Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Belgrade – Moscow – Athens Watch – Southeast Europe Theatre: Belgrade – Moscow – Tehran – Sofia – Bucharest – Athens – Banja Luka – Kosovska Mitrovica/Pristina – Tirana – Brussels – Vienna – Warsaw – Ankara; Unmik – Kosovo Police Forced to Withdraw From Kosovska Mitrovica After Coming Under Grenade – Automatic Weapons Fire – Kfor Vehicles Damaged – Kfor Units Patrolling Streets With Orders “shoot to Restore Order”
Night Watch: KOSOVSKA MITROVICA – The violence that was feared, if not planned, erupted Monday morning as hundreds of soldiers serving under the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) surrounded the 300 Serbian demonstrators in the court house in Kosovska Mitrovica. The soldiers, acting with the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), began to arrest some of the demonstrators at 5:30 CET and met no resistance until they attempted to take them out of the city and were met by a crowd of Serbian demonstrators.
B92/Beta report the Serbs blocked the vehicles and began throwing stones as the soldiers and police responded with tear gas and stun grenades. But by 7:00 CET the rioting spread to all of the northern Serbian part of the city resulting in the injuring of thirty soldiers with many vehicles, including some belonging to NATO-Kosovo Force (KFOR) set on fire. It appears the United Nations Mission troops were acting under orders from Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu. [B92]
Kosovska Mitrovica – Swissinfo/Reuters report a French spokesman for NATO actually acknowledge some of their units came under automatic weapons fire. I would not be surprised if that was caused by members of the Serbian para-military unit Guard of the Czar Lazar. The rioting was so intense, with grenades also thrown at the soldiers, the UNMIK and KPS have been ordered out of the city replaced by KFOR units under instructions to “shoot to restore order” as NATO helicopters are flying overhead.
I would not be surprised if there are attacks on the KFOR soldiers overnight. Though no deaths have been reported nearly a hundred people, soldiers and demonstrators, have been injured some of them seriously. [SWISSINFO]
Moscow – B92 reports the Russia Foreign Ministry has issued a statement on the unrest by blaming it on Kosovo’s declaration of independence exactly one month ago to the day. March 17 is also the fourth anniversary of a major eruption of ethnic violence in Kosovo.
“The international presence must show restraint and must act strictly in adherence to the UN mandate. It is obvious that the situation can only normalize by returning the Kosovo process to the framework of international law in order to find a basis of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.”
This is of course just an official public statement for public consumption to put the Kremlin on record calling for an end to violence but in reality I suspect Moscow knows a new normality has been established – another war. [B92]
Ljubljana – The High Representative of the European Union (EU) foreign policy, Javier Solana, was in the Slovenia captial of Ljubljana when the disturbances began. Solana was meeting with EU Foreign Policy Presidents, and not all EU governments have recognized Kosovo, especially Greece and Spain – and Athens signed a security agreement with Belgrade in Nov. 2006. As Solana expressed his “deep concern” over the latest developments, NATO, as expected, indicated it had a militaristic interpretation of its UN mandate with this statement by its spokesman James Appathurai, “NATO will respond decisively to any form of force in line with the UN mandate in Kosovo.” [B92]
Sumadija Square – B92 reports at midday in the pouring rain, after most violence had ended, Serbia Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic addressed a crowd of 1,000 people and appealed for calm while at the same time he criticized the arrests of the demonstrators, “This could have been avoided, but someone needed it to happen. These last few days, since the justice workers entered the building, we’ve been in constant contact with the people from UNMIK and agreed that nothing be done on Monday when I was due to come to Kosovska Mitrovica.”
Samardzic knows the international troops are not representing Belgrade but the Albanian administration in Pristina which wanted an immediate crackdown on this the most serious threat to Kosovo’s month old independence. No one needed it to happen more than Pristina but there are probably NATO officials in Brussels who are as eager for a show of force against Serbs as they were back in 1994 when NATO began its bombing campaign against Serbs in Bosnia. [B92]
Subsequent action, under a suspicious leadership and planning has forced, trapped NATO into the Balkans and has divided the alliance as they absurdly equate their existence with Kosovo independence. Brussels, headquarters to both NATO and the EU, is now faced with a heavily re-armed Serbia, supported by Russia and has signed two defense agreements with Greece-Iran. Nor can NATO depend on any serious support from Spain – or on governments in Southeast Europe.
Belgrade – Serbia has responded to the crisis, which could very well be part of its “Action Plan” by deploying several dozen security officers and MUP (municipal urban police) around the Parliament and Presidency buildings. Beta news reports also seeing riot police, anti-terrorist units, PTJ, Hummers in front of Turkey’s Embassy. The units informed the news agency they had “received orders to increase security of the structure”.
Security units may have intercepted threats to the embassy since Ankara has openly recognized Kosovo independence. There have been no increase in the police in front of the Croatia and U. S. embassies which were damaged a month ago when Kosovo announced independence. [B92]
Kosovska Mitrovica – This link is to several news photos provided by Xinhua of demonstrators confronting French KFOR units. [XINHUA]