The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Ethnic Serbs and UN forces clash in north Kosovo

RIA Novosti

17/03/2008 15:22 (Adds Russian Foreign Ministry comment in paras 14-15)

BELGRADE, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - UN forces in the north of Kosovo have come under attack by ethnic Serbs after an operation to retake a UN court building occupied by protestors since last Friday, a police spokesman said.

Monday morning's operation to retake the UN building in the city of Mitrovica triggered the most serious clash between peacekeeping forces and Serbs since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence a month ago.

Unconfirmed reports are currently coming in that UN forces have been ordered to leave the Serb enclave in the north of the city. Mitrovica is divided between ethnic Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority.

At least three UN police officers and two NATO soldiers were injured in an explosion after the operation had been carried out.

"A blast occurred in northern Kosovo at around 8:00 a.m. (07:10 GMT), injuring three UN policemen and two [NATO] KFOR soldiers," a Kosovo police spokesman said in a statement.

A total of 14 Ukrainian police, part of the UN force, were also injured after coming under fire by protestors. Grenades were thrown at them, said the Ukrainian foreign minister.

At least 20 Serbs were also said to have been injured, one seriously, during the clashes.

Early on Monday, the UN court building was surrounded and stormed by the UN police force and NATO peacekeepers. Eyewitnesses report that dozens of handcuffed people were later led from the building. 53 people were also reported to have been arrested.

The people occupying the building were former court employees who lost their jobs when Kosovo became a UN protectorate in 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign of Belgrade to end a conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. After forcing their way into the courthouse last Friday they hoisted two Serbian flags over the building.

Media in Belgrade later reported that some 20 people fled from authorities after protestors attacked three UN vehicles taking away those Serbs involved in the occupation. Two cars were set on fire and police used tear gas and stun grenades.

Kosovo declared unilateral independence from Kosovo on February 17. The U.S. and the majority of EU countries have so recognized Kosovo.

Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty, saying it continues to consider the "world's newest state" an integral part of its territory.

Russia has also refused to recognize Kosovo, and as news of the disturbances in northern Kosovo came through, the country's Foreign Ministry said it considered the escalation of tensions as being linked to the February 17 declaration of independence by Pristina.

"The developments in Mitrovica cannot be considered in isolation from the current situation in the province. The escalation of tensions there, mostly in Serb-populated areas, is a direct result of Pristina's unilateral declaration of independence and the lack of recognition of this illegitimate move by Kosovo's Serbs," said Mikhail Kamynin, Russia's Foreign Ministry official spokesman.

The Foreign Ministry statement also called on international missions to the province to show restraint and act within their mandate as fixed in UN Resolution 1244.

Join the mailing list