NATO peacekeepers have used tear gas against Serb protesters in northern Kosovo. They dispersed the crowd in order to start dismantling barricades erected in a protest against deployment of customs checkpoints on the border.
Some 300 Serbs tried to prevent the Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) from tearing down the barricades in Kosovo's north, but the soldiers were armed with anti-riot equipment to cordon off the barricaded area.
At least 100 armed transport vehicles are involved in the operation, which is aimed at removing the 16 barricades on the border. KFOR is also using a number of drones, which are circling over the area of the conflict.
NATO action follows a week of tense negotiations with the protesters, which failed to produce a peaceful solution.
Northern Kosovo is home to some 40,000 Serbs, who constitute a majority in several towns in the area. They do not recognize the Albanian government in Pristina. Many of them complain of persecution by Albanians.
Serbian-Canadian documentary filmmaker Boris Malagurski views the protests as a fight for survival by the Serbs of northern Kosovo.
"They are living in horrible conditions, basically in a ghetto, so their presence on the barricades is a form of silent protest against what NATO has planned for Kosovo. And Serbs have no intention of giving up. If this was organized by a regime that is supported by the West, they would have been hailed as freedom fighters," Malagurski told RT.