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«Вони – просто м’ясо». Агенція Reuters розповіла про використання загонів «Шторм Z» у російській армії

До російських підрозділів «Шторм Z» відправляють засуджених та покараних за дисциплінарні порушення військових. Такі загони зазвичай використовують на найбільш вразливих ділянках фронту, і вони зазнають великих втрат. Про це йдеться у матеріалі агенції Reuters із посиланням на 13 джерел, у тому числі бійців підрозділу та їхніх родичів. Ці підрозділи порівнюються зі штрафними батальйонами, які існували у Червоній армії під час Другої світової війни.

У загоні, за даними агенції, налічується близько 100-150 осіб. Вони входять до складу регулярних армійських підрозділів. У «Шторм Z» відправляють, зокрема, за вживання алкоголю, наркотиків та відмову від виконання наказів.

«Бійці «Шторму» – це просто м’ясо», – цитує агенція слова одного із рядових солдатів військової частини, дислокованої в районі Бахмута на сході України. За його словами, він надав медичну допомогу групі із шести або семи поранених бійців загону «Шторм Z» на полі бою, незважаючи на наказ командира залишити їх. Чоловік стверджує, що це типовий приклад того, що бійці «Шторм Z» вважаються менш цінними військовими, ніж солдати інших підрозділів.

Один із бійців загону, який мав судимість за крадіжку та був завербований із колонії, розповів, що у червні в боях під Бахмутом із 120-ти бійців його підрозділу загинули або були поранені всі, крім 15 осіб.

Російські державні ЗМІ раніше писали про існування загонів «Шторм Z», але без подробиць. По суті, бійці «Шторм Z» офіційно фактично не існують, у них немає на руках довідок, контракту на службу. Раніше російське видання «Можем объяснить» писало, що на «гарячій лінії» Міноборони РФ при зверненні щодо представників «Шторм Z» заявляють про відсутність будь-якої інформації.


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Hunter Biden Pleads Not Guilty to 3 Federal Gun Charges

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three federal firearms charges filed after a plea deal imploded, putting the case on track toward a possible trial as the 2024 election looms. 

His lawyer Abbe Lowell said in court he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, challenging their constitutionality. 

President Joe Biden’s son faces charges that he lied about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days. 

He’s acknowledged struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine during that period, but his lawyers have said he didn’t break the law. Gun charges like these are rare, and an appeals court has found the ban on drug users having guns violates the Second Amendment under new Supreme Court standards. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys are suggesting that prosecutors bowed to pressure by Republicans who have insisted the Democratic president’s son got a sweetheart deal, and that the charges were the result of political pressure. 

He was indicted after the implosion this summer of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors on tax and gun charges. The deal devolved after the judge who was supposed to sign off on the agreement instead raised a series of questions about the deal. Federal prosecutors had been looking into his business dealings for five years, and the agreement would have dispensed with criminal proceedings before his father was actively campaigning for president in 2024. 

Now, a special counsel has been appointed to handle the case, and there appears no easy end in sight. No new tax charges have yet been filed, but the special counsel has indicated they could come in Washington or in California, where Hunter Biden lives. 

In Congress, House Republicans are seeking to link Hunter Biden’s dealings to his father’s through an impeachment inquiry. Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden for years, since his father was Barack Obama’s vice president. While questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business, no evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes. 

The legal wrangling could spill into 2024, with Republicans eager to divert attention from the multiple criminal indictments faced by GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump, whose trials could be unfolding at the same time. 

After remaining silent for years, Hunter Biden has taken a more aggressive legal stance in recent weeks, filing a series of lawsuits over the dissemination of personal information purportedly from his laptop and his tax data by whistleblower IRS agents who testified before Congress as part of the GOP probe. 

The president’s son, who has not held public office, is charged with two counts of making false statements and one count of illegal gun possession, punishable by up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. Under the failed deal, he would have pleaded guilty and served probation rather than jail time on misdemeanor tax charges and avoided prosecution on a gun count if he stayed out of trouble for two years. 

