In several municipalities in the north of Kosovo, conflicts broke out between the local Serb population and the Kosovo police after the latter tried to “help the new mayors, ethnic Albanians, to exercise their right to work”.
Between 11 a.m. and noon, sirens, which are usually used to warn of the presence of the Kosovo police, sounded in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo with a majority Serb population. They first appeared in Zubin Potok, after the new mayor there Izmir Zeqiri requested the intervention of the police when entering the municipality building, and then in the municipalities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Kosovska Mitrovica.
Major riots broke out mainly in Zvečan, where municipal employees, according to Serbian public television RTS, blocked the entrance to the municipal building. When the Kosovo police tried to enter it, they resisted, and the police responded with tear gas and smoke bombs.
At least ten people were injured in the riots and taken to a hospital in Severna Mitrovica, the northern part of Kosovo Mitrovica, where the majority Serb population lives. According to the deputy of the hospital Danica Radomirović none of the injured are in danger of life. All of them reportedly suffered minor injuries from shock bombs, tear gas and blows, reports the Serbian television portal N1.
Sounds similar to gunshots were also heard near the municipal building in Zvečan, and the gathered residents damaged several police cars and destroyed at least one. The Kosovo police have not yet commented on the events, but have confirmed that the police helped the newly elected mayors to enter the municipal premises. “According to their official duty, today the Kosovo police are helping the mayors of the northern municipalities of Zvečan, Leposavić and Zubin Potok in exercising their right to work, namely in the official premises of the respective municipalities,” the Kosovo Police announced in a statement on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the Kosovo authorities, according to the Radio Slobodna Evropa network, blamed the riots “criminal and illegal structures”. “Violence will not prevail. Serbia is fully responsible for the escalation,” the chief of staff of the Kosovo president wrote on Twitter Blerim Velja.
Meanwhile, at the entrance and exit to the center of the Leposavić municipality, where the municipality building is located, the residents set up trucks, and in Zubin Potok, Zećiri managed to enter the municipality building with the help of special units of the Kosovo Police, according to N1.
Vučić raised the readiness level of the army
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic meanwhile raised the level of preparedness of the Serbian army to the highest level and ordered the movement of troops towards the border with Kosovo, according to Serbian media reports, the Serbian Minister of Defense announced Miloš Vucevic. He added that the situation in the north of Kosovo is dramatic.
Local elections in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo took place at the end of April, mostly without the participation of the Serbian community, which boycotted the elections. Movement Self-determination of the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albina Kurti declared victory in the municipalities of Leposavić and Severna Mitrovica, while candidates of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, all ethnic Albanians, won in Zvečan and Zubin Potok.
He won in North Mitrovica Erden Atiq, in Leposavic Ljuljzim Hetemi, in Zvečan Ilir Peci, and Zeqiri in Zubin Potok.
The elections were called after the mayors of Srbska Lista resigned in four municipalities due to the mandatory replacement of Serbian registration plates with Kosovar ones last November. A total of ten candidates ran for mayor, among whom only one person was of Serbian nationality, namely an independent candidate Slađana Pantović in Zvečan.
The mayors of Leposavić, Zubina Potok and Zvečan were sworn in on May 25. They took over their duties in public buildings, because municipal buildings are temporary municipal bodies that operate in the Serbian system. In North Mitrovica, the municipal building operates according to the Kosovo system, and the newly elected mayor took office on May 19.
The local population in the north of Kosovo has already set up barricades in the past in order to prevent the operation of Kosovo institutions.