Conflict and confrontation have bubbled up in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs outnumber the Albanian population by some margin. Relationships between the two groups have been strained for years in the aftermath of Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia in 2008 after NATO intervened in the conflict there. NATO still maintains a peacekeeping force there – KFOR – with a strength of just under 4,000 troops until recently.
The recent upsurge in strife occurred after local government elections in north Kosovo, which were boycotted by the Serbs and thereby allowed Albanian officials to be elected with in some cases a turnout of as little as three per cent.
Local Serbs tried to prevent the Albanian officials taking office by blocking their entry to municipal buildings, leading to rioting between the protesting Serbs, the Kosovan police, and NATO peacekeepers, resulting in over thirty of the latter being injured, mainly Italians and Hungarians.
Not surprisingly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg deemed the violence quite unacceptable and promised an additional 700 NATO troops would be sent as reinforcements.
An uneasy peace now prevails but tensions are still simmering. As ever, there are allegations of Russian involvement in fomenting the violence but no independent verification that this is the case.
Expect more news from this part of the world over the summer.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk
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