Protests and gunfire erupted Sunday night between the Balkan republics of Kosovo and Serbia, from whom Kosovo seceded 14 years ago, prompting fears that the unrest could spread as Western countries concentrated on the war in Ukraine.

On the eve of a new rule requiring ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo to switch from Serbian license plates to Kosovar ones in the next two months, unknown gunmen fired on Kosovo police personnel along the restive northern border with Serbia. Many Serbs in Kosovo continue to drive with Serbian license plates, which the government considers illegal.

Kosovo’s administration has also stated that effective Monday, all Serbian ID and passport holders will be required to obtain an additional document in order to enter Kosovo, exactly as Kosovars must do in order to enter Serbia.

The gunshots did not injure anyone, but the Kosovo police shuttered two northern border crossings in response to the unrest.

“The following hours, days and weeks may be challenging and problematic,” Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, said in a video released on his social media channels.

Fewer than half of Kosovo’s Serb population lives in four northern municipalities bordering Serbia, and many have been hesitant to accept the government in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, preferring to live as if they were still part of Serbia.

“We will pray for peace and seek peace, but there will be no surrender and Serbia will win,” said President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia on Sunday at a news conference. “If they dare to persecute and mistreat and kill Serbs, Serbia will win,” he continued, adding later, “We’ve never been in a more difficult, complicated situation than today.”


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