Russian aid convoy passes disputed Kosovo crossing

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A convoy of Russian aid destined for ethnic Serbs was allowed to enter northern Kosovo on Friday after being blocked at a disputed border crossing for the last three days.

The convoy passed through the Jarinje crossing accompanied by a police escort from the EU's mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and arrived at the town of Zvecan shortly before 0800 GMT, according to AFP reporters at the scene.

The first two trucks of the 25-vehicle convoy were allowed to pass into northern Kosovo Tuesday after being checked by EULEX customs officials, but the rest were halted at Jarinje.

EULEX said that the convoy could either pass through Jarinje with a police escort, as is standard practice for such large convoys, or could go through another crossing point, Merdare.

But the Russian ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Konuzin, who travelled with the convoy on Tuesday, rejected both of the options, according to the Beta news agency.

He said a police escort was unnecessary and refused to enter via the Merdare crossing which is controlled by the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina which Moscow, like Serbia, does not recognise.

The convoy finally entered with the EULEX escort.

Northern Kosovo has been the scene of violent clashes since the summer as Kosovo Serbs, who form a majority in the area, protest the presence of Pristina-sent officials at the disputed border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak.

They have set up roadblocks and clashed with NATO-led KFOR troops trying to remove them.

Russia, an historic ally of Serbia, has been a staunch supporter for Belgrade on the Kosovo issue.

Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence is recognised by the United States and most, but not all, European Union countries.

© 2011 AFP

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