A member of Kosovo Security Forces shot and wounded two Serbian Youths as they celebrated Orthodox Christmas Eve raising fears of renewed violence in the troubled region. The victims, cousins Stefan Stojanović, age 11, and Milos Stojanović, age 21, were wounded Friday near Štrbac in Kosovo, when a member of Kosovo’s Albanian Security Forces opened fire on them from a moving vehicle in an unprovoked attack. The suspect, Azem Kurtaj, was not acting in an official capacity, and has since been arrested by Kosovo authorities.
The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7 under the old Gregorian calendar. The Stojanović cousins, along with other Orthodox Christian Serbs in Kosovo, were on their way to a local church to light yule logs, as is customary, before midnight service on Christmas Eve.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić strongly condemned the vicious attack, stating, “Even on the Orthodox Holy Night, Serbs in Kosovo are not safe. I condemn in the strongest possible terms this vicious crime and request the international community to act immediately and bring the culpable to justice. This is another one in the series of dreadful incidents demonstrating the gravity of conditions in which Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija live every day.”
European Commission Spokesman Peter Stano also condemned the attack, writing on Twitter, “the European Union firmly condemns the shooting of a child and a young man in Kosovo yesterday. Important that authorities will fully investigate this despicable crime and justice is exerted. We wish the victims a full and speedy recovery.”
The prime minister of the autonomous province of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, in turn condemned the attack on the two Serbian youth in a statement on Twitter: “I unequivocally condemn the assault on two Kosova citizens today in Shtërpcë [Štrbac]. A suspect has been arrested & will be dealt w/ promptly & fairly by our justice system. I commend Kosova Police for its quick action & full engagement in ensuring the safety of all, w/o discrimination.”
Despite Kurti’s condemnation of the attack, many blame his policies and rhetoric for the violence. The Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo stated, “This kind of attack is a direct consequence of Albin Kurti’s anti-Serb policy – with his behavior and his moves, he encourages all those who want Serbian blood, even on Christmas. We demand the international community’s swift and decisive reaction.” In response to the attack in, Serbs once again took to the streets to protest, only days after they removed barricades in the north of Kosovo and Metohija.
The Serb List, the political party representing Serbs in the autonomous province of Kosovo, announced a protest in Štrbac for Sunday: “We invite all citizens from all over Kosovo and Metohija to come to this peaceful and democratic protest tomorrow, to support the wounded and their families, but also to raise our voice against the tyranny of Albin Kurti, the consequence of which is the threat of peace and the continuous persecution of the Serbian people in these areas.”