NATO peacekeeping force KFOR has sent more troops to the Serbian-Kosovo border following bloody clashes there. But as Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told RT the alliance is creating a new conflict in the region.
"It's another mistake that NATO is making by provoking another conflict in the Balkans,” Dmitry Rogozin said.
According to witnesses, KFOR has deployed armored vehicles, sandbags and barbed wire around the Jarinje border crossing, about 100 km (60 miles) from Kosovo's capital, Pristina, on Wednesday.
“It seems my NATO colleagues don't have a clue what the consequences of their involvement in the conflict could be,” Dmitry Rogozin said. “Instead of taking a neutral position in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, they took the side of Kosovo-Albania. Basically, NATO is blocking the only road of life between the Kosovan Serbs and Serbia. It's the international peacekeepers who are involved in the civil conflict in the north of the region.”
NATO reinforced the border a day after clashes which left 16 Kosovo Serbs and four KFOR members injured.
Milan Jakovljević, the director of Kosovska Mitrovica Health Center, said six people sustained serious injuries from live rounds and one person had been taken to the ophthalmology ward due to eye problems caused by tear-gas, Serbian radio and television broadcaster B92 reported.
Both sides blame each other for starting the violence, in which rubber bullets and tear-gas were used by NATO forces.
It is believed the clashes took place when alliance peacekeeping forces tried to dismantle a roadblock set up by Serbs. NATO’s spokesperson insists that KFOR troops had fired on Serb protesters in the Mitrovica region in response to an attack by the crowd.
Meanwhile, according to Rogozin, NATO does not want to discuss the situation in Kosovo or to investigate the latest bloody accident.
“They are hiding behind formal phrases that mean nothing,” he said.
“We are witnessing outright lies about what kinds of measures have been used against the civilian population in Kosovo. We have been told that only rubber bullets and tear-gas were used. But according to the information from the hospital, all the injured have gunshot wounds. And physicians from Mitrovica complained about the bombardment of ambulances, which were transporting the wounded from the conflict zone," Rogozin told Interfax news agency.
Russia has demanded that NATO creates a commission to investigate what happened in the region.
“I have just asked for an objective investigation into what the so-called NATO peacekeepers are doing in Kosovo. But they just ignored my question,” Rogozin said. “If NATO is concerned about its reputation they should stop this immediately, become neutral again, and investigate the crimes that have taken place against the civilians in northern Kosovo,” he added.
He stressed that Russia would support and protect civilians, and would also protect decisions made by the UN Security Council.
John Laughland of the Paris-based Institute for Democracy and Cooperation agrees the deployment of KFOR troops has reactivated a ‘frozen conflict.’
“If they took away their newly sent force from the borders between the northern Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, then yes, I do think that the region would go back to being peaceful,” John Laughland told RT.