Kosovo hit by worst unrest since independence

A FRONTLINER reporter saw masked police officers firing tear gas and water cannon, trying to disperse about 2,000 protesters who had taken to the streets in rallies organised by...
Pamje nga protestat e javës së kaluar në Prishtinë. ©THE Frontliner/Vedat Xhymshiti

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons against several thousand supporters of a nationalist movement “Self-determination,” who had gathered at the center of Pristina on a Tuesday. At least 37 people were injured in the street battle, including 22 police officers, according to a police statement.

A FRONTLINER reporter saw masked police officers firing tear gas and water cannon, trying to disperse about 2,000 protesters who had taken to the streets in rallies organised by opposition political parties. Ambulances attended to dozens of injured people as police pursued protesters into side streets around central Pristina. It was the second bout of unrest since Saturday, set off by popular anger over a government climbdown over the fate of a huge mining complex claimed by Serbia.

Over fifteen Ambulances vehicles were at the scene as siting to those who were injured and several dozen protesters were arrested, including capital mayor Shpend Ahmeti, which was later released. The clashes broke out after the protesters had attempted to break into the central government building, and had begun throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces.

‘Savages’ vs ‘war criminals’

The protesters were demanding that a Serb minister in the Kosovo government, Aleksandar Jablanovic, be sacked. The minister had sparked outrage when he called a group of Albanians “savages” for trying to stop Serb pilgrims from visiting a monastery in predominantly Albanian Kosovo. The group had claimed that some of the visitors were Serbian “war criminals.”

The opposition parties, who organised the Tuesday protests, also demanded that the government take control of the huge Trepca mining complex. Trepca has been under charge of a privatisation body created by the United Nations since the end of the war with Serbia in 1998-1999.

The government of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa had promised take control of the mine, but changed course after a sharp response from Serbia which claims it own three-quarters of the complex.

Western countries have also signalled disagreement, fearing that the intended move would harm the European Union-led dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

NATO still present

Serbian forces were pushed out of Kosovo by NATO bombing in 1999, and some 5,000 NATO troops are still stationed there in Kosovo, alongside several hundred EU police officers. Kosovo’s independence, proclaimed in 2008, remains disputed by Serbia. The country is also burdened by corruption and poverty, with the official unemployment rate at 45 percent.

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