Frustration mounts as toxic smog shrouds the Balkans | AFP

Winter brings its annual toxic smog to the Balkans, where the pollution is fuelled in large part by the coal and wood fires that many poorer residents rely on for heating. In recent weeks, Balkan capitals including Belgrade, Sarajevo, Skopje and Pristina have been ranked among the world’s top 10 most polluted major cities, according to the monitoring application AirVisual. There have been a spate of protests in cities around the region as citizens demand clean air and from governments that have been slow to react to the crisis.

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New bust of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright unveiled in Pristina | AFP

A new bust of former US Secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, is unveiled in Pristina, with Albright and former US President Bill Clinton attending, as Kosovo thanks the West for the NATO intervention 20 years ago that ended its separatist war with Serbia and cleared a path for independence. IMAGES

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Kosovo asserts statehood with vote to create army

Kosovo’s parliament passes laws to build an army, asserting its statehood in a move that has angered Serbia, who does not recognise the former province’s independence. In the capital Pristina, Kosovo Albanians celebrate the new pillar of statehood, which President Hashim Thaci hailed as “historic”.

Gay activists seek ‘freedom’ at Kosovo pride parade

Hundreds of people take part in a gay parade in Pristina, demanding “freedom” and “equal rights” in patriarchal and Muslim majority Kosovo. Waving rainbow flags and banners bearing the motto of the parade “In the Name of Freedom”, they march through Pristina’s main street, saying they are “walking for those who can not join us”.

Kosovo Serb politician killed in drive-by shooting

Prominent Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was shot dead in a brazen drive-by shooting on Tuesday that risked fanning ethnic tensions in the volatile region. The killers struck on the very day that Belgrade and Pristina resumed EU-moderated talks on normalising ties after a hiatus of more than a year.