Serbia orders army to move to Kosovo border after protest clashes

ZVECAN, Kosovo, May 26 (Reuters) – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed the country’s army on combat alert and ordered his units to move closer to the border with Kosovo on Friday, after clashes between protesters and police in a Serb-majority town in Kosovo.

“An urgent movement (of troops) towards the Kosovo border has been ordered,” Defense Minister Milos Vucevic said in a live TV broadcast. “It is clear that the terror against the Serb community in Kosovo is ongoing,” he said.

Police and protesters clashed in the town of Zvecan in Kosovo after a crowd gathered outside the municipality building, trying to prevent a newly elected Albanian mayor from entering his office. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

A police car was set on fire, a Reuters reporter said.

Four people were injured in the clashes, Tanjug news agency reported. He also said that several vehicles of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo arrived at the center of Zvecan.


The protests follow widely boycotted local elections.

Some 50,000 Serbs living in four municipalities in northern Kosovo, including Zvecan, avoided the April 23 vote to protest that their demands for more autonomy had not been met – another setback for a peace agreement. March peace between Kosovo and Serbia.

Voter turnout was 3.47% and local Serbs said they would not work with the new mayors of the four municipalities – all from ethnic Albanian parties – because they do not represent them.

Earlier, police in the Kosovar capital of Pristina released a statement saying they were helping newly elected mayors so they could enter municipal offices in the four northern municipalities.

The mayor of Zvecan was successfully escorted to his office, a Reuters reporter heard on a police radio.

Serbs in the northern Kosovo region do not accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, nearly a decade after the end of a war there, and still view Belgrade as their capital.

Ethnic Albanians form more than 90% of Kosovo’s population, with Serbs being the majority only in the northern region.

The Western-backed plan and verbally endorsed by the governments of Kosovo and Serbia in March aimed to defuse tensions by granting local Serbs more autonomy, with the government in Pristina retaining ultimate authority.

Reporting by Reuters TV, Fatos Bytyci, Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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