North calm after clashes, KFOR withdraws

ZVEČAN -- KFOR troops this morning removed the barricades near the town of Zvečan in northern Kosovo, including the concrete barricade in the village of Dudin Krš.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

Their operation caused clashes with local Serbs, leaving four people wounded, while a number of others were detained.

Reports said that KFOR withdrew from the bridge near Rudare at 15:00 CET, at the same time unblocking the Leposavić-Zvečan road. Before leaving, the soldiers removed gravel hauled onto the road by local Serbs, who did not react to this.

Latest reports from the field say that six people were injured in the clashed today - four Serbs and two members of KFOR. Three Serbs have been hospitalized.

Local municipal leaders in northern Kosovo - where Serbs are the majority that does not recognize the authority of the Kosovo Albanian government in Priština - met on Friday to consider the situation. Kosovska Mitrovica Mayor Krstimir Pantić announced after the meeting that it was decided to once again prevent free movement of KFOR and all other international missions.

"International missions have started their showdown with Serbs, and in order to protect ourselves, we must defend ourselves with barricades. Kosovska Mitrovica residents have been completely blocked by KFOR's operation that severed all communication with central Serbia. For as long as that persists, the citizens will not allow KFOR and EULEX to move freely. We expect the same decision to be made by three other municipalities (in northern Kosovo)," said Pantić.

The mayor noted that Serbs did not wish for conflicts, but were instead trying to solve problems peacefully, and that it was obvious that a part of the international community that supports ethnic Albanians was attempting to provoke Serbs and cause clashes in order to obtain a justification for their actions.

Pantić also told reporters that he informed President Tomislav Nikolić and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić about the situation in Zvečan today, and that he was still awaiting their reaction.

It was reported earlier today that KFOR troops threw teargas at Serbs who were trying to get to the barricade in the village of Dudin Krš.

Kosovska Mitrovica Hospital Director Milena Cvetković told Tanjug on Friday that one of the three Serbs injured in a clash between Serbs and KFOR in the village of Rudare was wounded with live ammunition.

Cvetković said that three persons were admitted to the Kosovska Mitrovica Hospital, adding that the person with an upper leg gunshot wound sustained the most serious injuries.

One of the patients has head contusions, while the third one has abdominal injuries caused by rubber bullets.

KFOR helicopters were flying over the area and a KFOR transporter was parked at a bridge in Malo Rudare.

Kosovska Mitrovica and Zvečan local self-government representatives Krstmir Pantić and Dragiša Milović were among the large number of citizens who gathered at the scene.

Pantić told B92 that he was worried about the fact that KFOR troops were using live ammunition and that there was a large number of injured Serbs.

“We have managed to transport three young men to the Kosovska Mitrovica Health Center in an ambulance, however, another three young men who are injured are left behind KFOR lines and they do not allow the ambulance to get to the scene and help the injured,” he said earlier on Friday.

Other injured people were treated at the scene.

According to him, KFOR started shooting at Serbs without any reason or warning.

He said that there were around 1,000 people near the barricade and that KFOR would start shooting as soon as they saw someone approaching the barricade.

“They even ignored UNMIK representatives’ warning to allow ambulance to go through,” Pantić explained.

Beta news agency reported earlier that three injured men were admitted to the Kosovska Mitrovica hospital. One of them was discharged after he had received the medical help.

KFOR Spokesman Uwe Nowitzki told Tanjug that one of their soldiers was wounded during today's operation of removing the barricade near Rudare.

“The soldier was evacuated and his condition is stable,” Nowitzki said.

“KFOR strongly condemns this act of violence. KFOR's actions are always carried out with as less use of force as possible, but it is clear that KFOR will respond in self-defense in accordance with the situation,” he pointed out.

“We will not let the situation to further escalate and we will use adequate force if needed,” the KFOR spokesman concluded.

The citizens announced earlier on Friday that they would prevent KFOR from removing the barricades.