Belgrade condemns ‘hate’ after Orthodox graves in Kosovo vandalised

File photo. A worker places a giant flag of Kosovo in the center of Pristina, Kosovo, 11 June 2019. [Valdrin Xemaj/EPA/EFE]

Graves at a Serbian Orthodox cemetery in Kosovo have been vandalised, police said on Sunday (14 July), in an incident that comes at a time of rising tension between Belgrade and Pristina.

Belgrade responded angrily that it illustrated an “ideology of hate” among some in Kosovo, home to an ethnic Albanian majority.

“Several gravestones in an Orthodox cemetery in Lipljan were damaged,” Kosovo police said in a statement adding that an inquiry had been launched.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also condemned the incident in central Kosovo where there is a small Serbian community.

“We condemn desecration of gravestones at the Orthodox cemetery in Lipljan and call on local leaders to appeal against such acts,” it said in a tweet.

“Graves are sacred to families/communities and desecration invokes painful feelings. Kosovo police have responded and we urge a swift followup.”

Belgrade has for years refused to recognise the independence of its former province which unilaterally declared independence in 2008.

Talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the status of Kosovo have reached a stalemate despite pressure from the international community after Pristina introduced 100% taxes on Serbian goods.

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The European Union called on Kosovo on Wednesday (7 November) to revoke its decision to impose an import tax on goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia, a move that is likely to further sour relations between Pristina and Belgrade.

Serbian officials in Kosovo quoted in media reports said more than 20 tombs had been vandalised in the incident overnight from Friday to Saturday.

“The destruction of more than 20 gravestones… shows that the ideology of hate is omnipresent with separatists,” the Serbian government office responsible for Kosovo said in a statement.

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