by more than 100%.

The 15-old republic is building an army intended eventually to have 5,000 regular soldiers and 3,000 reservists. The NATO military alliance also has more than 4,500 peacekeepers in the country of 1.8 million people.

In past months, Kosovo has faced its worst ethnic violence in the north which is home to some 50,000 ethnic Serbs, who are backed by Belgrade.

Trouble erupted in May after ethnic Albanian mayors took office following a local election boycotted by Serbs demanding implementation of a decade-old deal for more autonomy.

Kosovo aims to join NATO but four of the alliance’s members still do not recognise its 2008 independence from Serbia.

After the violence in May, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed his army on combat alert and moved units closer to the border with Kosovo.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)