Conflicts & War

Kosovo police guard Zvecan town hall as tensions with Serbia spike

International Desk, May 27 (EFE/EPA).- Kosovo police officers were guarding Zvecan town hall on Saturday after clashes erupted the previous day in the majority Serb town.

The clashes took place on Friday when ​​ethnic Serb protestors tried to prevent a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering the office in Zvecan, northern Kosovo, after he won April elections that were boycotted by the Serb community.

Kosovo police used tear gas and stun bombs to disperse the Serb protesters.

Around 10 people were slightly injured in the clashes, local media reported.

The protest was not an isolated event, and clashes unfolded in three other northern Kosovo municipalities where ethnic Serbs tried to prevent access to state buildings to elected mayors.

Serbs in northern Kosovo have denounced that Kosovo authorities have been discriminating against their community and do not recognize the newly elected lawmakers.

The April elections were boycotted by the largest Serb political party in Kosovo, Serb List, resulting in a 3% turnout in the northern Serb-majority municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavić and Zvecan.

Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic on Friday deployed troops to the border with Kosovo and placed the nation’s army on alert, according to local media.

Vucic’s government has accused Pristina of a regime of “terror” against ethnic Serbs while Kosovo has accused Belgrade of harboring “illegal criminal structures” in the region.

The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and the United States urged Kosovan authorities to de-escalate the situation.

“We condemn Kosovo’s decision to force access to municipal buildings in northern Kosovo despite our call for restraint,” a joint statement read.

“We call on Kosovo’s authorities to immediately step back and de-escalate, and to closely coordinate with EULEX (the EU mission) and KFOR (NATO’s mission in Kosovo).

“We are concerned by Serbia’s decision to raise the level of readiness of its Armed Forces at the border with Kosovo and call all parties for maximum restraint, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric,” the statement published on the UK government website added.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90% of the population of Kosovo, but in the north ethnic Serbs make up the majority.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.

Serbs in Kosovo’s northern region do not accept the 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.EFE


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