Soldiers of NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) clash with ethnic Serbs in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, Kosovo, 29 May 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Protesters, Peacekeepers, Injured as Violence Erupts in North Kosovo

Dozens of protesters and NATO peacekeepers were injured on Monday in northern Kosovo as local Serbs protested against the installment of a Kosovo Albanian mayor.

At least 50 protesters and more than a dozen NATO peacekeepers from KFOR were injured on Monday in Kosovo’s northern town of Zvecan/Zvecane in clashes which erupted in the afternoon.

Kosovo Police confirmed that five protesters have been arrested for the attacks against KFOR peacekeepers while many military, police and media outlet’s vehicles have been damaged during a tense day which started in the early morning hours, as local Serbs gathered in front of municipal building to protest against the newly elected mayor of Zvecan.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani confirmed that members of the Italian military contingent were among those injured.

“I want to express my solidarity with the soldiers of the KFOR mission who were injured in Kosovo during the clashes between Serbian demonstrators and the Kosovar Police. Among them 11 Italians, three of whom are in a serious condition, but not life threatening. The Italian military continue to commit themselves to peace,” Tajani tweeted.

KFOR said that around 25 from the multinational contingent were wounded during the containment of the demonstrators.

KFOR peacekeepers lie injured after a scuffle with ethnic Serbs in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, Kosovo, 29 May 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

“While countering the most active fringes of the crowd, several soldiers of the Italian and Hungarian KFOR contingent were the subject of unprovoked attacks and sustained trauma wounds with fractures and burns due to the explosion of incendiary devices,” KFOR said.

“Promptly treated by KFOR medical units, they are currently under observation by medical personnel who are assessing their condition,” it added.

The Commander of the KFOR Mission, Division General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, said: “The unprovoked attacks on NATO units are unacceptable and KFOR will continue to fulfill its mandate impartially.”

Kosovo Police said that the protesters in Zvecan “have continually been non-peaceful and have provoked the situation”.

People protest next to a spray painted KFOR vehicle in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, Kosovo, 29 May 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

“As a consequence of an unconstrained violence, so far there are several KFOR officers injured/wounded, while five persons have been arrested as suspects for attacks and violence,” the Police said.

“Protest is ongoing and situation continues to be tense especially in Zvecan. But also in other municipalities there are people and criminal groups wearing black clothes and masked,” the Police added.

A protester spray paints a Kosovo special police vehicle in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, 29 May 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Serbian media reported that more than 53 people suffering from different types of injuries, from shock bombs and tear gas, have been treated at North Mitrovica hospital. The hospital director, Zlatan Elek, told regional broadcaster N1 that three of them are still hospitalised, including one with life-threatening gunshot wounds.

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti of organising tensions in an attempt to create “a big conflict between Serbs and NATO”.

“In the last three days, anyone could understand what was being prepared for today in Kosovo. Everything was organised by Albin Kurti, everything with his desire to bring about a big conflict between Serbs and NATO,” Vucic.

“Serbs in the north gathered at seven this morning to express their dissatisfaction with the illegal takeover of local governments, and KFOR did not protect the Serbs and did not prevent the violence,” Vucic told the media.

The protests started on Friday, which was the first day of work for the newly elected mayors, when dozens of citizens and policemen were injured. The US embassy criticised the Kosovo authorities for using force to get the disputed mayors into their municipal buildings.

30/05/2023 - 09:05

30 May 2023 - 09:05

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