30 maj 2023
Fake news claims that Kosovo Police allegedly opened fire towards the protesters.
Prepared by: Ridona Berisha
On May 26th, 2023, Gazeta Demos shared a video on TikTok with the caption, "Police opens fire with weapons in front of the blocked Municipality of Zvečan by Serbs."
The video, which received over 1,000 likes, 79 comments, and was shared 159 times, depicts protesters standing in front of the cordon of the Kosovo Police at the entrance of the municipal building in Zvečan. This occurred after the mayor of Zvečan, Ilir Peci, had entered the building. Following the clash between the protesters and the Kosovo Police, gunshots can also be heard in the video.
Friday, May 26th, 2023, was the first working day for the new mayors of Zubin Potok, Leposavić, and Zvečan municipalities, which was marked with a lot of tension. The protest, characterized by stone-throwing, flashbangs, and tear gas, resulted in the injury of five police officers and damage to police vehicles.
However, the Kosovo Police denied the reports of gunfire from their side, stating that the shots were heard in other locations on the day tensions escalated in the north.
Through a press release, the Kosovo Police explained that in order to prevent an immediate threat to the lives of police officials, relevant self-defense police units were compelled to respond using their lawful means, including tear gas, with the aim of dispersing the crowd. As for the gunshots, they claim that they were heard "in several instances at different locations, for which investigations are being conducted in cooperation with the judicial authorities."
The local elections took place in the northern region on April 23rd of this year. The leaders of the four northern municipalities, from the Serbian List - the largest party of Serbs in Kosovo - resigned last November. These elections were boycotted by the Serbian-majority population, which now rejects the new mayors.
The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission has indicated that its units have been deployed in the four Serbian-majority municipalities in the north to deter violent demonstrations organized to oppose the newly elected municipal mayors from assuming their duties in the municipal assembly buildings. The protests by Serbs continued in the following days, and the situation escalated on May 29th in Zvečan. At least 25 KFOR members were injured after clashes with violent protesters. Confronting the crowd, some soldiers from the Italian and Hungarian contingents of KFOR were targeted in the attacks, even with firearms. The injuries they sustained included broken limbs and burns on their bodies. Meanwhile, the Kosovo Police have arrested five individuals suspected of these assaults.
Following these developments, Oana Lungescu, the NATO spokesperson, reacted. "NATO strongly condemns the unprovoked attacks against NATO in northern Kosovo, which led to a number of them being injured" she stated. According to Lungescu, such attacks are completely unacceptable, as she called for an immediate cessation of violence.
*This article is published as part of the Western Balkans Regional Initiative against disinformation. Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: exposing malign influences through watchdog journalism.
30 maj 2023