An international court has sentenced a leading Kosovo Serb politician to nine years in prison for war crimes.

Judges of the EU's justice mission in Kosovo on Thursday found Oliver Ivanovic guilty of murder and torture of ethnic Albanians in 1999 during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia.

Ivanovic, considered a moderate Kosovo Serb politician, was arrested in January 2014. He was the first senior Kosovo Serb official detained by the European Union Rule of Law Mission, EULEX, on suspicion of committing war crimes against Kosovo Albanians.

Ivanovic denied the charges.

A strong police force has guarded the courthouse during the sentencing in the Serb-controlled northern part of Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia and Kosovo Serbs do not recognize the split.