Kosovo: 25 NATO soldiers injured in clashes in Kosovo with Serb demonstrators

LEPOSAVIC: About 25 NATO peacekeepers defending three town halls in northern Kosovo were injured in clashes with Serb demonstrators on Monday, as the Serbian president placed the military at the highest level of combat alert.
KFORthe NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo condemned the violence.
“While fighting the most active fringes of the crowd, several soldiers from the Italian and Hungarian contingent of KFOR came under unprovoked attack and suffered traumatic injuries with broken bones and burns from the ‘explosion of incendiary devices,’ he said in a statement.
Hungarian Defense Minister Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky said 7 Hungarian soldiers were seriously injured and will be taken to Hungary for treatment. He said 20 soldiers were injured. Italian soldiers were also injured in clashes.
“What is happening is absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible,” Italian Giorgia Meloni said in a statement. “It is vital to avoid further unilateral actions by the Kosovo authorities and that all parties involved immediately take a step back to ease tensions.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said 52 Serbs were injured, three of them seriously.
President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani accused his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic of destabilizing Kosovo.
“Illegal Serbian structures turned into criminal gangs have attacked Kosovo police, KFOR (peacekeeping) officers and journalists. Those who carry out Vucic’s orders to destabilize northern Kosovo must face justice “, tweeted Osmani.
Vucic accused Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti of creating tension. He called on Kosovo Serbs to avoid clashes with NATO soldiers.
The tense situation developed after ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the Serb-majority area of ​​northern Kosovo following elections that the Serbs boycotted – a move that led the United States and its allies to rebuke Pristina on Friday.
In Zvecan, one of the towns, Kosovo police – made up of ethnic Albanians after the Serbs left the force last year – sprayed pepper spray to repel a crowd of Serbs who broke through a barricade of security and attempted to force their way into the municipality building, witnesses said. said.
Serb demonstrators in Zvecan fired tear gas and stun grenades at NATO soldiers. Serbs also clashed with police in Zvecan and spray-painted NATO vehicles with the letter “Z”, referring to a Russian sign used during the war in Ukraine.
In Leposavic, near the border with Serbia, US peacekeepers in riot gear placed barbed wire around the town hall to protect it from hundreds of angry Serbs.
Later that day, protesters threw eggs at a parked car belonging to the new mayor of Leposavic.
Vucic, who is the commander-in-chief of the Serbian Armed Forces, has raised the army’s combat readiness to the highest level, Defense Minister Milos Vucevic told reporters.
“It implies that immediately before 2:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT), the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces gave further instructions for the deployment of army units to specific and designated positions,” Vucevic said. , without giving further details.
NATO peacekeepers also blocked the Zubin Potok town hall to protect it from angry local Serbs, witnesses said.
Igor Simic, deputy leader of the Serbian List, the largest Serbian party in Kosovo backed by Belgrade, accused Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti of stoking tensions in the north.
“We are interested in peace. The Albanians who live here are interested in peace, and only he (Kurti) wants to cause chaos,” Simic told reporters at Zvecan.
Tear gas
Serbs, who constitute a majority in northern Kosovo, never accepted its 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still regard Belgrade as their capital more than two decades after the Kosovo Albanian uprising. Kosovo against the repressive Serbian regime.
Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90% of Kosovo’s population as a whole, but northern Serbs have long demanded the implementation of a 2013 EU-brokered deal to create an association of municipalities independent in their region.
Serbs refused to participate in local elections in April and ethnic Albanian candidates won mayoralties in four Serb-majority municipalities – including North Mitrovica, where no incidents were reported on Monday – with a turnout of 3 .5%.
Serbs are calling on the Kosovo government to remove ethnic Albanian mayors from town halls and allow Belgrade-funded local governments to resume their work.
On Friday, three of the four ethnic Albanian mayors were escorted to their offices by police, who were pelted with stones and responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
The United States and its allies, which have staunchly supported Kosovo’s independence, berated Pristina on Friday, saying the imposition of mayors in Serb-majority areas without popular support was undermining efforts to normalize relations.
Kurti defended Pristina’s stance, tweeting after a weekend phone call with the European Union’s foreign policy chief: “Stressed that elected mayors will provide services to all citizens.”
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told RTS that it was “not possible to have mayors who were not elected by Serbs in municipalities with a Serb majority”.
After meeting Kurti, US Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier told reporters, “We are concerned about today’s reports of violence against official property.”
“We have seen pictures of graffiti against KFOR cars and police cars, we have heard of attacks on journalists, we condemn this, it is not an appropriate response.”


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