Defense attorneys have argued that he remains protected by an immunity provision that was part of the scuttled plea agreement, but prosecutors overseen by special counsel David Weiss disagree. Weiss also serves as U.S. attorney for Delaware and was originally appointed by Trump. 

Hunter Biden had asked for Tuesday’s hearing to be conducted remotely over video feed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke sided with prosecutors, saying there would be no “special treatment.” 

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Обстріл військами РФ Херсонщини – одна людина загинула, є потерпілі

У Херсонській обласній прокуратурі зазначили, що по передмістю Херсона війська РФ били з артилерії та завдали авіаудар керованими авіабомбами

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Spanish Court Investigates Deadly Nightclub Fire

A court in Spain’s southeastern city of Murcia opened an investigation into a fire that tore through two adjoining discos, killing 13 people. It is the country’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than 30 years.

The discos, Teatre and Fondo Milagros, were popular dance spots, located on the outskirts of town. In January 2022, city officials ordered the venues closed after Teatre’s owner divided the building it was in to establish Fondo Milagros.

The order was disregarded.

The fire erupted just before sunrise Sunday. Authorities said the inferno probably spread quickly through air vents.

A firefighter said that six of the bodies were found clustered in restrooms, perhaps because people were hiding from the smoke, while the other seven bodies were scattered across a mezzanine above the entrance. In the restroom, a wall gave way and covered two of the dead in rubble.

The goal of the probe is to determine whether the fire broke out because of negligence, the city’s top prosecutor Jose Luis Diaz Manzanera said in an interview with La Opinion de Murcia, the local newspaper.

If the tragedy arose from recklessness, he said, those responsible for the deaths could face a maximum of nine years in prison. Diaz Manzanera promised an “exhaustive” search to uncover the truth of what happened.

“We must go centimeter by centimeter, checking everything,” he said. “Let’s see how it ends up. There may have been a short circuit that was not caused by negligence.”

Law enforcement and a team of forensic investigators scoured the site on Monday to gather evidence.

By Monday night, police said that they had identified six victims using fingerprints but that naming the remaining seven would prove “very difficult.”

The victims’ family members have turned in toothbrushes, combs and other toiletries to law enforcement hoping DNA samples can aid in the identification process.

“No father or mother can, or should, have to go through a tragedy like this,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. He called the eyewitness testimony “heartbreaking.”

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Європарламент схвалив створення Українського фонду на 50 млрд євро

Реалізація плану залежатиме від позицій окремих країн ЄС, зокрема Угорщини

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Macedonian-Born Soccer Coach’s Winning Legacy in Maryland

For 31 years Macedonian-born Sasho Cirovski coach has instilled his passion for excellence into the University of Maryland’s soccer program. The result is success on and off the field. VOA’s Jane Bojadzievski reports. Camera, edit: Larz Lacoma

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Armenia’s Parliament Votes to Join the International Criminal Court, Straining Ties With Ally Russia 

The Armenian parliament on Tuesday voted to join the International Criminal Court, which earlier this year indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes connected to the deportation of children from Ukraine.  

The move is likely to further strain Armenia’s deteriorating relation with its ally Russia, which last month called Yerevan’s push to join the ICC an “unfriendly step.”  

Countries that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC are bound to arrest Putin if he sets foot on their soil.  

Armenian officials say the effort to join ICC has nothing to do with Russia and was prompted by Azerbaijan’s aggression against the country. 


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Winner of Nobel Prize in Physics to be Announced

The annual Nobel Prize announcements continue Tuesday in the Swedish capital Stockholm when the winner – or winners – of the physics prize will be revealed. 

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Alain Aspect of France, John Clauser of the United States and Anton Zeilinger of Austria. 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, cited the three scientists for “pioneering quantum information science.”

The committee said each man carried out “groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated.”

The Nobel announcements began Monday with the prize in Medicine going to Hungary’s Kataline Kariko and Drew Weissman of the United States for their joint research that led to the rapid development of the mRNA COVID vaccines. 

The Nobel laureates for chemistry, literature and peace will be announced Wednesday through Friday, while economics will be announced Monday. 

