Kosovo Serbs keep up challenge to NATO removal of roadblocks
|Publisher||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty|
|Publication Date||22 October 2011|
|Cite as||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Kosovo Serbs keep up challenge to NATO removal of roadblocks, 22 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ec503fcc.html [accessed 14 July 2014]|
October 22, 2011
Kosovo Serbs sit on a barricade at the entrance to the village of Zupce, in northern Kosovo, on October 21.
Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs have prevented NATO troops in Kosovo from removing roadblocks hindering access to three contested border crossings between the country's volatile north and Serbia.
The standoff comes two days after the international Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers began dismantling the obstacles following repeated warnings to ethnic Serbs who refuse to recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.
Hundreds of Serbs sat on the roads to stop the advance of NATO troops in full riot gear who tried overnight to push through the roadblocks formed of vehicles, rocks, mud, and logs.
No force was used and no injuries were reported during the incident.
KFOR commander Erhard Drevs on October 21 said "peaceful protests are legal, without a doubt," according to RFE/RL's Balkan Service. But he also reiterated KFOR's commitment to ensuring freedom of movement in the area and said he does "not consider the roadblocks a legal means of protest," especially if they prevent KFOR's "unrestricted" movement guaranteed under UN Resolution 1244.
Kosovo Serbs have been blocking some 16 roads to stop the country's ethnic Albanian leadership from extending its control over the part of the country populated mostly by ethnic Serbs.
One of the organizers of the Serb blockades, Milan Ivanovic, told RFE/RL that protesters were willing to brave the freezing temperatures and would remain camped out at the roadblocks.
Ivanovic described Serb resisters as behaving in a "calm, organized, and discipline" fashion.
"We are fighting for our rights in a democratic and peaceful manner," he said, "and our will and perseverance in our completely legitimate and reasonable requests will not fail."
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the KFOR and the European Union's rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, were being coordinated with Kosovar institutions.
Serbia, backed by Russia, has refused to recognize Kosovo sovereignty.
Kosovo's statehood has been recognized more than 70 countries, including the United States, Canada, and 22 of 27 European Union members.
compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports