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BBC analysis: Why is violence rekindling in Kosovo?

BBC analysis: Why is violence rekindling in Kosovo?

Violent clashes have occurred in Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and police belonging to the Kosovo government.

NATO is sending 700 additional troops to the country after more than 30 of its peacekeepers were injured, writes the BBC . The clashes followed a disputed local election and there are fears the violence could escalate.

Where is Kosovo and who lives there?

Kosovo is a small, landlocked country in the Balkans in Southeastern Europe. It borders Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Many Serbs consider it the birthplace of their nation. But of the 1.8 million inhabitants living in Kosovo, 92% are Albanians and only 6% are Serbs. The rest are Bosniaks, Gorans, Turks and Roma.

How did Kosovo gain independence?

After the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Kosovo - a province of the former country - demanded its autonomy and independence.

Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanians seeking independence. This ended in 1999 with a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia between March and June.

Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo - but for many Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, the conflict has never been resolved. The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFor) is still based in Kosovo, with a current strength of 3,762.

In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence.

A total of 99 out of 193 United Nations (UN) countries now recognize Kosovo's independence, including the US, Great Britain and 22 out of 27 European Union (EU) countries.

But Russia and China, which do not do this, have blocked Kosovo's membership in the UN.

And Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has vowed that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

Neither Kosovo nor Serbia are in the EU - but:

• Serbia is a candidate country for the EU since 2012

• Kosovo has officially applied for EU membership in December 2022

The EU membership process can take years or even decades.

Why is the trouble now?

Relations between the Albanian-dominated government and the Serbian minority have been strained for years.

Në qendër të përplasjeve të fundit janë zgjedhjet e diskutueshme lokale në veri të vendit, të bojkotuara nga një popullsi shumicë serbe që jeton atje.

Katër kryetarë komunash shqiptarë etnikë u zgjodhën me një pjesëmarrje prej më pak se 4%. Ata u shoqëruan në zyrat e tyre nga policia e armatosur e Kosovës, duke provokuar përleshje të dhunshme me serbët vendas.

NATO po dërgon 700 trupa të tjera në vend, pasi disa ushtarë paqeruajtës të saj u plagosën në përleshjet.

A janë të përfshirë Serbia dhe Rusia në dhunë?

Ministri i Jashtëm rus Sergei Lavrov tha se tensionet ishin alarmante dhe mund të çojnë në një "shpërthim të madh" në zemër të Evropës.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani claimed in February that mercenaries from Russia's Wagner group were working with Serbian paramilitaries to smuggle weapons and unmarked military uniforms into Kosovo, in preparation for a possible annexation of Kosovo territory.

There is no evidence to substantiate the claims.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić put the country's army on full combat alert and ordered its units to move closer to the border with Kosovo. But he also told Serbian media that he is looking for a political solution to the tensions.

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