Oliver Ivanovic shot dead: Leading Kosovo Serb politician gunned down at party HQ while on trial for war crimes

Eleanor Rose
Oliver Ivanovic said the war crimes case against him was politically motivated: EPA

A leading Kosovo Serb politician has died after being shot in front of his party headquarters the same day talks to normalise relations with Belgrade resumed.

Oliver Ivanovic, 64, was shot by unknown gunmen in a drive-by attack shortly after 8am local time in the northern city of Mitrovica.

Ivanovic's lawyer, Nebojsa Vlajic, told Serbian news site Blic: "It looks like he had already died at the scene. As far as we know, he had five wounds.

"He was taken to hospital, the doctors tried to resuscitate him, but he could not be saved."

Doctors struggled to save the life of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, shown here in 2017 leaving the prison in the northern, Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica (AP)

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has called a top security meeting in response, according to Serbian state-run TV.

Mr Ivanovic was facing retrial for alleged war crimes linked to the Kosovo War of 1998 to 1999.

In a controversial ruling in January 2016, Mr Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in jail by EU judges for war crimes allegedly committed in 1999.

However the verdict was thrown out on appeal and a fresh trial started last year.

The prominent Serb politician was president of the civic initiative SDP and served as the State Secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija from 2008 to 2012.

The murder has sent shockwaves through the small Balkan jurisdiction whose political environment is still considered fragile.

In Brussels, a delegation from Belgrade walked out of the talks with Kosovo Albanians that had resumed earlier on Tuesday after more than a year’s break, local media reported.

Recognition of Kosovo as an independent state is disputed by some countries including Serbia, which maintained for years that Kosovo was part of its sovereign territory.

Talks to normalise relations began in 2013 after pressure from the international community.

Today the town of Mitrovica is divided, with Serbs running the north of the town while Albanians run the southern part.