icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
23 Feb, 2008 13:34

Tensions rise as Serbs push into Kosovo

Restrictions have been brought in to prevent busloads of Serbs joining rallies in Kosovo. Protests over Kosovo's independence are continuing in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, which is located in the north of the disputed region.

Rallies take place every day at 12.44 am local time coinciding with the number of the UN resolution on Kosovo.

NATO troops and UN police have intensified their patrols, especially at the key bridge that divides the Serb and Albanian parts of the town. The border between Serbia and Kosovo remains closed.

Buses that left Belgrade for Mitrovica in the early hours of the morning were stopped six hours later by NATO forces. They are patrolling the border that now divides Serbia from Kosovo.

NATO soldiers were worried Serbian soccer hooligans were on board – the same ones who attacked foreign embassies in Belgrade on Thursday night.

In the confusion two buses managed to get through but were stopped three kilometres down the road by French troops. After a brief demonstration they too were forced back to the border.

“We have about 500 students in the buses, and we planned to participate in the protests in Mitrovica together with local students. But the KFOR soldiers won't allow us to cross the border. We are determined to stay here until they let us through,” said Branko Kovacevic, Dean of the University of Belgrade.

But the standoff achieved nothing. UN forces are only allowing residents of Kosovo to cross border.

A group of 60 students did in the end manage to reach Mitrovica, where they joined some 5,000 ethnic Serbs in protest. UN riot police closed off the area and were attacked with stones, firecrackers and glass bottles.

However, thousands of students who weren’t able to set foot in the land refuse to give up. Their demonstration hasn’t yet begun and they returned to Belgrade with the promise to be back.

Protests in Greece

Around 1,500 people gathered in the Greek capital Athens on Saturday demanding that the government does NOT recognise Kosovo's independence.

The demonstrators marched to the EU offices on Central Avenue with a large banner reading “Rejection of U.S. and NATO.”

They then moved on to the U.S. embassy.

The protest was organised by the Communist Party of Greece and its youth organisation.