NewsEuropeDemonstrations in northern Kosovo leave dozens of civilians and NATO soldiers injured

    Demonstrations in northern Kosovo leave dozens of civilians and NATO soldiers injured

    The international force mission for Kosovo (KFOR) reported on Monday that its troops suffered injuries after a clash with Serb protesters in the town of Zvecan, in the north of the country. In turn, more than 50 civilians were injured in the confrontations.

    “Several soldiers from the Italian and Hungarian KFOR contingent were subjected to unprovoked attacks and suffered traumatic injuries with fractures and burns due to the explosion of incendiary devices,” the NATO-led KFOR mission said in a statement.

    Reports indicate that a conglomerate of Serbs were trying to break into the government buildings of the municipality, which were guarded by international troops and the Kosovar Police. Law enforcement proceeded to repel the Serb protesters with pepper spray.

    Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced that 52 Serbs were wounded and mentioned that he would spend the night with troops he deployed to the Kosovo border, which were ordered to “highest alert level” last week.

    Clashes between soldiers and protesters in Zvecan, Kosovo, Monday, May 29, 2023. © AFP/ STR

    “I repeat for the last time and I beg the international community to make Albin Kurti see reason,” Vučić declared, referring to the Kosovo prime minister.

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    Zvecan is one of the municipalities in northern Kosovo, with an ethnic Serb majority, where its inhabitants have rejected the election of Albanian governors in their municipality since last week, prompting KFOR troops to intensify their presence in the region.

    “This morning, the NATO-led KFOR mission has increased its presence in four municipalities in northern Kosovo following the latest events in the area,” the international mission said in its statement.

    Leposavić is another municipality where the international presence has increased in recent days, with US peacekeepers guarding government buildings with a barbed wire fence, aiming to prevent intrusion by Serb protesters.

    Kosovo must “de-escalate” tensions

    Western bloc leaders have criticized the Kosovo government for raising tensions with Serbia, in a conflict that has been stuck for decades without a solution.

    Through a post on Twitter last Sunday, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, called for dialogue between the two parties and asked the Pristina government not to “take unilateral and destabilizing steps.”

    Similarly, the person in charge of foreign policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, spoke by telephone with the prime minister of Kosovo and assured that “the elected governors will provide their services to all citizens.”

    On the other hand, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the situation in Kosovo as “worrying” and blamed the US and NATO intervention in the region for the instability in relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

    “A big ‘explosion’ is brewing in the center of Europe, in the very place where, in 1999, NATO carried out the aggression against Yugoslavia,” Lavrov told a news conference in the Kenyan capital.

    A frozen conflict after the disintegration of Yugoslavia

    Although approximately 90% of the population in Kosovo is ethnically Albanian, the north of Kosovar territory is made up mostly of inhabitants who conceive of themselves as Serbs and who refuse to recognize the Kosovar declaration of independence from Serbia, promulgated in 2008.

    A boy walks past a mural reading "Kosovo is Serbia, Crimea is Russia" in a Serb area of ​​Mitrovica, Kosovo.
    A boy walks past a mural reading “Kosovo is Serbia, Crimea is Russia” in a Serb area of ​​Mitrovica, Kosovo. © AFP / Armend Nimani

    Serbs in northern Kosovo advocate the implementation of a plan brokered by the European Union in 2013, which proposes the creation of autonomous municipalities governed by local governments financed by Belgrade. However, the Kosovo government has rejected the plan and calls for regular elections in those towns.

    Municipal elections in Kosovo were held in April. However, only 3.5% of the population in these northern towns participated in the elections, which resulted in Albanian governors winning, but which have generated a feeling of illegitimacy in the inhabitants.

    Serbs and Albanians are embroiled in an ethnic confrontation that began since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and after former Serbian president Slobodan Mološević’s campaign against Kosovo.

    Now, more than 20 years after NATO’s intervention in the region to stop the exchange of arms and seek to stabilize the relations of the different nations, the differences between Kosovo and Serbia are once again coming to the fore.

    With Reuters, AP and local media

    Source: France 24

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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