Footage shows the moment violence broke out in the town of Zvecan
NATO soldiers and Serb protesters clash in Zvecan, Kosovo, May 29, 2023 © AP
Video footage published by RT Balkan shows the moment that a protest by Serbs in northern Kosovo devolved into a melee between the demonstrators and NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR).
The protestors faced off against KFOR soldiers outside municipal buildings in the town of Zvecan on Monday morning, where a newly-installed ethnic Albanian mayor was set to take office following an election boycotted by the town’s Serb majority.
The video shows two groups of protesters sitting near the soldiers in a peaceful manner, one immediately in front of the camera and the other further away. A loud explosion erupts from the direction of the latter group, followed by a succession of similar bangs. NATO forces throw tear gas into the crowd, who respond by throwing rocks at the troops.
RT Balkan’s reporter on the scene stated that KFOR provoked the clashes by firing the first stun grenade, but this is not immediately apparent from the images.
Around 50 protesters went to a hospital in nearby Mitrovica with injuries, and two were admitted to the emergency room, RT Balkan reported. 25 KFOR soldiers were injured in the melee, the force announced in a statement.
Tensions have remained high in northern Kosovo since April, when the region’s Serb majority boycotted elections backed by the ethnic Albanian administration in Pristina. Kosovo authorities treated the election results – which saw four ethnic Albanian mayors win in uncontested races – as legitimate, despite a turnout of less than 4%.
Following the melee on Monday, NATO and Western officials blamed the Serb protesters for instigating violence. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Kosovo’s Albanian prime minister, Albin Kurti, of trying to “provoke a major conflict between the Serbs and NATO,” and warned that Serbia “will not allow a pogrom or the killing of its people.”