Attacks by demonstrators in Kosovo left at least 30 NATO peacekeepers injured

Attacks by demonstrators in Kosovo left at least 30 NATO peacekeepers injured
# 30 May 2023 15:17 (UTC +04:00)

NATO has condemned as "totally unacceptable" attacks by demonstrators in Kosovo that left at least 30 of its peacekeepers injured, APA reports citing BBC News.

Police and NATO troops clashed with Serb protesters in the north where there has been unrest over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors.

Tear gas and stun grenades were used to deter protesters in Zvecan, after they tried to invade a government building.

NATO soldiers also formed a security cordon around two other town halls.

The crisis dates back to April when Kosovo Serbs boycotted local elections, allowing ethnic Albanians to take control of local councils with a turnout of less than four per cent.

Both the EU and US have criticised the Kosovan authorities for destabilising the situation in north Kosovo, and warned against any actions that could inflame ethnic tensions there.

Peacekeepers from Italy and Hungary were among those hurt in the latest violence on Monday, Nato said.

Officials said 30 troops were hurt, with injuries including fractures and burns from improvised explosive incendiary devices. Three soldiers were also wounded by firearms.

But Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said 11 were Italians, three of whom were in a serious but not life-threatening condition. Hungary's defence ministry said at least 20 of its soldiers were injured, and seven were in a serious but stable condition.

Five people have been arrested in relation to the attacks.

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic said more than 50 Serbs had needed hospital treatment and that even more were injured.

The worst incidents of violence on Monday were in Zvecan. A crowd gathered at the municipal building early in the morning. They were hoping to prevent the new, ethnic Albanian mayor from entering the building.

The NATO-led troops at first tried to separate protesters from the police, but later dispersed the crowd using shields and batons.

Several protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers.

NATO called the attacks "totally unacceptable", adding in a statement that it called on all sides to "refrain from actions that further inflame tensions, and to engage in dialogue".

And the task force's commander, Maj Gen Angelo Michele Ristuccia, urged both sides to "take full responsibility for what happened and prevent any further escalation, rather than hide behind false narratives".

Mr Vucic put the army on the highest level of combat alert in response to the fresh protests. He moved army units close to Kosovo's border on Friday, following similar clashes.