BELGRADE – The first passenger train from the Serbian capital of Belgrade to Kosovo was stopped on Saturday over a security threat, local media reported.
The train left Belgrade for Mitrovica was stopped in the city of Raska near the administrative border with Kosovo, the Beta news agency reported.
Earlier on Saturday, videos emerged on the Internet that unknown people rigged the railway with explosives.
Serbian authorities have sent a tricked-out train bearing slogans inside and out to a Serbian-dominated area of Kosovo, an act Kosovo authorities are calling aggressive and provocative.
The train is emblazoned with the phrase “Kosovo is Serbian” in 21 languages, including Albanian, and is decorated inside with images of Serbian-built monasteries and churches. Hostesses on the train wear uniforms in the colors of the Serbian flag.
“This is like a mobile exhibition presenting our cultural heritage!” Marko Djuric, head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, said of the rolling statement, ABC News reported. He also warned that any attempt to block the train from entering Kosovo would be a violation of freedom of movement.
And anyway, “I don’t see why something that is part of world heritage would present a provocation for anyone,” Djuric asserted.
Kosovo, now mostly Muslim and Albanian-speaking, declared independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the end of a bloody war with Serbia, and is recognized as such by the US and much of the EU.
Serbia, however, does not recognize the independence of its province. The January 14 promotional tour was the first train ride from Belgrade to Mitrovica since the end of the war, Deutsche Welle reports.
Kosovo State Minister Edita Tahiri called the train “illegal” January 13 and accused Serbia of undermining regional stability.
“This is a provocation against Kosovo, which shows that Serbia has openly come out with aggressive politics threatening Kosovo’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its national security,” she said. She asked the EU to get involved in the matter.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he has decided to stop a train.
“[Kosovo’s] special units mined the railway and other special units were sent to the border to arrest the train driver and the passengers,” he said.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Isa Mustafa welcomed the decision, saying the train would not have been allowed into his country.
“We mobilized all state mechanisms to deal with this situation,” Mustafa said.
Kosovo’s Interior Minister Skender Hyseni earlier said authorities had been ordered to block the train, which had already reached Raska.