Serbia’s prime minister, government officials and hundreds of others have attended the funeral of a moderate Serb politician who was gunned down in Kosovo this week in an attack that has fuelled concerns for Balkan stability.
The mourners poured into Belgrade’s New Cemetery to pay their respects to Oliver Ivanovic, who was known as a voice of tolerance in ethnically tense Kosovo.
The 64-year-old was shot six times by unknown assailants on Tuesday near his political party’s offices in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica.
The killing shocked many in the Balkans and aroused fears that it could worsen tensions in the volatile region that went through a series of wars in the 1990s, including in Kosovo.
Stability there remains shaky 10 years after the predominantly ethnic-Albanian region declared independence from Serbia.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, other officials and prominent public figures attended the funeral service for Mr Ivanovic held by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
In a eulogy, Mr Ivanovic’s long-time friend Tanja Petrovic said he “fought and died for the truth”.
Mr Ivanovic had enemies both among Kosovo Albanians and nationalist Serbs. He maintained relations with Nato and EU officials after Serbia lost control of northern Kosovo following the 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
A Kosovo court convicted him of war crimes from the 1998-99 Kosovo war. The verdict eventually was overturned and a retrial was under way.