Fiery protest in Kosovo against EU-backed deals
In Bosnia, Serbs ignore country’s top court and celebrate with Belgrade and Moscow’s backing
Protesters throw molotov cocktails during a violent protest in Pristina, Kosovo, on Saturday. Photograph: EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj
Police in Kosovo have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters whose rally against EU-backed deals with Serbia and Montenegro ended with them hurling bricks and petrol bombs at government headquarters.
At least 10,000 demonstrators gathered on Saturday in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, to demand the government resign over deals with the fledgling state’s neighbours that they claim breach its constitution.
The deals to give Kosovo’s Serb minority more rights and to end a border dispute with Montenegro are vital to the state’s bid for eventual EU membership, but many Kosovars feel the government bowed to pressure from Brussels and Belgrade.
Officials said 28 people were hurt and about 40 protesters arrested in violence that saw police vehicles and part of government headquarters set ablaze. “We will not be governed by those who trade our sovereignty. We are seeking free elections to be organised immediately, because they no longer have the right to govern Kosovo,” said Fatmir Limaj, the leader of one opposition party. The government accused the opposition leaders of fomenting violence with the aim of plunging Kosovo into “crime and anarchy”.
“The aim of this protest was to overthrow the government with violence and leave the country in the hands of the incriminated people who today set fire to the [government] building and police,” the government said in a statement.
Kosovo’s opposition leaders have vowed to press on with protests that have rocked the mostly ethnic-Albanian country of 1.8 million, which formally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after nine years of UN administration.
Serbia launched a bloody crackdown against Kosovo’s separatist rebels in 1998-9 that prompted Nato intervention, and Belgrade refuses to accept the nation’s sovereignty – a stance backed most strongly by traditional ally Russia.
At the time, Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats were pushing for the republic’s independence from a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, but many Serbs in Bosnia opposed the move and sought to retain rule from Belgrade.
Key proponents of the 1992 declaration by Bosnian Serbs, such as Radovan Karadzic, went on to play prominent roles in the 1992-5 Bosnian war that killed about 100,000 people, and saw Serbs commit acts of genocide against Muslims.
Bosnia’s top court ruled the commemoration discriminatory towards non-Serb residents of the Republika Srpska region, but local leaders went ahead with it, boosted by the attendance of Serb premier Aleksandar Vucic, Russian envoy to Bosnia Petar Ivancov, and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej.
“My love for Republika Srpska does not imply hatred for Bosnia,” said Mr Vucic. “They cannot take away our right to love our own people.”