Kosovo on Alert Over Serb Orthodox Holiday

Police have boosted their presence throughout Kosovo in preparation for the main religious holiday of the Serbian minority.

Ice thrown at Serbian Pilgrims in Gjakova

Kosovo police arrested two members of the nationalist Vetevendosje Movement for throwing ice at a bus carrying pilgrims to Serbian Orthodox ceremonies in the western town of Gjakova.

About 100 people had gathered in Gjakova to protest against the visit. After the attack, the pilgrims decided to call off their visit to the church.

Kriste Gjoka, Gjakova police spokesperson, told BIRN that police were guarding the pilgrims and guaranteed their full safety.

"Two citizens were arrested because they threw ice and damaged one of the windows of the bus. One of the pilgrims? then said they had decided to return and not enter the church because of the weather," Gjoka told BIRN.

In its press release, Vetevendosje said local citizens staged the protest against the pilgrims because one of the visitors was a war crimes suspect.

Police have drawn up "an operational plan that aims to preserve order and ensure security", police spokesman Baki Kelani told BIRN.

"We foresee additional security measures and an increase in police vigilence in places where we estimate it is needed, so that these events unfold in a holiday spirit," he added.

Serbs celebrate Christmas two weeks after the Catholic Church, as do most, but not all, Orthodox Church members elsewhere.

The main celebration in Kosovo will take place at Gracanica monastery, a large Serbian community centred on a medieval church about 15 minutes from the capital, Prishtina.

The head of the Kosovo Office in the Serbian government, Marko Djuric, will attend the festivites in Gracanica on...

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