All the categories except economics were established in the will of 19th century Swedish businessman Alfred Nobel, who made a fortune with his invention of dynamite.  The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after his death. 

The economics prize was established in 1968 by Sweden’s central bank Sveriges Riksbank in Nobel’s memory, with the first laureates, Norway’s Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands, announced the next year. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse.

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Міноборони Білорусі анонсує чергову перевірку боєздатності армії

«Війська в найкоротші терміни здійснять марші до призначених районів»

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Парламент Вірменії ратифікував Римський статут МКС. Цей суд видав ордер на арешт Путіна

Опозиція бойкотувала обговорення питання і залишала залу засідань

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Чубаров: після ударів по російській армії в Криму починаються обшуки й арешти кримських татар

«Як нещодавно підірвали штаб ЧФ РФ в Севастополі, вони почали шукати сліди тих, хто навів українські спецслужби на цей об’єкт»

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На Херсонщині на міні підірвався «псевдорозміновувач» – ОВА

«За кермом агрегата був 32-річний чоловік. Під час виконання робіт трактор підірвався на міні, а керманич загинув на місці»

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Pope Suggests Blessings for Same-Sex Unions Possible

Pope Francis has suggested there could be ways to bless same-sex unions, responding to five conservative cardinals who challenged him to affirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of a big meeting where LGBTQ+ Catholics are on the agenda.

The Vatican published a letter Monday that Francis wrote to the cardinals on July 11 after receiving a list of five questions, or “dubia,” from them a day earlier. In it, Francis suggests that such blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.

New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, said the letter “significantly advances” efforts to make LGBTQ+ Catholics welcomed in the church and is “one big straw toward breaking the camel’s back” in their marginalization.

The Vatican holds that marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman. As a result, it has long opposed gay marriage. But even Francis has voiced support for civil laws extending legal benefits to same-sex spouses, and Catholic priests in parts of Europe have been blessing same-sex unions without Vatican censure.

Francis’ response to the cardinals, however, marks a reversal from the Vatican’s current official position. In an explanatory note in 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said flat-out that the church couldn’t bless gay unions because “God cannot bless sin.”

In his new letter, Francis reiterated that matrimony is a union between a man and a woman. But responding to the cardinals’ question about homosexual unions and blessings, he said “pastoral charity” requires patience and understanding and that regardless, priests cannot become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude.”

“For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of benediction, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage,” he wrote. “Because when a benediction is requested, it is expressing a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better, a trust in a father who can help us to live better.”

He noted that there are situations that are objectively “not morally acceptable.” But he said the same “pastoral charity” requires that people be treated as sinners who might not be fully at fault for their situations.

Francis added that there is no need for dioceses or bishops’ conferences to turn such pastoral charity into fixed norms or protocols, saying the issue could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis “because the life of the church runs on channels beyond norms.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the pope’s openness.

“The allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God,” he said in a statement. “Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality.”

The five cardinals, all of them conservative prelates from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, had challenged Francis to affirm church teaching on gays, women’s ordination, the authority of the pope and other issues in their letter.

They published the material two days before the start of a major three-week synod, or meeting, at the Vatican at which LGBTQ+ Catholics and their place in the church are on the agenda.

The signatories were some of Francis’ most vocal critics, all of them retired and of the more doctrinaire generation of cardinals appointed by St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.

They were Cardinals Walter Brandmueller of Germany, a former Vatican historian; Raymond Burke of the United States, whom Francis axed as head of the Vatican supreme court; Juan Sandoval of Mexico, the retired archbishop of Guadalajara; Robert Sarah of Guinea, the retired head of the Vatican’s liturgy office; and Joseph Zen, the retired archbishop of Hong Kong.

Brandmueller and Burke were among four signatories of a previous round of “dubia” to Francis in 2016 following his controversial opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried couples receive Communion. Then, the cardinals were concerned that Francis’ position violated church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Francis never responded to their questions, and two of their co-signatories subsequently died.

Francis did respond this time around. The cardinals didn’t publish his reply, but they apparently found it so unsatisfactory that they reformulated their five questions, submitted them to him again and asked him to simply respond with a yes or no. When he didn’t, the cardinals decided to make the texts public and issue a “notification” warning to the faithful.

