Kosovo police officer jumps from the armored vehicle as soldiers of NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) lie injured after a scuffle with ethnic Serbs in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, Kosovo, 29 May 2023. Protests and clashes in Zvecan continue as tensions in northern Kosovo’s region, with majority of ethnic Serbian people, arose after ethnic Albanians mayors took offices in four towns following elections boycotted by Serbian community. Serbian President Vucic on 26 May has put Serbian Army on high alert. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Kosovo Arrests Another Suspect for Attacks on KFOR

Kosovo Police arrested another suspect believed to have participated in violent clashes with KFOR soldiers in the north of Kosovo at the end of May.

Kosovo Police announced on Friday that it arrested a Kosovo Serb, N.O., known as Nemac and/or Rus, suspected of participating in violent clashes between Serb protesters and the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR, on May 29, in the Serb-majority northern municipality of Zvecan.

“His arrest … was carried out after obtaining evidence that he was involved in the attack on KFOR on May 29, 2023, where as a result of the attacks and the violence displayed, dozens of KFOR members suffered bodily injury. All further actions will be undertaken in cooperation and coordination with the justice bodies,” the announcement reads.

However, Serbia’s Office for Kosovo said the arrest “was not coincidentally timed on the morning after the dialogue in Brussels”, and that it “shows that [Kosovo PM] Albin Kurti will not calm tensions in the north of Kosovo … will not de-escalate, but wants new crises and tensions”.

The arrest came the morning after EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in Brussels that “arbitrary or unrightful arrests or mistreatment of prisoners is completely unacceptable,” adding that “our [European Union] civilian mission – our EULEX mission in Kosovo – will play a more robust role in monitoring in this context”.

Borrell spoke after he and the EU special envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, held talks with Serbian President Alaksander Vucic and Kosovo PM Kurti.

“I presented to [the Prime Minister of] Kosovo some allegations about the treatment of prisoners and the reason for some detentions, and I asked for a thorough investigation and evaluation of this situation, and to take the appropriate measures,” Borrell told the media on Thursday.

BIRN asked the Kosovo Interior Ministry about Borrell’s claims of “arbitrary detentions” and mistreatment allegations but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

BIRN also contacted EULEX on further information on their monitoring role in these latest arrests in the north of Kosovo but did not receive any response by the time of publication.

According to EULEX’s official website, its “Formed Police Unit is Kosovo’s second security responder. It is part of a three-layer security responder mechanism where Kosovo Police is the first security responder, EULEX is the second one and KFoR is the third one”.

EULEX said it “conducts a robust monitoring of selected cases which cover the entire chain of criminal justice, as well as civil justice cases on property and privatization issues … From 15 June 2018 to 14 June 2023, EULEX’s justice monitors attended 1940 court sessions in 330 active criminal and civil cases”.

Dozens of peacekeepers and Serb civilians were injured in clashes at the end of May during protests over the installation of an ethnic Albanian mayor in the predominantly Serb-populated municipality of Zvecan following local elections boycotted by Serbs.

Kosovo Police has arrested two suspects for participating in the attacks against KFOR, including Milun “Lune” Milenkovic.

The Association of Journalists of Kosovo registered 30 attacks against journalists during these protests.

Kosovo Police told BIRN that they have made three arrests over the attacks against journalists, all of them Kosovo Serb males.

U.V. was arrested for participating in an attack against journalists on June 16 in Leposavic; D.S. arrested for an attack against journalists from May 31 in Zvecan; and N.V. was arrested for attacks against journalists on May 29 in Leposavic. The arrests triggered a peaceful march on June 19.

The international community have urged Kosovo and Serbia to work on de-escalation of the situation, while the EU and the US have introduced measures against Kosovo.

Borrell on Thursday said that, in separate meetings with Vucic and Kurti, “we agreed on the need for new elections” in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo, describing it as “the core of the issue and the core of the solution”.

Kurti said he agreed with elections in the northern municipalities but that the locals should first sign a petition so the elections can be held in accordance to Kosovo laws.

23/06/2023 - 15:39

23 June 2023 - 15:39

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