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Kremlin slams statements about Russia's 'destructive influence' in Kosovo as wrong

Dmitry Peskov added that Russia was closely monitoring the situation around Kosovo and supported Serbia in its steps there

MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed to the invalidity of statements from Pristina about Russia's ‘destructive influence’ in the Kosovo situation.

"Serbia is a sovereign country. And it is absolutely wrong to look for any destructive Russian influence here. Naturally, Serbia defends the rights of Serbs who live nearby in such difficult conditions. And it reacts harshly when these rights are violated," the Kremlin spokesman told reporters on Wednesday when asked to comment on statements from Pristina alledging Russia's destabilizing influence in the Balkans.

He added that Russia was closely monitoring the situation around Kosovo and supported Serbia in its steps there.

"We enjoy close allied and very close historical, spiritual and other relations with Serbia. Of course, Russia is watching closely what is happening there [the situation around Kosovo] and how the rights of Serbs are being protected. And certainly, we support Belgrade in the steps it has been taking," Peskov said.

The authorities of the unrecognized Kosovo earlier put their armed forces on full alert. In retaliation, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Milos Vucevic and Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said that the Serbian armed forces and the Serbian Interior Ministry were also put on alert by order of Commander-in-Chief, President Aleksandar Vucic.

The situation in Kosovo escalated sharply on December 6, when special forces of the unrecognized entity, accompanied by patrols of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), started to occupy the premises of election commissions in northern Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian population fought back against the Kosovars, who withdrew across the Ibar River. On December 8, about 350 Kosovo police officers entered the Serb-inhabited north of the province in armored vehicles and blockaded the northern part of Mitrovica. On December 10, the Kosovo police in Mitrovica arrested former Serb policeman Dejan Pantic on spurious charges. In retaliation, the Serbian population held mass protests and blocked roads in several locations with barricades.