The Vatican’s doctrine office published his reply to them a few hours later, though it did so without his introduction in which he urged the cardinals to not be afraid of the synod.

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ЗСУ незначно просунулися на межі Донецької та Запорізької областей і біля Бахмута – ISW

ISW також оновив свою оцінку від 1 жовтня про те, що українські війська втратили позиції в системі окопів на південний захід від Роботиного

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Judge Plans May Trial for US Senator Bob Menendez in Bribery Case

A judge is planning a spring trial for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, who are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who sought the senator’s help and influence over foreign affairs.

The tentative trial date of May 6 would come just one month before New Jersey’s June 4 primary, meaning it could still be underway when voters start casting ballots on whether to return Menendez to the Senate. An attorney for the government gave the judge an estimate of four to six weeks.

An indictment last month charged the Democrat, formerly the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with taking payouts in exchange for corrupt acts that included passing information to Egyptian military and intelligence officials. Among other things, prosecutors accused Menendez of ghostwriting a letter for Egyptian officials that sought to influence U.S. policy on military aid.

The indictment also said Menendez used his influence to try and pressure state and federal prosecutors in New Jersey into giving lenient treatment to friends or associates who were the subject of criminal investigations and interceded with U.S. regulators to protect an associate’s business deal.

Authorities found nearly $500,000 in cash, much of it hidden in clothing and closets, as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars in a search of the New Jersey home Menendez, 69, shares with his wife, Nadine.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty and said the cash found in the house was personal savings he had squirreled away for emergencies.

Menendez was excused from being present for Monday’s court hearing in New York City after his lawyers said he needed to be in Washington for Senate business. The judge declined similar requests from Nadine Menendez and her co-defendants, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. All four have also said they are innocent.

Prosecutors have accused Hana of being a conduit between Menendez and Egyptian officials. They said Hana gave Nadine Menendez a job, gave her money to make mortgage payments, wrote checks to her consulting company, promised envelopes of cash and gave her gold bars. They said Menendez used his post to facilitate foreign military sales and financing to Egypt, which gave Hana’s business a lucrative, worldwide monopoly over religious certification for imported meat.

More than half of Senate Democrats have said that Menendez should resign, including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has as well. Menendez has said he intends to stay in the Senate, saying he is certain he will ultimately be exonerated.

Monday’s court hearing in the Menendez case took place just a short walk from where former President Donald Trump was appearing in court in a civil fraud lawsuit.

Besides setting a trial date, Judge Sidney Stein gave prosecutors a December deadline to turn over certain evidence to the defense.

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Montana Appeals Landmark Climate-Change Ruling Favoring Youth Plaintiffs

The office of Montana’s Republican attorney general is appealing a landmark climate change ruling that said state agencies aren’t doing enough to protect 16 young plaintiffs from harm caused by global warming.

The state filed notice Friday that it is going to appeal the August ruling by District Court Judge Kathy Seeley, who found the Montana Environmental Policy Act violates the plaintiffs’ state constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The 1971 law requires state agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects and take public input before issuing permits.

Under a change to that law passed by the 2023 Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Quality does not have to consider the effect of greenhouses gases when issuing permits for fossil fuel projects unless the federal government declares carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant.

The plaintiffs argued they were already feeling the consequences of climate change, with smoke from worsening wildfires choking the air they breathe and droughts drying rivers that sustain agriculture, fish, wildlife and recreation. The state argued that the volume of greenhouse gases released from Montana fossil fuel projects was insignificant compared to the world’s emissions.

Seeley’s ruling, which followed a first-of-its-kind trial in the U.S. in June, added to a small number of legal decisions around the world that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.

Last week in France, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments from six young Portuguese people and their lawyers who said 32 European governments were violating their human rights by failing to address climate change.

It will likely be several months before the state of Montana files its brief laying out its appeal of Seeley’s ruling, Bowen Greenwood, clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, said Monday.

