The head of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) today condemned Monday’s attacks on UN police officers during a riot in Mitrovica, saying this violence only hurt the legitimate interests of the province’s Serb population.
Twenty-two UNMIK Police officers, including 15 Polish Special Police, were injured yesterday, some seriously and one critically, following their altercation with a group of Serbs. The condition of the critically injured officer has now stabilized.
The incident began after UN police, who had set up a regular checkpoint to inspect vehicles, were set to make an arrest over a traffic violation when for unknown reasons shots were fired at them, according to UNMIK. A group of Kosovo Serbs also threw stones at the officers. Additional police officers were called in to try to contain the crowd and some Serbs were arrested during incident.
"These policemen were exercising their duties under difficult circumstances," Michael Steiner told reporters today at a press briefing in Pristina after his visit to Mitrovica. "I condemn in the strongest terms, these unlawful acts. These acts hurt physically police in uniform, who are doing their duty. Politically, they hurt the legitimate interest of the Serbs in Kosovo."
While the work of the UN police was recognized by the majority of the people in the area, "there are others out there, I don't know supported by whom, who play a different game," Mr. Steiner added. "They want confrontation, not reconciliation."
The UN Mission was not going to be bullied into leaving the Mitrovica area, Mr. Steiner said in response to a question. "You can count on it that we will not give in to any pressure from the streets, we will not give in to pressure from the criminal scene - and that is pressure from the criminal scene," he said. "And we have made that also clear on the other channels that that's not the way to deal with us."
The situation in Mitrovica today was described as calm, and a meeting of Kosovo Serbs protesting the arrests of Serbs broke up without incident, a UN spokesman said.