Kosovo police have seized dozens of crypto mining devices from residents of a majority Serb region in the north of the country. Authorities in Pristina and Belgrade exchanged accusations over the move, which has the potential to raise tensions in the ethnically divided, partially recognized Balkan state.
Kosovo Government Cracks Down on Crypto Mining in Mainly Serb North
Law enforcement in Kosovo has carried out raids against cryptocurrency mining in a northern municipality where Serbs form the majority of the population, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported, quoting a member of the Albanian-led government in Pristina.
According to Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli, police have seized 174 devices designed to mint digital currencies. Announcing the operation in Zubin Potok on social media, she insisted that the failure to pay electricity bills encourages such illegal activities.
Consumers in the predominantly Serb northern part of Kosovo have not paid for electric power in over two decades. Serbia does not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of the territory, the rest of which is mostly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
Belgrade says the crackdown is an attempt to provoke Serbs to escalate tensions in the breakaway region. The Office for Kosovo and Metohija under Serbia’s government highlighted that the raids were conducted on Good Friday, a holy day for Orthodox Christians, describing the police operation as a continuation of the harassment of the Serbian people.
Serbia is portraying the operation as one targeting Serbs, according to Blerim Vela, the cabinet chief of Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani. “The Serbian government openly supports criminal activity in northern Kosovo and tries to present it as an attack on local Serbs,” he was quoted as stating.
Pristina halted the extraction of cryptocurrencies throughout Kosovo in January 2022, citing negative effects of the global energy crisis, and renewed the ban in August, seizing hundreds of crypto mining machines last year. It has been reported that the total of unpaid electricity and water bills in four Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo exceeds €300 million (almost $330 million).