NATO Augments Kosovo Troop Strength Amid Rising Tensions

NATO has announced its decision to deploy an additional 700 soldiers to Northern Kosovo in response to escalating violent protests. This move comes following conflicts involving ethnic Serbs which resulted in injuries to 30 international soldiers, as confirmed by the alliance on Tuesday.

The increased military presence, to be spearheaded by an extra reserve battalion, is a precautionary measure aimed at handling any further requirement for troops, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He made this announcement in Oslo, post his meeting with the Norwegian prime minister.

NATO to send 700 more troops to Kosovo to help quell violent protests

The current KFOR peacekeeping mission led by NATO comprises nearly 3,800 soldiers. The size of a battalion can vary, typically including between 300 to 1,000 soldiers.

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KFOR troops used metallic fences and barbed-wire barricades to fortify positions in a northern town that’s been a recent hotspot. Tensions escalated when Monday’s unrest in Zvecan, a northern municipality, sparked apprehension about potential instability.

Kosovo, once a province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 – a move that Belgrade doesn’t recognize. Although the majority of Kosovo’s population is of ethnic Albanian descent, there is a significant Serb minority in the northern region bordering Serbia.

Stoltenberg strongly criticized the violent episodes and assured that NATO forces would take necessary measures to uphold a secure environment for all Kosovar citizens. He appealed to both sides to avoid reckless conduct and encouraged them to return to the EU-backed dialogue aimed at mending ties.

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Despite majority recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the United States and numerous EU nations, Russia and China have allied with Belgrade. As tensions heightened over the weekend following elections boycotted by Serbs, Serbia reacted by deploying more troops to the Kosovo border and escalated its military readiness.

The conflict intensified when Serbs attempted to enter Zvecan’s municipal offices, clashing first with the Kosovo police and subsequently with international peacekeepers.

Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, asserted that power in Kosovo is won through elections, not violence, and thanked KFOR troops for their efforts to maintain peace.

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The US and EU have recently increased their efforts to mediate an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, mindful of the potential for instability in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. NATO’s decision to bolster its KFOR troops signals the seriousness of the situation.

A total of 30 soldiers, including 11 Italians and 19 Hungarians, were injured during the unrest. According to Serb officials, 52 people were injured, three of them severely, and four protesters were detained by the Kosovo police.

NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, in the wake of a brutal Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanians, marked the beginning of the KFOR peacekeeping mission.

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