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. EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

NATO Demands Accountability for Attacks on Peacekeepers in North Kosovo

On the first anniversary of violent protests in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo that left 93 peacekeeping troops injured, NATO's Kosovo mission KFOR called for the perpetrators to face justice.

One year after violent protests against the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors in Serb-majority northern Kosovo municipalities, during which scores of NATO peacekeeping troops were injured, the Western military alliance called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

“One year ago, peacekeepers of the NATO-led KFOR mission were attacked in the course of violent protests in the municipality of Zvecan. 93 personnel were wounded, some of whom with life-changing injuries. These attacks were unprovoked and were totally unacceptable,” KFOR said in a press release.

“NATO maintains that the facts must be established and the perpetrators must be held accountable,” it added.

Violence erupted amid protests in four Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo on May 29 last year. Protesting Serbs argued that the ethnic Albanian mayors of Leposavic, North Mitrovica, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, who won elections after Serbs boycotted the polls, were illegitimate and should not be allowed to take office.

The commander of KFOR, General Ozkan Ulutas, argued on Wednesday that during the unrest, the NATO mission’s personnel “helped to stabilise the situation in the area and prevent a further escalation of violence”.

In response to the attacks on KFOR troops, Kosovo Police arrested several suspects.

In February 2024, Rados Petrovic and Dusan Obrenovic were found guilty of participating in the riots. Petrovic received a six-month prison sentence, later converted to a fine of 6,000 euros. Obrenovic was also sentenced to six months, with time served in pretrial detention accounting for most of his sentence.

As a result of the riots and the escalation of the security situation in the north of the country, the number of KFOR personnel in Kosovo was increased.

“In the wake of the violence, NATO has deployed around 1,000 additional peacekeepers and heavier armor to Kosovo. We have increased KFOR’s posture in northern Kosovo, and tripled the number of patrols, including along the Administrative Boundary Line,” KFOR said.

In June 2023, the EU and US announced a package of “reversible” measures against Kosovo, citing its failure to restore calm in the Serb-majority north.

Kosovo later drafted an administrative directive aimed at mitigating the situation, allowing people to request the dismissal of the mayors, but the Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista party boycotted participation in the new elections held in April 2024, leaving the ethnic Albanian mayors in office.

Kosovo’s ruling party Vetevendosje claimed on Wednesday that the 2023 attacks were carried out by groups directed by Serbia.

BIRN’s car was damaged on May 31, in Zvecan, by unknown protesters: Photo/BIRN

“In order to prevent the official duties of the four mayors in the north, they attacked the Kosovo Police, KFOR soldiers, and the journalists present,” Vetevendosje said in a statement.

However, the ruling party claimed that the situation in the north of the country has since improved significantly.

“The insistence of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo has made the situation there look completely different today because there is no alternative other than the implementation of constitutionality, legality, and thus the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo,” the party said.

The Association of Journalists of Kosovo registered 30 attacks against journalists during the protests in May 2023.

Kosovo Police arrested three people over attacks against journalists in Leposavic and Zvecan, all of them Kosovo Serb males.

In addition to the attacks on journalists, their cars were also damaged, with windows broken, tyres punctured and vehicles being set on fire.

29/05/2024 - 15:26

29 May 2024 - 15:26

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