As clashes with ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo that left 30 NATO forces personnel injured continue, the alliance on Tuesday said it would send 700 additional troops there to assist in putting a stop to violent protests.
Earlier on Friday, following skirmishes between police and ethnic Serbs within Kosovo, Serbian troops stationed along the border with Kosovo were placed on high alert Friday.
Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, who are a majority in that part of the country, had tried to block recently-elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings earlier Friday. Last month’s snap election was largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs and only ethnic Albanian or other smaller minority representatives were elected in the mayoral posts and assemblies.
Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and let the new officials into the offices. Several cars were set ablaze. Kosovo Serb hospital officials said about 10 protesters were injured. Police said five officers were injured as protesters hurled stun grenades and other objects. A police car was burned.
In response to the clashes, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he put the army on the “highest state of alert” and ordered an “urgent” movement of troops closer to the border.
The NATO military alliance will deploy an additional 700 troops to Kosovo, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “We have decided to deploy 700 more troops from the operational reserve force for western Balkans and to put an additional battalion of reserve forces on high alert so they can also be deployed if needed,” Stoltenberg said in Oslo.
Russia said “decisive steps” were needed to de-escalate tensions in Kosovo.
“We call on 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,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.