Tensions remain high in northern Kosovo this Wednesday. Hundreds of Serbian demonstrators gathered again after violent clashes, widely condemned by Western powers, in which 30 soldiers of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces were injured.
Protesters gathered in front of Zvecan City Hall, heavily defended by Kfor soldiers, the NATO-led multinational force in Kosovo. His soldiers surrounded the municipal building and reinforced the site’s defenses with barbed wire and a metal fence. The demonstrators unfurled a giant Serbian flag more than 200 meters long between the city center and the surroundings of the town hall.
In recent days, the situation in the region, which has been going from crisis to crisis for years, has become very tense. Many members of the majority Serb community in the four northern cities do not recognize the authority of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, and are loyal to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The Serbs boycotted the April municipal elections in these localities, which resulted in the election of Albanian mayors with a turnout of less than 3.5%. Their enthronement last week was set on fire by the Kosovo government.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “responsibility” of the Kosovo authorities for the deterioration of the situation in Kosovo after violent clashes. “It is clear that the Kosovo authorities are responsible for the current situation and the failure to comply with the agreement, which, nevertheless, was important and which was signed only a few weeks ago,” the French leader said at a press conference in Bratislava. Slovakia.
Three armored vehicles of Kosovo police special forces, whose presence still angers Serbs, were parked in front of the town hall on Wednesday. The demonstrators demand the resignation of the Albanian mayors, recognized as “illegitimate”, and the Kosovo police. NATO announced on Tuesday it was sending new forces after 30 of its soldiers were wounded on Monday. On the side of the protesters, Belgrade claimed 52 wounded.
US challenges Kosovo authorities
The European Union, which mediates between the two former enemies, called on both sides to “immediately and unconditionally defuse tensions.” The United States, Kosovo’s historical allies, whose independence it defended, has questioned the responsibility of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti for the crisis. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said his decision to appoint mayors “greatly and unnecessarily added to tensions.” The United States is also threatening to end diplomatic support for international recognition of the Balkan territory.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, on Tuesday condemned the Oslo attacks as “unacceptable” and announced that reinforcements would be sent accordingly. “We have decided to send an additional 700 soldiers from the operational reserve to the Western Balkans and put another reserve battalion on high alert,” he said. “The violence is setting Kosovo and the entire region back and jeopardizing Euro-Atlantic aspirations. »
This Wednesday, the Russian president reaffirmed his support for the Serbs. The Kremlin, through its spokesman Dmitry Peskov, calls for “respect for the rights” of the Kosovo Serbs.
Serbia, backed by its Russian and Chinese allies, has never recognized the independence declared by its former province in 2008, a decade after a bloody war between Serbian forces and Albanian separatist rebels. The war in Kosovo, home to 1.8 million mostly Albanian residents, ended in 1999 with a US-led NATO bombing campaign. The Serb minority has 120,000 members, of which about a third live in northern Kosovo.