Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead outside office

Ivanovic was shot at least five times outside his office in the Serb-run Kosovar city of Mitrovica, doctors told Serbian State TV RTS.

A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was shot and killed Tuesday morning, raising ethnic tensions in the region and halting EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia on the day they were due to resume.

Some 40,000-50,000 ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo, rejecting integration with the mainly Albanian state since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

A key negotiation partner during NATO-E.U. -led talks, Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2016 over alleged war crimes committed against ethnic Albanians in the late 1990s.

Afterward, he called the killing "a terrorist act" and said Serbia is demanding that global missions in Kosovo include Serbia in their investigation into the slaying.

Vucic convened an emergency meeting of Serbia's Security Council in the wake of the assassination, and the head of the government office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric said the Serb delegation was suspending technical dialogue with the Kosovo authorities in Brussels and returning to Belgrade.

According to him, whoever is behind the murder of Ivanovic, be it Albanian or Serb criminals, they must be held responsible.

Under the auspices of the European Union, following pressure from the worldwide community, Kosovo and Serbia have been trying to normalise ties some 20 years since the start of the bloody war that claimed 13,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the murder as a "terrorist act" against "Serbia as a whole".

"We encourage the sides to avoid risky rhetoric and to maintain calm in order for relations between Kosovo and Serbia to be further normalized", Delawie declared.

The Kosovo government issued a statement condemning the killing, which it said "challenges the rule of law and any attempt to establish order throughout the entire territory of Kosovo". He was the leader of the Party "Freedom, Democracy, Justice" during those years.

The talks were scrapped by the Serbian delegation after Ivanović's death.

Despite his moderate political views, 15 years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation intervention in Kosovo, Ivanovic was arrested for alleged war crimes committed in 1999.

A Serbian politician was gunned down in his hometown of Mitrovica in Kosovo.

The bridge-watchers were often involved in ethnic violence in the early post-war period, after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air strikes drove out Belgrade forces accused of killing and expelling Kosovo Albanian civilians in a counter-insurgency campaign.

  • Megan Austin