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U.N.: Serbia not helping keep Kosovo peace

The United Nations accused Serbian officials Tuesday of complicity in the violence in northern Kosovo that left a U.N. policeman from Ukraine dead and dozens of people hurt.
Image: A woman walks by burnt vehicles in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica
Streets in Mitrovica, Kosovo, were littered Tuesday with burned-out vehicles and other debris caused by rioting on Monday.Marko Djurica / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

The United Nations accused Serbian officials Tuesday of complicity in the violence in northern Kosovo that left a U.N. policeman from Ukraine dead and dozens of people hurt.

Larry Rossin, the deputy U.N. administrator for Kosovo, told reporters in Pristina that “it is clear to us that the violence ... was orchestrated.”

At the very least, Rossin said, Serbia’s government failed to use its influence to prevent ethnic Serbs in Kosovo from launching the attacks, which left more than 60 U.N. and NATO forces and 70 Kosovo Serb protesters wounded.

“We’re having trouble continuing some of our operations in the north of Kosovo right now and it’s directly because of either their (Serbia’s officials) interventions or lack of interventions with those who are causing these problems,” Rossin said.

The U.N. said Monday it was pulling out of the Serb-dominated northern part of the town because of Monday’s violence. The withdrawal could fuel a widespread Kosovo Serb desire to split from largely ethnic Albanian Kosovo and rejoin Serbia, even though NATO troops remained in the town.

Serb president defiant
Serbian President Boris Tadic said Tuesday that his country will never agree to Kosovo’s independence, and said renewed talks under the authority of the United Nations are the only way to reach a compromise.

Tadic also pledged that Serbia will continue its struggle to reclaim Kosovo peacefully.

The policeman from Ukraine was identified as 25-year old Ihor Kynal, deployed to Kosovo last year as part of a special police unit. He died of injuries suffered from a hand grenade thrown by a protester during Monday’s clashes — the worst violence in Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia a month ago.

“He basically bled to death,” said Larry Wilson, the top U.N. police official in Kosovo. “Because of the gunfire it took us almost two and a half hours to evacuate him.”

Wilson said a criminal investigation was being launched into finding the perpetrators who would be charged of murder and attempted murder.

A senior Ukrainian delegation will travel to Kosovo on Wednesday to assess the situation and look for ways to ensure the safety of Ukrainian peacekeepers, the Ukrainian government said.

Warning shots fired Tuesday
Tensions remained high in Kosovska Mitrovica on Tuesday. French NATO troops fired warning shots and a shock grenade at stone-hurling Serbs. Nobody was injured.

The day before, Serb demonstrators traded gunfire with international peacekeepers and attacked them with rocks, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails as U.N. police removed protesters from inside a U.N. courthouse.

Forty-one police officers were still being treated for injuries, the U.N. said.

A Serb demonstrator was in a coma after being shot in the head in Monday’s violence. Doctors said he suffered severe brain injury and was fighting for his life.

Serbia, which considers the territory its historic and religious heartland, says Kosovo’s declaration of independence was illegal under international law.

“We will fight until we die. This is Serbia and we will not let it go,” said Milanka Sridic, a Serb resident of Kosovska Mitrovica. “Kosovo is Serbia forever. They cannot do anything to us.”

‘Trying to start another war’
On the other side of the divided city, ethnic Albanian residents accused the Serbs of seeking to destabilize Kosovo and the entire Balkans as was the case during the 1990s.

“They are trying to start another war,” said Avni Kastrati, an ethnic Albanian. “It is not Kosovo they want, they want trouble in the region, like always.”

The unrest has drawn international condemnation and pledges to restore order in Kosovo, which has been run by the United Nations since NATO launched an air war to stop former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the international community “will not let itself be intimidated” by violence.

“One must restore order,” he told reporters in Paris. “One must not provoke disorder.”