The bloc's troops have aggravated tensions in Serbia's breakaway region while showing their sheer incompetence, the foreign ministry has said
Instead of defusing hostilities between the local authorities and the Serbian ethnic majority in the northern part of Kosovo, NATO troops have only exacerbated the unrest, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Tuesday.
Zakharova pointed out that the situation in the area had reached "a critical red line." She was referring to violent clashes between local Serbs and NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) that erupted after the bloc's soldiers attempted to disperse demonstrators that were protesting against the inauguration of the new mayor of the Albanian ethnicity. The stand-off resulted in dozens of injuries on both sides.
The unrest came after local Serbs, who have long sought for more autonomy, boycotted Pristina-backed elections in the northern part of Kosovo. Despite a turnout of less than 4%, local authorities treated them as legitimate, resulting in the election of four ethnically Albanian mayors.
Zakharova argued that the crisis in Kosovo, which could be resolved peacefully, turned out to be "a nut too hard to crack" for NATO service members. "Not only have they shown their incompetence ... [they] themselves became a source of unnecessary violence, an escalation factor," the spokeswoman claimed.
As a result, those who were charged with protecting Serbs from this crackdown, "supported Pristina's xenophobic aspirations, basically turning into terror accomplices" by defending local authorities, she said.
The spokeswoman also urged the West to "silence its false propaganda" and stop accusing desperate Serbs of provoking incidents when they were just trying to defend their legitimate rights in a peaceful manner.
"While looking for the guilty, mediators from the US and the EU should muster up some courage and look in the mirror," the official stated.
"To de-escalate, decisive steps are needed, and not half-measures like an idea proposed by the US to temporarily 'move' the newly-minted 'mayors' from municipal buildings to other facilities," Zakharova stressed, adding that those steps may include the creation of an association of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo.
The region unilaterally declared independence in 2008 with the support of the US and many of its allies. It is not recognized by several countries, including Russia, China, and Serbia itself.