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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Troops Help Russians Out of Tight Spot in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Ethnic Albanians armed with rocks and sticks on Wednesday beset Russian peacekeepers, who needed help from U.S. troops to fend off the mob in southeast Kosovo, the KFOR peacekeeping force said.

Ethnic Albanian protesters also confronted U.S. soldiers in the main southeastern town of Gnjilane over the arrest of their illegally armed relatives the day before, the U.S. military said.

Captain Stefan Eder of KFOR said it was not clear yet whether the ethnic Albanians physically attacked the Russians in the village of Dobrcane, 12 kilometers east of Gnjilane.

"We do know a demonstration began in Dobrcane around 12:30 p.m. by about 500 ethnic Albanians who were carrying rocks and sticks and were protesting the Russian presence in the area," he said.

"The Russians had to be assisted by American troops and warning shots were fired. There were no casualties among soldiers or civilians and the crowd dispersed around 2 p.m."

Russian troops have been the target of numerous Kosovo Albanian protests and their posts have been shot at a number of times since their arrival. Ethnic Albanians despise Russians for their support of Yugoslav Serb authorities.

NATO agreed to have a Russian component in KFOR primarily to reassure minority Serbs who have faced violent retribution from ethnic Albanians since Belgrade's forces withdrew and peacekeepers arrived two months ago.

Private First Class William Patterson, a U.S. army spokesman reached by satellite telephone in the Gnjilane area, said up to 200 ethnic Albanians were rallying peacefully near stationed U.S. troops, but he denied reports that violence had occurred. "The Albanians have made no aggressive moves toward the troops," he said.

U.S. troops Tuesday seized small-caliber weapons, clubs and surplus military uniforms in a Gnjilane school and arrested 60 ethnic Albanians found there, some in the uniform of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Fifty were later freed.