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Dozens Detained Amid Kosovo Protest, Skirmishes


Protesters, Police Skirmish In Kosovo
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WATCH: Police in the Kosovar capital made dozens of arrests after activists for the nationalist Self-Determination movement organized an unsanctioned rally on October 22. (Video by RFE/RL Balkan Service)

PRISTINA -- Police in the capital of Kosovo say 63 people have been detained during an unauthorized protest by nationalists that drew volleys of tear gas from police trying to keep the demonstrators at bay.

About 100 supporters of the opposition Self-Determination Movement headed toward the government building on October 22, hurling tomatoes and paint at police officers.

A number of protesters were injured during the exchanges, which included including members of parliament from the Self-Determination Movement, before the protest ended in the afternoon. .

"They [demonstrators] headed toward the building of the government of the Republic of Kosovo," police spokesman Baki Kelani told RFE/RL's Balkans Service. "Upon arriving there, they started throwing various things, heavy objects, and paint at the police. The police were forced to intervene -- also using tear gas -- to disperse the crowd."

The demonstrators were protesting an October 19 meeting between Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, in Brussels under the auspices of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

It was the first top-level encounter between the leaders of the two sides since Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Following the meeting, the two leaders issued a joint statement saying they had agreed "to continue the dialogue for the normalization of relations between the two sides" and that both are "committed to working together."

Ashton praised the meeting as an important step that will help bring both Serbia and Kosovo closer to the EU.

Belgrade has consistently vowed to oppose Kosovar independence and maintains the territory is part of Serbia.

More than 90 countries have recognized Kosovo as independent, including the United States and 22 of 27 EU member states, but not Russia or China.

The EU has facilitated talks between Kosovo and Serbia since March 2011 at a lower diplomatic level.