In the meantime, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is asking Montana residents to weigh in on potential updates to the Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA. The administrative rules to implement the law were passed in the 1980s.

“These regulations are showing their age and it’s time to hear from Montanans about what MEPA should look like today and into the future,” Chris Dorrington, director of the DEQ, said in a statement.

Montanans are being asked what changes, if any, are needed to modernize the regulations and how greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be analyzed. At least three public hearings are scheduled this month, including one Monday night in Billings. The DEQ is also taking public comment online through the end of the year.

The issue is being considered now, Dorrington said, in part because of the successful legal challenge by Montana youth.

“We want to start a thoughtful dialogue about greenhouse gas emissions and other topics, and we are seeking input that is balanced and driven by sound science,” he said.

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Eagle Pass Mayor Declares State of Emergency as Migrants Flood City

After a decline in illegal immigration at the border, there was a sudden surge in migrants crossing the Rio Grande in September. The rapid influx of thousands into the Texas border city of Eagle Pass prompted city officials to declare and extend a state of emergency. Verónica Villafañe narrates this report by Divalizeth Cash.

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Philadelphia Journalist Fatally Shot Inside Home

A Philadelphia journalist was shot and killed inside his home early Monday morning. City police say it’s too early to tell whether he was targeted over his work.

Police responded to reports of gunshots and screams just before 1:30 a.m. local time in the Point Breeze neighborhood in southern Philadelphia. There, officers found local journalist Josh Kruger shot seven times in the chest and abdomen and collapsed in the street outside his home.

Kruger was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 2:15 a.m.

No arrests have been made, and the motive remains unclear, police said. Philadelphia Police Corporal Jasmine Reilly said it’s too early to know whether Kruger was killed over his reporting.

“It’s really early in the investigation,” Reilly told VOA. “We’re going to be looking at every different angle in this incident to make sure that we get to the bottom of the motive and get the individual that did this horrible homicide.”

There was no sign of forced entry. Police believe someone entered the reporter’s home, then shot him at the bottom of his stairs. The shooter ran away, police believe, and Kruger then went outside to get help from his neighbors.

“We hope in this case that the police conduct a thorough and quick investigation so that we can better understand the killer’s motives,” said Katherine Jacobsen, the United States program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ.

While it’s unclear whether Kruger was killed over his work, Jacobsen said, “It’s important to use this moment to highlight the dangers that journalists in the United States face.”

Those dangers include increased harassment online, according to Jacobsen. But journalist killings are quite rare in the United States.

While CPJ documented at least 67 killings of journalists and media workers around the world in 2022 alone, the press freedom group has documented just 17 cases in the United States since it began tracking killings in 1992.

Of the 17 cases, which do not include Kruger, CPJ confirmed that 15 were over the reporter’s work.

Before returning to journalism in 2021, Kruger worked for the city of Philadelphia for about five years, including as a communications director and spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

As an award-winning freelance journalist, he reported for outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Citizen and LGBTQ Nation on topics ranging from the LGBTQ community to city and state politics.

On Kruger’s website, he wrote that he is “known for weaving his unique lived experience with homelessness, HIV, Philadelphia’s ‘street economy,’ trauma, and poverty throughout his commentary and writing.”

“All these taboos, he felt, are just as much a part of the human condition as are dinnertime, football, and car payments, and he wanted to give voice to the kinds of troubles that people often agonize over in silence,” his former editor at the Philadelphia Weekly, Stephen Segal said.

Kruger’s death has devastated those who worked with him, like Segal, who met Kruger 10 years ago in 2013 when Segal was the editor in chief of the Philadelphia Weekly.

Kruger was only about one year past being homeless, Segal said, and he was determined to make a career out of writing. Kruger became a regular freelance columnist at the Weekly.

“Josh was already a gifted storyteller when I met him. Helping him develop his journalistic talents and working with him to tell stories that really mattered to people was one of the most meaningful chapters of my life as an editor,” Segal said. “I am so, so unspeakably sad at the news of his death. I am so thankful I got to know him as a friend.”

Kruger was also an avid bicyclist and an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian. He lived with his one-toothed senior cat named Mason.

