Serbian protesters clash with KFOR in northern Kosovo, 11 Italian soldiers seriously injured

Serbian protesters clashing with KFOR troups in north kosovo
 Serbian protesters clashing with KFOR troups
 Groups of Serbian citizens who gathered on Monday in front of the offices of northern municipalities to prevent the entry of Albanian mayors, clashed with NATO peacekeeping forces.

The clashes started after KFOR soldiers called on the Serbs to clear the way for two cars of the Kosovo police special forces. Serbian protesters threw tear gas, stones and other strong tools at NATO members.

The peacekeeping forces said that around 25 of their members were injured."Several soldiers of the Italian and Hungarian contingent of KFOR were the target of unprovoked attacks and suffered injuries with fractures and burns from the explosion of explosive devices," said a communique of the NATO forces.

The KFOR mission commander, General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, is quoted as saying that unprovoked attacks on NATO units are unacceptable and KFOR will continue to fulfill its mandate impartially.

The Italian Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, said that 11 Italian soldiers are among the wounded, 3 of whom are in serious condition, "but out of danger for life", expressing solidarity with all the wounded soldiers.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni condemned the attack on the peacekeepers, saying "What is happening is absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible. We will not tolerate further attacks on KFOR. It is essential that further unilateral actions by the Kosovo authorities are avoided and that all parties involved help reduce tensions. The Italian government's commitment to peace and stability in the Western Balkans is at maximum and we will continue to work with our allies," she wrote.

The Kosovo Police said in a communiqué that "as a result of the rampant violence so far, some KFOR officials have been injured, and so far five suspected persons have been arrested who have used attacks and violence against them".

Since Monday morning, groups of protesters gathered to try to enter the municipal buildings, in which the Albanian mayors who emerged from the April 23 elections, entered on Friday amid tensions and under police escort.

The American ambassador in Pristina, Jeff Hovenier, said that the United States "strongly condemns the violent actions of the protesters today in Zveçan, including the use of explosives, against the KFOR troops who are trying to keep the peace. We reiterate our call for an immediate end to violence or actions that inflame tensions or incite conflict," he wrote.

Ambassador Hovenier, together with the main Western diplomats, met in the afternoon with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, to discuss the situation in the north.

He reiterated his concern for the developments in the area and the need to reduce tensions, while he said that Prime Minister Kurti has been asked to take steps to ensure the expansion.

"There is agreement that the escalation of the situation should happen, but I don't know how it will happen. What the United States is asking is that we believe that it is not necessary for elected mayors in the North to work every day in municipal buildings. For the short term, we recommend not doing this. Just as the government has been able to find ways for mayors to be sworn in alternative buildings and avoid conflict and the perception of rising tensions. Such an approach should also be applied to their work", said Ambassador Hovenier.

The head of the European Union office, Tomáš Szunyog, said that "the EU strongly condemns the violent actions of the protesters in Zveçan, including the use of explosive devices against NATO troops. We reiterate our call for the immediate cessation of violence and the reduction of tensions".

The violence was also condemned by other Western diplomats and leaders of institutions.

The President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, said that illegal Serbian structures turned into criminal gangs have attacked the Kosovo police, and KFOR journalists.

"These unacceptable acts of violence must be condemned by all. Those who carry out the orders of (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vučić for the destabilization of the north of Kosovo must face justice," she wrote.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed concern about the violence against Kosovo police, KFOR, and journalists.

"Serbian ultra-nationalist inscriptions on NATO vehicles are a dark memory in Kosovo. We defend peace and security," he wrote on social networks.
 Vučić: Albin Kurti guilty for the situation in the north

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated that the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, is to blame for the situation in northern Kosovo, while criticizing the NATO peacekeeping forces for not preventing the entry into the municipal buildings of Albanian mayors but allowing it for Serbs.

"Although we have been saying for months that Kurti has only one desire, and that is to cause conflicts in Kosovo, few have wanted to hear the truth. He wants a conflict between NATO and Serbs," said the Serbian president, according to whom the clashes today in Zvečan started by KFOR.

He said that 52 members of the Serbian community were injured and accused the Kosovo police of firing weapons at them.

"I appeal to Serbs in Kosovo not to enter into conflict with NATO because Kurti desires it the most," said the Serbian president at a press conference, emphasizing that "we will not allow the persecution of the Serbian people in Kosovo."

"We will do everything to maintain peace," he said, "while the international community needs to rein in Albin Kurti."

Russian Foreign Minister: The situation in Kosovo is alarming

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Monday during his visit to Kenya that the situation in Kosovo is "alarming."

"The West has set a course for the complete subjugation of everyone who somehow expresses their own opinion," he said, referring to the recent tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.

Serbs in northern Kosovo clashed with the police at the municipal building in Zvečan on Monday as they attempted to enter the facility that the Albanian mayor entered last week with the help of police authorities.

"A major explosion is occurring in the center of Europe, precisely in the country where in 1999, NATO committed aggression against Yugoslavia, violating every possible principle of the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents," said Lavrov.

Monday's violence followed tensions on Friday when Serbia put its army on high alert and deployed more troops to the border with Kosovo, whose independence it continues to oppose.

The United States and the European Union have increased efforts to help resolve the Kosovo-Serbia disputes, fearing further instability in Europe, while the conflict in Ukraine continues.

Kosovo and Serbia agreed in March in Ohrid to implement a European Union plan for the normalization of relations between them, but tensions remain high.
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