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Kosovo flareups intensify

NATO Kosovo Force soldiers clash with local Kosovo Serb protesters

NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers clash with local Kosovo Serb protesters

REUTERS

NATO is deploying additional troops to its peacekeeping mission in Northern Kosovo after clashes with local ethnic Serb protesters on Monday left dozens injured on both sides.

The Balkan backgrounder: Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after Serbia waged a brutal war to crush Kosovo’s autonomy. But neither Serbia nor the ethnic Serbian majority in Northern Kosovo recognize Kosovo’s independence.


As a result, in the years since, tensions have often flared over which government is legitimate in the area, and a peace deal that would give local Serbs autonomy has never been implemented. Nearly 4,000 NATO peacekeepers are still stationed in Kosovo to keep things in check.

The latest flare-up: In April, Kosovo held local elections in Northern Kosovo that were boycotted by the local ethnic Serb majority. Over the weekend, the ethnic-Albanian officials who won those votes moved into their offices. Serb protesters tried to block them but were dispersed by Kosovar riot police and NATO troops in clashes that injured at least 30 peacekeepers and 50 protesters.


Serbia is now putting its own troops on alert to defend ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, while Belgrade’s traditional allies in Moscow have blamed Kosovo and the West for the crisis. The US and EU have called for de-escalation, but Washington, normally a strong backer of Kosovo, has also criticized the Kosovan government’s decision to install the ethnic-Albanian officials over Serb objections.



More protests are scheduled for Wednesday…

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