“Amidst signs of an emerging Putin personality cult among Kosovo Serbs, many locals doubt how far Russia would go to give them support”, writes Igor Milic for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
The October article describes pro-Putin slogans and posters displayed throughout the northern, Serb-controlled part of Mitrovica in Kosovo, which for the locals are “just a normal expression of a common belief that Putin has played a pivotal role in determining Russia’s policy on Kosovo”, explains Milic.
Ever since Russia blocked a UN resolution envisaging internationally-monitored independence foe Kosovo earlier this year, “Putin’s popularity has shot up in northern Mitrovica”.
Milic highlights the belief of many Kosovo Serbs that the outcome of the current phase of international talks on Kosovo’s future status depends on the Kremlin. The talks aim to reach a compromise on the issue, with ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina demanding independence for the province and the Serbian government offering broad autonomy, he explains.
Meanwhile, the US and its allies support independence for Kosovo, and Russia “wants a compromise that is acceptable to both Pristina and Belgrade”, warning that unilateral independence could impact upon breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union.
Though many Kosovo Serbs believe Putin will protect them as Russia seeks to restore its position as a great world power, opinion is divided over whether it would be prepared to resort to military action in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo.
Meanwhile, Russian support is of great importance to Kosovo Serbs, especially those who live outside the northern region, who have much less control over the areas they inhabit, asserts the author.
Even the physical appearance is Putin is appealing to many Kosovo Serbs, says Milic, pointing to his good looks, love of the outdoors, skill at martial arts and past in the intelligence services.
Kosovo Serb political representatives agree that Putin’s view is important for the future of their region, but disagree over the extent of Russia’s support for them, he adds.
Milic concludes that many Kosovo Serbs are hopeful that Putin will find a way to stay in power when his second and final presidential term ends in March next year.