By Ria Novosti
At least 13 Kosovo police officers were injured in clashes with activists of radical Albanian Self-Determination movement, who tried to block checkpoints on the border with Serbia, media in Pristina said.
Kosovo deployed additional police units near the Merdare and Bela Zemlja border crossings with Serbia on Saturday morning following an announcement that Self-Determination activists will try to block imports from Serbia in protest against Belgrade’s trade policy.
Self-Determination holds 14 seats in Kosovo’s 120-seat parliament. The movement’s leader Albin Kurti accused his political opponents of hindering the functioning of the parliamentary republic in Kosovo, “because their interests are linked to imports and sales of Serbian products.”
International KFOR forces under the NATO command, which patrol the border between Serbia and Kosovo, have also been put on alert after the announcement.
Violence erupted when a convoy of about 500 people was stopped several km away from the Merdare border checkpoint.
Police said they had to respond when activists hurled stones, snowballs and “steel objects” at them. The number of protestors injured when police used water cannons and tear gas is currently being verified. Reports suggested that some activists received serious injuries.
“Police actions were in line with the Republic of Kosovo’s constitution and police credentials and were aimed at providing public order and free movement of citizens and goods at those two border checkpoints,” Kosovo police said in a statement.
More than 40 Self-Determination supporters have been taken to police stations throughout the day.
Initial reports said Kurti, one of Kosovo’s most popular politicians, was also arrested, but later reports said he was injured in the clashes and sought medical assistance.
No incidents were reported during another protest, near the Bela Zemlja border crossing.