Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The City & The City

Foreign Policy:

Mitrovica is itself a divided city. On the south bank of the Ibar River, the Albanians use euros. American flags line the streets. There is a KFC and a hulking mosque and a maze of relief organizations. On the north of the Ibar, which you reach by a bridge blockaded at both ends by dark blue Italian Carabinieri armored vehicles, signs shift to Cyrillic. The Serbs use dinars. The city becomes visibly more bedraggled. Shabby streets are packed with internet gambling joints bearing blacked-out windows. Russian flags hang from banners. Posters of Putin are plastered across apartment buildings. “Crimea is to Russia as Kosovo is to Serbia,” reads a great chalk sketch. Men in black jackets languish at the Gavrilo Princip cafe.

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Driving toward the Serbian border, what was most clear was that the smugglers had known well in advance about the coming operation. They had had enough time to back themselves against the Serbian border and barricade the road plodding north with one obstacle after another. I passed a wall of tires that had been burnt to goo, leaving a stinging scent in the air. A small bus stop had been overturned and tossed into the street. There were stacked crates of Coca-Cola and Fanta, now smashed. Felled trees had been strewn across the road. The barricades got more imposing the closer one got to Serbia. The police operation had bulldozed through an orange truck, throwing it onto the opposite banks of the road.