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Kosovar Police Detain Six Russians, Five Serbs Near Border


Police in Kosovo say they have detained six Russian citizens and five Serbian citizens they say crossed the border with Serbia illegally.

The 11 people detained on August 8 were traveling in two vehicles when they were stopped near the border, the Kosovar police force said in a statement.

It said that they were being held by the border police and that the authorities had notified Russia's diplomatic office in Kosovo.

A court in Podujeva, north of the capital, Pristina, later said they were fined 250 euros ($295) each for illegally crossing the border.

They will be taken to the nearest border-crossing point after paying the fine, the court added.

The detentions came amid persistent concerns in the Balkans about Russian influence.

Remzi Potoku, a defense attorney for one of the detainees -- a Serb who is married to a Russian -- told RFE/RL that his client said the detainees had been on their way to visit family members in Kosovo.

Potoku said the group would remain in detention for 48 hours.

State-run Russian news agency TASS quoted a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Belgrade, Yury Pichugin, as saying that two of the Russians were local residents who are members of a Serbian citizen's family.

Pichugin said that an official from the embassy's office in Kosovo traveled to the scene to deal with the matter.

Predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognized by more than 100 countries, including the United States, but not by Serbia or Russia.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, AP, and TASS
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