Russia ‘closely monitoring’ tense situation in Kosovo, blames local authorities

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Monday it was closely monitoring what it called a “potentially dangerous” situation in Kosovo, where ethnic Serb gunmen stormed a village at the weekend, battling police and barricading themselves into a monastery.

Russia does not recognise Kosovo, which has a majority ethnic Albanian population, as an independent country and traditionally supports Serbia, with which it has close religious and cultural ties.

“The situation is extremely difficult. On Kosovo, we see a traditionally biased attitude towards the Serbs… The situation is very, very tense and potentially dangerous, we are monitoring it very closely,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular news briefing.

Kosovar police units retook the monastery late on Sunday after three attackers and one police officer were killed. They were securing the village in northern Kosovo on Monday.

Ethnic Albanians form the vast majority of the 1.8 million population of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia.

But some 50,000 Serbs in the north have never accepted Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and still see Belgrade as their capital, more than two decades after a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising against repressive Serbian rule.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement saying that Sunday’s bloodshed was “a direct and immediate consequence of the course” of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, which it said was aimed at “fuelling conflict and cleansing the territory of the province of Serbs”.

The ministry said Kurti was trying to escalate the situation in order to increase pressure on Serbs to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Gareth Jones and Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)