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  Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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Ukrainian peacekeepers waited for several hours for permission to defend themselves
Ukrainian peacekeepers waited for several hours for permission to defend themselves during Monday's clash with rioters in north Kosovo's Mitrovica, the Ukrainian defense minister said on Thursday.

The violence in the Serb-dominated area of Mitrovica began when UN police and NATO-led KFOR troops launched an operation early March 17 to regain control of a UN court building seized last week by ethnic Serbs. Over 20 Ukrainian peacekeepers were wounded and one of them died later in hospital.

"We are concerned that this [military] operation has been conducted in an unorganized and uncoordinated manner disregarding the total safety of our people," Yuriy Lutsenko said in an interview with Ukrainian television. "We are not happy that for four hours we were unable to receive permission to use weapons to defend the lives of our subordinates."

The minister also said that the UN should initiate an investigation into the incident to find and bring to account those responsible for the peacekeeper's death.

"We need to bring those guilty to account," Lutsenko said. "We need to provide security guarantees to Ukrainian detachments on service in Kosovo."

Serb rioters attacked UN forces with rocks, grenades and Molotov cocktails as they tried to remove protesters from inside the courthouse.

Belgrade, however, accused the peacekeepers of using excessive force against the demonstrators and sent a letter of complaint to the UN Secretary General, which has been reportedly received.

Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Thursday that in connection with the death of the peacekeeper the Council for National Security would discuss Friday whether Ukrainian peacekeepers should be in Kosovo.

In all, more than 60 UN police and KFOR troops, and over 70 Serb protesters were wounded in the worst outbreak of violence in the region since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on February 17.


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