Kosovo’s Albanians rally for independence

Thousands of ethnic Albanians have protested in Pristina against the UN’s plan for the province's future. The UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, has proposed to give Kosovo its own flag, anthem, army, and constitution, but not independence.

Posters with a red cross over Mr Ahtisaari's name have been seen all over Pristina for days. They invited Albanians to take part in another protest organized by the Self-determination group.

The police and international force KFOR were preparing for the worst in case what was promised to be a peaceful march would grow into a violent clash. Less than a month ago a protest rally went wrong, leading to a fight with the police. Two people were killed, more than twenty injured. Self-determination's leader Albin Kurti was detained and charged with organizing mass riots.

This time despite calls by the region's leadership for Kosovans not to take part in the rally, the radicals chose to go ahead with the protest. First several hundred people came to the starting point at the party's headquarters. Later the figure rose to around 5,000.

The people were protesting against the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, saying he's not doing his job well enough, as his proposals do not contain the word independence. While the official Pristina supported the plan, the radical Albanian movement says the internationally supervised autonomy is just not enough. The Self Determination group criticizes the Kosovo negotiating team in Vienna for taking a soft stance at the talks.

The procession moved freely and peacefully, and was watched closely by hundreds of security officers. At one point tension did seem to build, as the crowd stopped at the UN headquarters where the police were blocking the road. The head of the protesters gave the authorities ten minutes to remove the cordon with the police eventually allowing the march to go through.

The rally finished right where it started, at the party’s headquarters. Self-determination says that until their demands are met such protests will not stop.