(CTN News) – 30 NATO troops have been injured in fierce clashes with ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, according to KFOR.
A Serb force had attempted to take over the offices of a northern Kosovo municipality where ethnic Albanian mayors took office last week.
A statement released on Tuesday stated that 11 Italian soldiers and 19 Hungarian soldiers were injured by improvised explosives.
Three Hungarian soldiers were injured using firearms, but their injuries are not life-threatening.
Clashes also took place in the municipality of Zvecan, 45 kilometers north of Pristina.
In order to prevent further escalation, both parties must take full responsibility and avoid putting their heads in sand, according to KFOR commander Major-General Angelo Michele Ristuccia.
Alert level highest
Aleksandar Vucic spent the night with his troops on the Kosovo border.
Last week, his order placed them on highest alert. There were 52 Serbs injured in the clashes, three of whom were seriously injured.
Police in Kosovo reported arresting four people.
Earlier this weekend, ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo attempted to block newly elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings.
In order to disperse the crowd and allow the new officials into the offices, the police fired tear gas.
In response, Serbia put its military on high alert and deployed more troops to the border with Kosovo.
Despite Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of sovereignty, Belgrade has refused to recognize it for decades.
As Russia’s war rages in Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have increased efforts to resolve the Kosovo-Serbia dispute.
Serbia and Kosovo have been told by the EU that normalizing relations is essential if they are to join the union.
In Pristina, the ambassadors of the so-called Quint – France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – met with Prime Minister Albin Kurti, asking him to deescalate tensions, while strongly denouncing Serb violence against KFOR troops and journalists.
There is a dark reminder of Serb ultra-nationalism on NATO vehicles in Kosovo as evidenced by ultra-nationalistic graffiti on them. Kurti said after the meeting that peace and security were important to him.
To demonstrate support for his policies, Vucic will also meet with Russian and Chinese ambassadors.
A large number of ethnic Serbs boycotted last month’s elections in Zvecan, Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and Mitrovica, four municipalities in the north.
Minority representatives were the only ones elected to mayoral posts and assemblies.
When separatist ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbia’s rule in 1998, Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown.
About 13,000 people died, mostly ethnic Albanians.
Serbia retreated from the territory as a result of NATO’s military intervention in 1999.
In addition to Washington and most of the EU countries, Serbia, Russia, and China have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state.