Serbian police arrest 71 protesters, including Brit, as mayhem over Covid-19 restrictions continues
Police in Serbia have arrested dozens of people, including a Briton and a Tunisian, as crowds of protesters pelted stones at cops in Belgrade. Serbia’s government and police have accused “foreign factors” of instigating unrest.
The Serbian capital was consumed by unrest for the fourth night in a row on Friday, in what President Aleksandar Vucic described as “pure terrorism.” Crowds chucked flares at parliament and hurled stones at the lines of riot police outside the building.
71 people were arrested on Friday night, police director Vladimir Rebic said at a press conference on Saturday, per AFP.
“Among those arrested are many foreign nationals from Bosnia, Montenegro but also from Great Britain and Tunisia,” Rebic added. Local reports indicate that the Briton is 24 years old and the Tunisian is 54.
Rebic displayed the men’s passports at the press conference, holding them up as an example of the “foreign factors” supposedly influencing the protests.
“Serbia welcomed them hoping that they would come to have a good time with us, but they came to destroy and attack the police,” he said.
The protests are a multifaceted affair, and kicked off on Tuesday when Vucic announced the return of strict lockdown measures, in a bid to clamp down on the country’s rising rate of coronavirus infections. Vucic brought in the lockdown immediately before departing for Paris, where he met with French and German leaders to discuss negotiations with the breakaway province of Kosovo.
Nationalists accused him of conspiring with the West to recognize Kosovo, and their presence on the streets was soon met with a cohort of pro-western protesters, who shouted down anyone waving the Serbian flag or chanting nationalist slogans.
Vucic had earlier accused foreign actors of stoking the violence, and blamed “all kinds of interference from foreign security services.” Serbia’s defense minister called the protests and riots a “coup attempt,” aimed at provoking “a civil war in Serbia.”
Some 14 police officers were injured in Friday night’s clashes, bringing the total number of injured cops to 130 since Tuesday, Rebic said. The police chief did not say how many protesters were hurt.
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