Deutsche Welle
March 26, 2008

Tensions continue on the streets of Mitrovica a week after rioting Serbs clashed with police and NATO troops in the town on Kosovo’s northern border. DW-WORLD.DE talked to a Balkans expert about the latest developments.

The violence in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica last week was the worst since Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority declared independence on Feb. 17. Hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers and NATO soldiers pulled out of the frontier region that abuts Serbia after coming under fire from automatic weapons and hand grenades. A Ukrainian police officer was killed during the unrest.

Three days after the withdrawal, the UN and NATO mounted an operation to retake a courthouse taken over by ethnic Serb protesters and restore military control over the northern border region around Mitrovica. The town is now once again under UN control.

In the days since the violence, the rhetoric coming from Belgrade has increased in its bellicosity as accusations of armed provocation fly between the Serbian government and the Western powers in Kosovo.

DW-WORLD.DE spoke to Professor Stefan Wolff, a political scientist and director of the Center for International Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution at Nottingham University, about the latest developments.

DW-WORLD.DE: Who is behind the current unrest in northern Kosovo? Is it public anger or do you think this violence is orchestrated by organized powers with an agenda?

Stefan Wolff: The violence in northern Kosovo over the past several weeks is both an expression of public anger by local Serbs and something that is at least encouraged by Belgrade. Similar to the violence that happened in the immediate aftermath of Kosovo’s declaration of independence when the American and other Western embassies were targeted, the government in Belgrade is not doing enough to send a strong message to the rioters, nor does, for that matter, the Serb Orthodox Church. Quite clearly, the resulting instability serves Serbia’s, and to some extent Russia’s, agenda well, offering, as it were, proof for the claim that Kosovo’s independence is the source of unrest and insecurity.

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