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12/07/2020 | Serbia sees foreign spy services behind anti-lockdown rioters who stormed parliament

Joseph Fitsanakis

The president of Serbia has said that foreign intelligence services were partly behind a violent protest on Tuesday, which ended up with rioters storming the national parliament building in the capital Belgrade.

 

The protest began in the afternoon, apparently prompted by the government’s decision to reintroduce lockdown measures following a resurgence of COVID-19 incidents in the country. But by the evening the rally had evolved into a full-scale riot led by far-right militants, as well as by some far-left groups.

Nationwide lockdown measures to combat the novel coronavirus were lifted on May 6, as the Serbian government sought to limit the effects of the disease on the nation’s economy. However, the reopening of the country appears to have taken place too soon, as virus cases began to spike almost immediately. The situation was not helped by the failure of many people to follow social distancing advice and to wear facemasks. As of last week, hospitals around the country reported being more overwhelmed than in the first two months of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić addressed the nation and announced the re-imposition of a nationwide lockdown, starting on Friday, July 10, and ending on Monday, July 13. As soon as the president concluded his remarks, a seemingly spontaneous protest began taking shape in downtown Belgrade. News of the protest spread through messages on social media, as people sought to voice disapproval of President Vučić’s decision to re-impose a nationwide lockdown.

Although it began peacefully, the demonstration turned into a riot by nightfall, after it was joined by far-right groups. Many of the demonstrators began shouting slogans against immigrants, against Kosovo, and advocating a link between COVID-19 and 5G cellular networks. Then the rioters stormed past a row of riot police and entered the building of the national parliament. Some of the far-right demonstrators appeared to clash with far-left groups who were also present at the rally. The riot was aired live on many Serbian television stations. Police said over 60 people were injured and 30 were arrested.

On Wednesday, President Vučić addressed the nation again, claiming that Tuesday’s protest had been led by “pro-fascist organizations” and “criminal elements”. He also said that the intelligence services of “foreign powers” had helped promote the demonstration on social media. He did not specify the countries he was referring to. The Serbian president also said the demonstration aimed to weaken his government ahead of a crucial meeting on July 10 with his Kosovar counterpart, Avdullah Hoti , in Paris. Serbian nationalists are opposed to negotiations with Kosovo, which was part of Serbia until it seceded with Western backing in 2008.

The Serbian president concluded his address saying that the nation’s security services “will have to work in a significantly more serious way” than before to address the involvement in national politics by foreign spy agencies.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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