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Kosovo parliament approves creation of armed forces

Belgrade is highly concerned over Kosovo’s plans

BELGRADE, December 14. /TASS/. The parliament of the unrecognized republic of Kosovo has approved the creation of an army based on the Kosovo security force.

The parliament meeting was broadcast live on Facebook.

Three bills were put to the vote, which stipulate the formation of a Kosovo army. As many as 106 lawmakers supported a bill creating a defense ministry, while 105 voted in favor of a bill turning security forces into an expanded army. The same number of parliament members supported the third bill, which concerns service in the Kosovo security force. Members of the Serb List party walked out and did not take part in the vote.

Following the passing of the bills, Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj congratulated the lawmakers and the people of Kosovo.

The army is supposed to consist of 5,000 regulars and 3,000 reserves. According to the newly-adopted laws, Kosovo’s annual defense expenditures will amount to 98 mln euro. The army is expected to have artillery units, air defense troops, as well as biological and chemical defense forces. Kosovo Security Force Commander Rahman Rama said on Friday that "the army will serve all citizens and be active throughout Kosovo," including its northern part.

Belgrade is highly concerned over Kosovo’s plans. On Friday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is visiting the country’s units deployed on the Kosovo border. The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) has sent patrols to Kosovska Mitrovica to keep an eye on a bridge over the Ibar River, which connects the city’s Serb-populated part with its Albanian-populated part.

According to the NATO secretary general, Kosovo announced plans to establish its own armed forces at the wrong time as it could undermine stability and damage the prospects for Kosovo’s NATO accession.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, said that "the " Kosovo authorities’ move to form their own ‘army’ may lead to the most severe consequences not only for the region’s Serbian population but also for the security of the entire Balkans." The ministry added that Moscow expected the KFOR to "implement its mandate and take comprehensive measures to neutralize and disarm such an institution in case it is created.".