Serbs today erected roadblocks in northern Kosovo, a day after Belgrade put its armed forces near the border on the highest level of combat readiness, AR reported, quoted by BTA.

Barricades made of loaded trucks were erected last night in Kosovska Mitrovica, a town divided between Serbs and Albanians.

For the first time since the beginning of the recent crisis, the Serbs blocked streets in one of the main cities.

So far, barricades have been placed on roads leading to the Kosovo-Serbia border.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said last night that he had ordered the army to the highest level of readiness "to protect our people in Kosovo and to preserve Serbia".

Serbia has put its army on alert

The head of state claimed that Pristina was preparing to "attack" the Kosovo Serbs in the north of the country and forcefully remove several of the roadblocks that the Serbs set up 18 days ago to protest the arrest of former Kosovo Serb police officers.

In Pristina, Vucic was accused of using his state media to stir up trouble and provoke incidents to serve as a pretext for armed intervention in the former Serb region, which declared independence in 2008.

Petar Petkovic, the Serbian official in charge of contacts with the Kosovo Serbs, that the combat readiness of the Serbian armed forces was put in place because Kosovo had done the same.

He claims that heavily armed Kosovo units want to attack Kosovo Serbs "with the intention of attacking our women, elderly people, children, men".

"Our people, who are at the barricades, are simply defending their right to live," Petkovic pointed out.

Kosovo asked NATO peacekeepers stationed there to remove the barricades and hinted that Pristina forces would do so if KFOR forces did not respond.

About 4,000 NATO peacekeepers have been stationed in Kosovo since the 1999 war that ended with Belgrade losing control of the territory.

A possible Serbian armed intervention in Kosovo would likely lead to a clash with NATO forces and further escalate tensions in the Balkans, which are still recovering from the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have reached a peak in the past month.

Western attempts to reach a negotiated settlement have failed because Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo's statehood.

KFOR and the European Union called on Pristina and Belgrade to show restraint and avoid provocations.

Kosovo remains a potential flashpoint in the Balkans years after the 1998-99 Kosovo war, which ended with a NATO intervention that pushed Serbian troops out of the former Serbian region.