On Monday, while protecting three town halls in Northern Kosovo, around 25 NATO peacekeeping soldiers were injured in clashes with Serb protestors. The Serbian president had already put the military on the highest combat alert level.
The NATO-led peacekeeping mission to Kosovo, KFOR, has criticised the violence that was caused. In a statement issued by the KFOR, it stated that while countering the most active fringes of the crowd, several soldiers of the Italian and Hungarian KFOR contingent became victims of unprecedented attacks and bear trauma wounds along with burns and fractures which were caused by the explosion of incendiary devices.
Giorgio Meloni, the Prime minister of Italy stated in a statement that the violent culmination is unacceptable and irresponsible and that any further unilateral actions must be avoided by the Kosovar authorities. She said that all the parties concerned should potentially withdraw to ease the increasing tensions.
Aleksander Vucic, the Serbian president said that the injuries of 3 were serious, out of the 52 Serbs that were injured.
Vjosa Osmani, the president of Kosovo, blamed President Vucic for destabilizing Kosovo.
President Vucic on the other hand held accusations against Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo for causing the tensions. He called on the Kosovo Serbs to avoid conflict with NATO soldiers. Igor Simic, the deputy head of the Serb List, the biggest Kosovo Serb party which is backed by Belgrade, also blamed PM Kurti for creating tensions in the north.
The conflictual situation resulted when ethnic Albanian mayors claimed office in the Serb majority area of northern Kosovo after elections that the Serbs boycotted. This move made the US and its allies condemn Pristina on Friday.
In Zvecan, Kosovo police with ethnic Albanian staff sprayed pepper gas to stop a group of Serbs who tried to forcefully make their way into the municipality building after breaking through a security barricade. On the other hand, Serb protestors used tear gas and stun grenades at NATO soldiers in Zvecan and at the same time clashed with the police and spray-painted the letter ‘Z’ on NATO vehicles, which refers to the Russian sign used in the Ukrainian war.
Serbs constitute the majority in Kosovo’s north. They never accepted the independence of Kosovo from Serbia following the 2008 declaration and still, view Belgrade as their capital after more than two decades since the Kosovo Albanian uprising against the repressive Serbian rule.
The northern Serbs have for a long time demanded the implementation of an EU-brokered deal of 2013 which asked for the creation of an association of autonomous municipalities in their region. With the Serbs boycotting the local elections in April, the ethnic Albanian candidates won the seats in four Serb majority municipalities.
Ivica Dacic, the Serbian foreign minister stated that it was not possible to have mayors who were not elected by Serbs in Serb-majority municipalities.
Jeffrey Hovenier, the US ambassador to Kosovo met PM Kurti and reported concerns about violence against official property. He reported seeing graffiti on KFOR and police cars, and attacks on journalists. He stated that such violence is condemnable and that they do not support it.