It soon became clear that there were many gas stations of Gazprom Neft and the local energy company NIS controlled by it in Serbia. We stopped at two of them on different sections of the trip – and I must say they are really popular: it turned out that many local and passing tourists prefer to refuel with Russian fuel. By the way, the track itself at the exit from Belgrade was incredibly satisfied: we smoothly rushed along the Milos Veleke highway, which was built recently and covers the section from the Serbian capital to Čačak .
The closer the administrative border was to Kosovo, the more mountains there were around. About halfway, Ibar also met – the same river that flows through the territory of the Kosovo and Metohija region. Its muddy waters flowed like a snake from left to right – as if showing the way to the administrative line. It should be noted that in the municipalities adjacent to Kosovo (in particular in Raška), we have never encountered either the Serbian army or any indication of its presence here. Even if, as you know, the armed forces of Serbia are deployed near Kosovo and are on full alert.
Photo: Vladislav Shablovsky
When I arrived at Yarinje, the main checkpoint that allows entry and exit from Kosovo, I was a little surprised. To be honest, we expected something more ambitious: in fact, it turned out that “Yarinje” is a blue bus stop about 50 meters, partly reminiscent of the shape of a seagull – because the roof is not sloping, but pulled up. Beneath all this construction, there are dozens of locker rooms similar to those that can be seen on any construction site. On one side of the administrative line is a Serbian checkpoint, at the end of this “stop” – the Albanians.
By the way, the queues are quite small: about 7-10 cars to enter Kosovo, even fewer cars to enter Serbia. No crowds or signs of traffic issues due to recent rock climbing. All is well and calm. An attempt to talk to the Serbian police at the checkpoint failed: the commander who came to meet him made it clear that without permission from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior it was impossible to shoot near the checkpoint or to get interviews from the police themselves. There are cameras everywhere, and Serbian law enforcement doesn’t want to be hit with the hat – and they can be fully understood. So I had to step away (it was not forbidden to take pictures from a distance) and concentrate entirely on communicating with the main characters – the Serbs crossing the administrative line.
By the way, there is a small cafe near Yarinje – it was from there that I began to communicate with travelers. A man was met in a cafe, who was not allowed to enter Kosovo, because he did not have the necessary documents, and he was just waiting for the transport which was to pick him up. Whether out of desperation or joy at meeting a Russian, this citizen offered me a drink of cognac – of course, I had to tactfully refuse. After speaking with other travellers, I found out that Serbs are not allowed to enter Kosovo with a passport – they need a national identity card (a kind of ID). Another Serb was asked for an additional power of attorney. However, these are all isolated cases: it turned out that no additional “sticks in the wheels” are inserted into everyone without exception.
Much more interesting is another detail related to license plates. Without exception, all pilots sealed their number. Serbs – before entering Kosovo, Albanians – before entering Raska. Already when leaving Kosovo, the Serbs tear off these stickers and throw them away. These are the rules, and everyone firmly adheres to them. And only a dog that runs by does not need a sticker: it seems that he can cross the administrative border at any time, and no one will say a word to him.
Photo: Vladislav Shablovsky
In general, it was not easy to communicate with passing Serbs. Half of them refused to talk: some were shy, some were in a hurry and some just didn’t want to talk. Those who agreed to have a brief interview pointed out that there were no serious difficulties in crossing the administrative line now. And the situation in the municipalities of northern Kosovo is gradually normalizing: one of the drivers noted that even KFOR representatives are almost never seen.
An important detail: only on Saturday the Serbs had an asshole – this is a memorial day when the Serbs go to visit the graves of their relatives. And on this important day, no one encountered any overall difficulties in getting to and from Kosovo. Like the previous days. Life therefore continues here as usual, despite the systematic exacerbations due to the fault of the Kosovars. Apparently, the Serbs themselves are already used to living under such a regime of “increased internal combat readiness”. At the very least, small difficulties with paperwork or small delays will not scare them away.
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