NATO troops secured a town hall in Kosovo’s Zvecan and the EU and US alliance on Tuesday, said it would be sending more soldiers to the region after 30 of its soldiers and 52 protesters were injured in clashes in recent clashes.
On Monday, Serb protesters in Zvecan threw tear gas and stun grenades at NATO soldiers, leaving 30 NATO troops hurt, along with 52 Serbs.
The violence has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took over in northern Kosovo’s Serb-majority area after April elections that the Serbs boycotted, a move that led the U.S. and its allies to rebuke Pristina on Friday.
NATO, in a statement, said it would send more forces to Kosovo to stop the violence, but gave no details of when it will happen or the number of soldiers they will send.
Serbs refused to take part in local elections conducted in April and ethnic Albanian candidates won the mayoralties in four Serb-majority municipalities with a 3.5% turnout.
Northern Kosovo’s majority Serbs rejected Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, and take Belgrade as their capital more than two decades after the Kosovo Albanian uprising against repressive Serbian rule.
Ethnic Albanians make up over 90% of the population in Kosovo, but northern Serbs since demanded the implementation of a deal brokered by the EU in 2013, for the creation of an association of autonomous municipalities in their area.
Anti-riot soldiers from the United States, Poland, and Italy secured a municipal building in Zvecan, as Serbs protested against the rule of an Albanian mayor.
According to a Serbian Tanjug news agency report which cited Serbian officials in Zvecan, the Serbian protestors dispersed around 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) and will return on Wednesday morning.
Russia, which has close ties with Serbia sharing Slavic and Orthodox Christian traditions, also called for “decisive steps” to quell the unrest in Kosovo on Tuesday.
Russia, who helped block Kosovo’s bid for U.N. membership at Belgrade’s request in a statement from the foreign ministry urged “the West to finally silence its false propaganda and stop blaming incidents in Kosovo on Serbs driven to despair, who are peaceful, unarmed, trying to defend their legitimate rights and freedoms.”
The US ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier blamed Pristina for the rising tensions in the north by taking Albanian mayors to their offices on Friday despite the opposition from the Serbs.
The US who is also the most outspoken advocate and supporter of Kosovo’s independence, canceled their participation in a military drill after Pristina refused to withdraw the mayors and its police forces from the north.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Kosovo and Serbian leaders to dialogue and find a way to de-escalate the already heated tensions.
“We have too much violence already in Europe today, we cannot afford another conflict,” he said.
Authorities in Kosovo have blamed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for destabilizing and causing problems in Kosovo by installing new mayors, with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani saying that criminal gangs, supported by Vucic, aimed to destabilize Kosovo and the entire region.
He had requested that Albanian mayors be removed from their offices in the north after a meeting with ambassadors of the Quint group in Belgrade comprising the United States, Italy, France, Germany, and Britain.