Kosovo Serb leader shot dead outside party headquarters

A Kosovo Serb politician who faced accusations of war crimes was shot dead Tuesday outside his party headquarters, authorities said — on what was supposed to be the first day of diplomatic talks between Serbia and Kosovo in over a year.

Police guard a crime scene where Oliver Ivanovic, former state secretary for Kosovo and a subject of a controversial war crimes trial and retrial, was killed in Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Tuesday. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE
Police guard a crime scene where Oliver Ivanovic, former state secretary for Kosovo and a subject of a controversial war crimes trial and retrial, was killed in Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Tuesday. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE

Officials said Oliver Ivanović, the leader of the Citizen’s Initiative Party, was killed in Mitrovica, a city divided among ethnic lines as tensions continue between Albanians and Serbs.

Ivanović, 64, was killed on what was supposed to be the first day of talks between Serbia and Kosovo, aimed at improving relations, in more than a year. The talks were scrapped by the Serbian delegation after Ivanović’s death.

In 2016, Ivanović was found guilty of ordering crimes against the civilian population in 1999 during the Kosovo War. The conviction was overturned last year and the case sent back for retrial.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 but Belgrade refused to recognize it as a separate nation. It declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, and though the country is not a member of the United Nations, it’s recognized as an independent country by more than 100 countries — including the United States, Britain and Germany. Russia sides with Serbia on the issue.

Ivanovic’s death raises questions over international peacekeeping in the region, an area critics say is unable to govern organized crime.

By Susan McFarland