Russian aid convoy blocked on disputed Kosovo crossing

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A convoy of Russian aid sent to Kosovo Serbs has been blocked at the disputed crossing point of Jarinje which links Kosovo to Serbia, angering the Russian embassy here Wednesday.

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

"There are two options regarding the convoy of Russian aid. The first is to have a EULEX police escort ... The second is for the convoy to go to Merdare crossing point," EULEX spokesman Blerim Krasniqi told AFP in Pristina.

He added that it was standard EU practice for such a large convoy to have a police escort.

According to the Beta news agency Russian ambassador to Serbia Aleksandar Konuzin, who travelled with the convoy on Tuesday, rejected both options, arguing that a police escort was unnecessary and refusing to enter via the Merdare crossing which is controlled by the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina which Moscow, like Serbia, does not recognise.

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, a historic ally of Serbia, has been a staunch supporter for Belgrade on the Kosovos issue. Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence is recognised by most, but not all EU member states and the United States among others.

© 2011 AFP

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