Kosovo’s LEPOSAVIC (Reuters) – After 30 NATO troops and 52 demonstrators were wounded in skirmishes on Monday, Serbian protestors broke into two journalists’ vehicles in Kosovo’s Leposavic town on Tuesday as EU and NATO officials urged a reduction in the level of violence.
Since ethnic Albanian mayors were elected to office in northern Kosovo’s Serb-majority district after elections in April that the Serbs boycotted, unrest in the area has become worse, prompting the U.S. and its allies to criticise Pristina on Friday.
To stop the bloodshed, NATO declared in a statement that it will send more troops to Kosovo, adding that it “has directed the deployment of the Operational Reserve Forces (ORF) for the Western Balkans.”
A Reuters reporter who was there when the event happened said that two masked men attacked a vehicle with an Albanian licence plate that read “A2, CNN affiliate,” shattering the windscreen. Another media organization’s vehicle was broken into separately. Nobody was hurt.
Josep Borrell, the head of the EU’s foreign policy, encouraged the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to find a solution to reduce tensions via discussion.
At a press conference in Brussels, Borrell said, “We cannot afford another conflict at this time. There is already too much violence in Europe.”
Despite more than 20 years having passed since the Kosovo Albanian struggle against oppressive Serbian domination, the majority Serb population of northern Kosovo has never recognised Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still views Belgrade as their capital.
More than 90% of people in Kosovo are of ethnic Albanian descent, but northern Serbs have long pushed for the execution of a 2013 agreement mediated by the EU that would have created an association of autonomous municipalities in their region.
A 3.5% turnout resulted in ethnic Albanian candidates winning the mayoral races in four Serb-majority towns in April because Serbs declined to vote.
Russia, which has long-standing links to Serbia and shares both countries’ Slavic and Orthodox Christian traditions, urged “decisive steps” on Tuesday to put an end to the turmoil in Kosovo.
The Russian foreign ministry pleaded with “the West to finally silence its false propaganda and stop blaming incidents in Kosovo on Serbs driven to despair, who are peaceful, unarmed, and trying to defend their legitimate rights and freedoms.”
On Serbia’s request, Moscow assisted in thwarting Kosovo’s candidature for U.N. membership.
On Tuesday, many ethnic Serbs gathered in front of the municipal building in the peaceful town of Zvecan, while troops from the US, Italy, and Poland were waiting nearby in anti-riot gear.
According to Serbian authorities in Zvecan, who were quoted by the Serbian Tanjug news agency, the Serbian demonstrators will split up at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) and return on Wednesday morning.
Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia, is accused by Kosovo’s authorities of causing instability. Vucic accuses the Kosovo government of generating issues by appointing new mayors.
Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo, declared on Twitter late on Monday that fascist violence had no place in a democracy and that there should be no appeal from vote to bullet.
After speaking with ambassadors from the Quint group, which consists of the US, Italy, France, Germany, and UK, in Belgrade, Vucic said he had requested the removal of Albanian mayors from their positions in the north.
According to Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, Vucic-backed criminal groups want to destabilise the whole area, including Kosovo.
On Monday, 52 Serbs and 30 NATO soldiers were injured when Serb demonstrators in Zvecan fired stun grenades and tear gas at NATO forces.
Violence against people, the media, law enforcement, and KFOR (the NATO-led Kosovo force) forces is wholly unacceptable, according to EU official Borrell.