Kosovo: NATO-led peacekeepers put up barriers in Serb town

Soldiers secured Zvecan's town hall with metal fences following clashes with ethnic Serbs

Kosovo: NATO-led peacekeepers put up barriers in Serb town (photo: DW)
Kosovo: NATO-led peacekeepers put up barriers in Serb town (photo: DW)


Troops from the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) on Wednesday put up barriers in the northern town of Zvecan following clashes with ethnic Serbs.

The soldiers secured the perimeter of the building with metal fences and barbed wire barriers.

30 soldiers from the force were wounded in the clashes on Monday, while 52 protesters were injured. Five Serbs were arrested for taking part in the skirmish.

The NATO military alliance decided to send 700 additional troops following the clashes. Serbia put the country on its highest state of alert and sent troops to the border with Kosovo.

A correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Serb protesters on Wednesday were holding a large Serbian flag that stretched over 200 meters (660 feet) from the town hall to the center of Zvecan.

Three Kosovo special police vehicles remain parked outside of the city hall.

What were the clashes in northern Kosovo about?

The clashes broke out on Monday after hundreds of Serbs began gathering in front of Zvecan's city hall in repeated attempts to take over municipal offices.

The protesters objected to the assumption of office by ethnic Albanian mayors after local elections that were boycotted by most local Serbs. The elections held in April had a turnout of less than 3.5% in northern Kosovo, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Serbs.

Many Serbs in the disputed territory are also demanding the withdrawal of Kosovo police from northern municipalities.

Albanian-majority Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, a move not recognized by Belgrade. Serbs form most of the population in four municipalities in Kosovo's north.

US, EU officials criticize 'escalation'

Miroslav Lajcak, the EU's special representative for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the ethnic Albanian takeover of northern local councils in comments to DW's Serbian-language service.

"These newly-elected mayors did fulfill legal criteria, but when we talk about legitimacy or representation, there is of course a big question mark here," the EU official told DW, pointing to the Serb boycott of local elections.

Lajcak said that the incident amounted to "unnecessary" and "illogical" escalation, adding that talks had already established a path towards the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

"We have an agreement, which was never the case before, so we really need to revert to the implementation of this agreement and normalization," he stressed.

"It is clear that this can only be resolved politically, and that means through existing dialogue," he said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Prime Minister Albin Kurti's government of having "sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions" by installing ethnic Albanian mayors in the Serb-majority districts.

sdi/kb (AP, AFP)

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