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Thousands Mourn Slain Serb Leader In Kosovo

Crowds Gather As Killing Raises Balkan Tensions
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MITROVICA, Kosovo -- Thousands of people in Kosovo’s northern city of Mitrovica paid their respects on January 17 to Oliver Ivanovic, an ethnic Serb political leader in Kosovo who was shot dead a day earlier outside his Mitrovica office.

Carrying flowers, mourners lined the streets on the northern side of Mitrovica to escort the coffin with Ivanovic’s remains as it was taken away to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, for his burial on January 18.

Mourners also lit candles outside the headquarters of Ivanovic’s political party in Mitrovica where he was shot six times by unknown attackers.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people lit candles in Ivanovic’s memory on January 17 at the Church of St. Sava in central Belgrade.

Those memorializing Ivanovic at the Belgrade church, one of the largest Orthodox Christian cathedrals in the world, included numerous Serbian opposition politicians.

Oliver Ivanovic is shown in his office in May 2017
Oliver Ivanovic is shown in his office in May 2017

Ivanovic’s assassination in the Serb-dominated northern part of Mitrovica has raised tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-facilitated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 – nearly a decade after the 1998-99 Kosovo war -- and more than 110 countries recognize its independence. Serbia does not.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has announced that he will visit Kosovo over the weekend amid fears of renewed tensions.

Ivanovic was the president of the SDP Civic Initiative party that ran ethnic Serb candidates in local elections in Kosovo during 2017.

Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has suggested his assassination was a result of interference from outside the country.

Judges from the European Union's Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo convicted Ivanovic of war crimes committed against ethnic Albanians during the 1998-99 war and sentenced him to nine years in prison.

But that verdict was annulled by the Appeals Court in Pristina in February 2017, and a retrial was under way when he was killed.

With reporting by RFE/RL Balkan Service correspondents in Belgrade, AP, and B-92

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