Milan Radoicic, a member of a major Kosovo Serb political party, the Serbian List (Srpska Lista), has admitted to leading a group of gunmen that clashed with Kosovo police earlier this week, his lawyer said Friday.
The killing of a Kosovo police officer and the ensuing gun battle at a monastery in a village close to the Serbian border marked one of the gravest escalations in the former breakaway province in years.
Three Serb gunmen were killed in an hours-long firefight with Kosovo police after they ambushed a patrol near the village of Banjska and later barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery.
Milan Radoicic, the long-serving vice president of the Srpska Lista party, said he led the group of heavily armed gunmen into the area in northern Kosovo in response to alleged repression against Serbs by the Pristina government.
Radoicic insisted that he had acted alone and without the support or consent of the Serbian government.
“I did not inform anyone in the power structures of the Republic of Serbia, nor in the local political structures in northern Kosovo,” wrote Radoicic in a letter read aloud by his attorney Goran Petronijevic at a press conference in Belgrade on Friday.
According to his letter, Radoicic said the killing of a Kosovo police officer in the ambush near the Serbian border was an “accident”.
“The death of the policeman was accidental and was followed by a fierce confrontation in which our three comrades — the heroes — gave their lives for freedom and for the preservation of Kosovo,” Radoicic wrote.
“We are not terrorists, we are the freedom fighters of our people,” his letter stated, which included his resignation from Srpska Lista.
Earlier this week, Kosovo’s interior minister accused Radoicic of masterminding Sunday’s attack and released a video allegedly showing the suspect among a group of armed men at the Banjska monastery.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said this week that Radoicic was in “central Serbia” and that authorities were prepared to question him.
Kosovo’s government has accused Belgrade of backing the entire operation. Prime Minister Albin Kurti wrote on social media that the weapons and equipment used in Sunday’s attack were “made by Serbian state-owned military arms producers”.
Kosovar authorities have also released a video they said implicates a top ethnic Serb businessman in an attack on an Orthodox monastery that left four people dead, including a police officer.
Radoicic, who is currently under US sanctions, has long been a major powerbroker among Serbs in Kosovo’s restive north.
Furthermore, on Friday, the Kosovo Police launched an action in three municipalities in the north, after the armed attack in Banjska, which took place on Sunday. The local media reported that Milan Radoicic’s luxurious mansion was also the target of these checks.
Later on, Kosovo Interior Minister, Xhelal Svecla, confirmed that the police would seize Radoicic’s mansion and use it as a station for the Border Department.
(N1, Blic, Vreme, 01.10.2023)
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