PRISTINA, Kosovo — Serbia put its troops on the border with Kosovo on high alert on Friday following clashes between Serbs and Kosovo police that left more than a dozen injured on both sides.
Serbs in northern Kosovo, who represent the majority of the population, tried to barricade the entrance to the town’s buildings to prevent the recently elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering.
Police fired tear gas and several vehicles were set on fire. In response to the clashes, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he had put the army “on high alert.” Vucic also said that he had ordered Serbian troops to move “immediately” near the border with Kosovo.
Vucic will attend a rally in Belgrade to support him after two shootings this month that killed 18 people and left 20 others injured.
He also said that because of the “violence” of the Kosovo Serbs, Serbia wanted the NATO-led forces in Kosovo to protect them from the Kosovo police.
Kosovo police admitted their presence in the north “to help the northern mayors of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok to exercise their rights.”
Police said five police officers were injured by explosives and other hard objects thrown from protesters. A police car was burnt while three others were damaged. Police also reported that shots were heard.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd and allow the new officials to enter the offices. Kosovo Serb hospital officials said that around 10 protesters were injured.
The US Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeff Hovenier, criticized “what the Kosovar authorities are doing to get town houses in northern Kosovo. Today’s violent tactics must be stopped immediately,” he said on Twitter.
New mayors in three towns in northern Kosovo, home to the Serb minority, were barred from entering the building by small groups of Serbs holding up their hands at the entrance of the municipality, apparently absent. to participate in violence, the Albanian website indexonline.net wrote, also showing photos.
In Zvecan, the site Kosovo-online.com showed a confrontation with the police in front of a public house while in Leposavic they also closed the main square with cars and trucks.
Earlier, Serbs also turned on their sirens in four areas, including in the main town of Mitrovica, in a warning signal and call for gathering, “sirens used by terrorists for mobilization and gathering,” according to police.
April 23rd election Multi-ethnic Serbs were boycotted and only representatives of ethnic Albanians or representatives of other minorities were elected to the posts of mayors and general assemblies.
Local elections were held in four Serb-dominated regions in northern Kosovo after Serb representatives resigned last year in opposition to the creation of a union that would coordinate education. health careland planning and economic development at the local level.
With the Kosovo Serbs seeking independence, the Kosovar Albanians fear that the union could become a new region like Srpska Republika in Bosnia.
The 2013 Pristina-Belgrade agreement on the plan was later declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo, which ruled that it was not inclusive and would involve the use of broad powers in law enforcement.
The two sides have agreed deeply to support the EU’s plan on how to deal with it, but tensions remain. The issue of cooperation is one of the main issues, which the United States and the European Union are putting pressure on Kosovo.
The United States and the EU have tried to resolve the Kosovo-Serbia conflict, fearing that Europe will become unstable as the war continues in Ukraine. The EU has made it clear to Serbia and Kosovo that they need to change their relationship in order to advance their ambitions to join the bloc.
The conflict in Kosovo began in 1998 when ethnic Albanian separatists rebelled against Serbian rule, and Serbia reacted violently. About 13,000 people, mostly from Albania, died. The intervention of NATO forces in 1999 finally forced Serbia to withdraw from the region. Washington and most EU countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent country, but Serbia, Russia and China have not.
Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania, Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report from Belgrade.