On Monday, soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission KFOR got caught between the fronts. At least 30 KFOR soldiers from Italy and Hungary were injured, some seriously. KFOR increased its troops.
The background to the latest unrest is the local elections that took place a month ago. These were largely boycotted by the predominantly Serb population in the north, with the result that Kosovar Albanians were elected mayors with very few votes. They now wanted to take office, but had to be protected by special forces from the Kosovo police and KFOR.
The UN mission in Kosovo, the US embassy, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell all condemned the violence and called for de-escalation. But the situation is muddled. The Serbian side is demanding the resignation of the Albanian mayor and the withdrawal of the Kosovar special police. Neighboring Serbia put its armed forces on high combat readiness.
At the political level, politicians from Serbia and Kosovo blamed each other for the renewed outbreak of violence. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti of wanting to start a bloodbath. “It is his wish that there should be a major conflict between the Serbs and NATO,” he said. Kosovan President Vjosa Osmani, in turn, accused Belgrade of being behind the violence.
Increased protection for Austrians
The historical protective powers of Serbia also got involved in the conflict: China and Russia openly sided with Serbia. Moscow called on the West to end its “false propaganda” and “stop blaming the events in Kosovo on desperate Serbs”.
There are currently 273 Austrian soldiers deployed in Kosovo. The army increased their protection.