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UKRAINE ACCUSES RUSSIA OF PLANNING OFFENSIVES AND INCREASING TENSIONS BETWEEN SERBIA AND KOSOVO

December 15-21, 2022 | Issue 31 - EUCOM

Matthew Bauer, Peter Roberto, Pètra van de Gevel, Juliet Sites

Marina Campos, Editor; Valentina Topatigh, Senior Editor


Kyiv and the Belarusian border[1]


Date: December 16, 2022

Location: Ukraine

Parties involved: Ukraine; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov; senior Ukrainian officials; Ukrainian civilians; Ukrainian refugees; Russia; Russian troops; Russian conscripts; Russian officer corps; Belarus; Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko; Poland; Romania; Western analysts; NATO

The event: Zelensky and senior officials accused Russia of planning a major ground offensive next year that could target Kyiv and the Donbas. Reznikov stated the offensive could happen in February when the 150,000 conscripted Russian troops will complete basic military training. Western analysts claim Russia’s offensive ground operation capabilities are diminishing.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Russia will likely reopen the Kyiv front, very likely starting its new offensive against Ukraine from Belarus. Direct Belarusian military involvement in Ukraine is unlikely, as Lukashenko will very likely try to avoid internal turmoil. Ukrainian casualties will almost certainly increase, very likely encouraging civilians to flee the country and almost certainly overwhelming Polish and Romanian humanitarian infrastructures. Far-right anti-immigrant stances in neighboring countries will likely harden, likely increasing discrimination against Ukrainian refugees.

  • Ukraine will very likely continue its offensive until February to gain more ground before the replenishment of Russian troops. NATO will very likely supply Ukraine with weapons, ammunition, and training for a new ground offensive in northern and southern Ukraine, likely recapturing land from Russia. Russian troops will very likely lose many men and resources, likely due to their conscripts’ lack of training and battlefield operational capacities. Russia will likely promote lower ranks to become officers, likely reducing its combat effectiveness, military leadership, and the likelihood of its February offensive’s success.


Date: December 18, 2022

Location: Jarinje border, Kosovo

Parties involved: Serbian government; Serbia; Serbian police; Serbian nationalist group People’s Patrol; People’s Patrol leader Damjan Knežević; Serbian far-right populist party Dveri; Serbian far-right nationalists; Srpski Obraz; Serbian Party Oathkeepers (SSZ); New Democratic Party of Serbia (NDSS); Russia; Russian oligarch and Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin; Russian paramilitary group Wagner Group; Russian oligarchs; NATO; Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers; Kosovo; Kosovo soldiers; Montenegrin Serbs; Republika Srpska Serbs

The event: Serbian police stopped several dozen far-right nationalists from crossing the Jarinje border into Kosovo amid heightened tensions between the countries. The nationalists were chanting “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia”. People’s Patrol, tied to the Wagner Group, organized the rally. The Dveri movement attended the rally and Knežević invited "Serbian patriots" from Montenegro and Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The Serbian government will very likely increase police presence at the Serbia-Kosovo border to prevent far-right Serbians from entering Kosovo and increasing bilateral tensions. Knežević will very likely continue holding border rallies to break through the Jarinje border, likely inviting other Serbian far-right nationalist groups like Srpski Obraz, SSZ, and NDSS. The size of border rallies will likely increase, with some participants likely moving past border police into northern Kosovo. Kosovar border patrols will likely intensify, with KFOR and Kosovo soldiers very likely increasing arrests and prompting cross-border violence.

  • Serbian far-right nationalist groups like People’s Patrol will very likely strengthen ties with the Wagner Group, likely in preparation for a potential conflict in Kosovo. Knežević will likely meet with Wagner Group leaders like Prigozhin to discuss a bilateral security partnership, likely increasing ties between Serbian far-right nationalists and Russian oligarchs. There is a roughly even chance the Wagner Group will encourage Serbian far-right nationalists to enter Kosovo, very likely to increase Serbian-Kosovar tensions and divert international attention from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

 

[1] Matthew Bauer via Google Maps

[2] Ukraine war: Kyiv says Russia planning major ground offensive in new year, BBC, December 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-63995244

[3] Clash between the ultra-right and the police on the Serbian side of the Jarinje crossing, Radio Free Europe, December 2022, https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/ultradesnicari-kosovo-jarinje-srbija-tenzije/32181955.html (translated by Google Translate)

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