The Serbian armed forces will remain at the highest level of combat readiness until further notice due to violence against local Serbs in neighboring Kosovo, said the country’s National Security Council on Saturday.
The decision came after Serbia ordered its army Friday to advance to the administrative border with Kosovo and urged NATO to urgently stop violence against local Serbs in Kosovo. Kosovo has a sizeable Serb population, especially in the north, near the border with Serbia.
President Aleksandar Vucic urged the army and security forces to be combat ready.
"During a meeting of the National Security Council, all necessary security activities were agreed upon in order to strengthen the defense capacity of the Republic of Serbia," said a statement from Vucic's office in Belgrade.
According to the council, the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo and NATO Kosovo Forces failed to do its work in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the 1999 Military-Technical (Kumanovo) Agreement.
"The Republic of Serbia will be firm and unwavering in the protection of its people," said the statement.
In addition to Vucic, among those at the meeting were Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Defense Minister Milos Vucevic, Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic, Security Information Agency (BIA) Director Aleksandar Vulin, and Serbian Chief of General Staff Milan Mojsilovic.
Tension rose between Belgrade and Pristina after police in Kosovo on Friday clashed with local Serbs who gathered in front of the municipal building to block the newly elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office. Albanians form Kosovo's largest ethnic group, followed by Serbs.
Police in riot gear were deployed around the premises, along with the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo and NATO Kosovo Forces personnel.
Stun grenades and tear gas injured at least 10 people after a police vehicle was set on fire and automatic gunfire was heard, according to media reports.
Most UN member states, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Türkiye, recognized Kosovo as a separate country after it declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia, however, continues to regard it as its territory.