Home » Kosovo PM: Britain should send more troops to protect us from Serbian invasion

Kosovo PM: Britain should send more troops to protect us from Serbian invasion

Today, 45 British troops are involved in the 4,443-strong Nato contingent in Kosovo. In comparison, Hungary has provided 365 troops, America 572 and Italy 1,322. Mr Kurti conceded that while the presence of troops was “substantial” in the ethnic-Serbian majority north, overall it had not been increased “by much” and was “generally symbolic”.

Mr Kurti showed The Telegraph aerial images depicting 41 military barracks in Serbia, which he claimed were strategically positioned to both “defend Belgrade and attack Kosovo”.

Another image showed 48 Serbian forward operating bases (Fobs) stationed along the 381km border it shares with Kosovo. Of the bases, 28 are believed to be military and 20 gendarmerie, with the number of people in each ranging between 50 and 150.

He pointed to his country’s “mountainous” terrain, which makes it difficult to defend, and also the 16 illegal pathways Serbs have used for smuggling ammunition and military equipment into Serb-majority areas, which have since been shut down.

Mr Kurti described the 48 Fobs as “horseshoe” in shape – a shape consistent with the one which appeared inside Kosovo during the war 25 years ago.

“They [Serbia] are waiting for a window of opportunity to attack us,” he said.

He described the horseshoe as “concerning” due to the proximity of Serb forces to the border.

‘Little Putin’

Mr Kurti’s biggest concern as leader of Kosovo is Mr Vucic, whom he described as a “Little Putin” because of his friendship with the Russian president.

He said it was “no wonder” that in December last year Mr Vucic showed public admiration for Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani president, when he took the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian forces, given his own ambition to seize Kosovo.

“Due to the threat that Serbia is posing to us and due to their multitude of links with the Kremlin, to have more capacity and capability for our army and our police and more Nato troops would increase the security of our country and the region,” Mr Kurti stressed.

“I believe for as long as Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, as long as Serbia keeps 48 forward operating bases around our country, and as long as Serbia is a close ally of the Kremlin, there should be more capacities on our side and more Nato troops.”

Kosovo already spends more than 2 per cent of its GDP on defence, meeting the Nato target that many member nations do not.

Kurti imprisoned in 1990s

Mr Kurti was imprisoned and tortured as a student activist campaigning against the Serbian rule of Kosovo in the 1990s.

He said he remembered vividly his time at Lipjam prison in Pristina, where he was forced to live and defecate in a tiny room with 13 other prisoners of war. He remembers the exact time of day a loaf of bread was brought to the men, how the beatings they received were so brutal prisoners regularly lost consciousness and how he learnt to sleep sitting up as there was no space to lie down.

At the time of his imprisonment, Mr Vucic was in power as the Serbian minister of information.

“He is still in power and I became prime minister, but I have no hatred for Serbs,” he said.

“But I wish Serbia changes its stance and its approach to Kosovo to normalise relations. I believe in justice without revenge. I don’t believe in revenge. If there is revenge there can be no justice.”

Responding to Mr Kurti’s comments, a spokesman from the Ministry of Defence said: “The UK continues to provide active support for Kosovan sovereignty and independence, and we are playing a vital role in maintaining stability in the Western Balkans.

“UK troops are currently deployed as part of Nato’s 4,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The mission contributes to maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.”