In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s killing.

“Josh cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident both in his public service and in his writing,” Kenney said. “His intelligence, creativity, passion, and wit shone bright in everything that he did — and his light was dimmed much too soon.”

Regardless of whether Kruger was killed over his work, Jacobsen said his slaying could still have serious ramifications for the media community in and beyond Philadelphia.

“Anytime a journalist is harmed, in any way, shape or form, even if it’s not in retaliation for their reporting — because they have more public profiles — it creates a sense of fear,” Jacobsen said.

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Serbia Reduces Army Presence Near Kosovo After US Expressed Concern

The Serbian army has cut the number of troops stationed on the border with Kosovo by nearly half, top Serbian military officials said Monday, denying U.S. and other reports of a mass military buildup in the wake of a shooting over a week ago that killed four people and raised fears of instability in the volatile region. 

Troop numbers are now at their “regular” level of some 4,500 soldiers, reduced from 8,350 in the wake of violence on September 24 in northern Kosovo between heavily armed Serb gunmen and Kosovo police, the Serbian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Milan Mojsilovic said at a news conference. 

He said troop numbers in the past had reached 14,000 soldiers and that unlike several times in the recent past, the army had not raised its combat readiness, so “from the military point of view I see no reason for such [critical] comments” by both U.S. and European Union officials. 

Mojsilovic and Serbia’s Defense Minister Milos Vucevic also denied reports by Kosovo officials that the Serbian army trained and armed the group of some 30 men involved in the shootout in the northern Kosovo village of Banjska that left a Kosovo police officer and three insurgents dead. 

Mojsilovic added the army training sometimes includes Serb reservists from Kosovo, a former Serbian territory whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize, but that they were not part of the group that took part in the clashes. 

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on X, the former Twitter, that the “terrorists who carried out the attacks” recently trained at two bases in Serbia and that “the attackers enjoyed the full support & planning of the Serbian state” with a wider plan to “annex” the north of Kosovo. 

Such accusations present an “intellectual insult,” Mojsilovic said in Belgrade. 

The incident in Banjska has raised concern in the West of possible instability in the Balkans as war also rages in Ukraine. U.S. and EU officials have been trying to negotiate an agreement to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo following their 1998-99 war after which NATO intervened to force Serbia to pull out of the province. 

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said the military buildup near Kosovo was “very concerning and needs to stop immediately.” Stano urged a thorough investigation into the Kosovo incident with full cooperation from Serbia, a candidate nation for EU membership. 

“There is no place for arms and [a] security forces buildup on the European continent,” said Stano. “All forces need to stand down.” 

There was no immediate comment from NATO on the reports of the Serbian army pullout from the border zone. John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, Friday described the Serbian troop movement as an “unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units.” 

NATO last week announced it was beefing up its peacekeeping presence in Kosovo by some 200 British troops in the wake of the crisis. Spokesperson Dylan White signaled Sunday that this would not be all, saying “further reinforcements will follow from other Allies.” 

KFOR already comprises around 4,500 troops from 27 nations as part of the peacekeeping mission established after the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. An agreement that ended the conflict also defines relations with the Serbian military and its presence in the border area. 

“Cooperation with KFOR is good and continuous,” said Vucevic. “The Serbian army believes additional presence of KFOR units [in Kosovo,] and primarily in the areas where Serbs live, would improve the security situation. 

“If the army of the Republic of Serbia receives an order from the president, as the commander in chief, for its units to enter the territory of Kosovo and Metohija as part of the Republic of Serbia, the Army of Serbia would perform such a task efficiently, professionally and successfully,” Vucevic said, adding that KFOR would be informed in advance of such a decision. 

Kosovo officials have said they are also investigating possible Russian involvement in the violence. Serbia is Russia’s main ally in Europe, and there are fears in the West that Moscow could try to stir trouble in the Balkans to avert attention from the war in Ukraine. 

Serbia insists the insurgents were local ethnic Serbs fed up with constant harassment from the Kosovo government. Belgrade also claims at least one of the killed insurgents was executed after he was injured, rather than killed in the fighting. 

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