BELGRADE, Serbia — The Serbian army has cut the number of troops stationed on the border with Kosovo by nearly half, top Serbian military officials said on Monday, denying U.S. and other reports of a mass military buildup in the wake of a shooting over a week ago that killed four people and raised fears of instability in the volatile region.
Troop numbers are now at their “regular” level of some 4,500 soldiers, reduced from 8,350 in the wake of violence on Sept. 24 in northern Kosovo between heavily armed Serb gunmen and Kosovo police, the Serbian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Milan Mojsilovic said at a press conference.
He said troop numbers in the past had reached 14,000 soldiers and that unlike several times in the recent past, the army had not raised its combat readiness, so “from the military point of view I see no reason for such (critical) comments” by both U.S. and European Union officials.
Mojsilovic and Serbia's Defense Minister Milos Vucevic also denied reports by Kosovo officials that the Serbian army trained and armed the group of some 30 men involved in the shootout in the northern Kosovo village of Banjska that left a Kosovo police officer and three insurgents dead.
Mojsilovic added the army training sometimes includes Serb reservists from Kosovo, a former Serbian territory whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize, but that they were not part of the group that took part in the…