TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Oliver Ivanovic, 64, the leader of the Citizens’ Initiative Party, was shot outside the party’s offices in Mitrovica, a northern city that is sharply divided along ethnic lines.
Though seen as a moderate in Serb politics, Ivanovic also faced war crimes charges, which he and his allies described as politically motivated.
In a televised news conference, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, insisted that his government had no role in what he called “a terrorist act,” and suggested that the killing was part of a campaign by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority to take control of the country’s remaining Serb enclaves. He called a meeting of his security council, and warned the government of Kosovo not to use the assassination “as a pretext to send their boots on the ground in the north.”
But an opposition leader, Sasa Jankovic, noted on Tuesday that Vucic’s government, which he described as repressive, had been harshly critical of Ivanovic in the past.
“Whoever did this — and we do not know who it is — works against the interests of the Serbs and of Serbia and the Albanian people and everyone else,” he said.
After the assassination, a Serb delegation walked out of talks on Tuesday on normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo broke away from Serbia, fighting a war for independence in 1998 and 1999, and formally declaring independence in 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognize it as a separate nation.
The Kosovo government condemned the killing, which it said “challenges the rule of law and any attempt to establish order throughout the entire territory of Kosovo.”
In a statement, Hashim Thaci, president of Kosovo, said, “I call on the law enforcement authorities to expose the circumstances of his assassination as soon as possible and the perpetrators of the crime come to justice.”
Ivanovic had no shortage of enemies, and someone set fire to his car outside his house in July 2017, after which some of his allies urged him to leave the country. In addition to being at the center of political tensions, he was an outspoken critic of Kosovo’s drug gangs and the authorities who he said allowed traffickers to operate with impunity.
His is one of several ethnic Serb parties in Kosovo, but unlike its major rivals, it is highly independent of Belgrade, and willing to recognize and work with the ethnic Albanian authorities. Under a previous administration in Belgrade, he served as chief of Serbia’s Ministry for Kosovo.