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World Again riots at corona protest in Belgrade

10:57  09 july  2020
10:57  09 july  2020 Source:   dw.com

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Opponents of new corona restrictions don't give up. Thousands of citizens protested again in Belgrade and other Serbian cities. Even the President's signal to relax did nothing to change that.

Demonstranten und Polizisten stoßen vor dem Parlamentsgebäude zusammen © Getty Images / AFP / A. Isakovic Protesters and police clash in front of parliament building

On the second day in a row, protests in Belgrade against government corona crisis management led to riots. The police again used tear gas and clubs in the evening in the Serbian capital against demonstrators who threw stones and fireworks at the officers. Mounted police were also used. Strong police units cordoned off the center in Belgrade. The protests abated around midnight, and the crowds gradually dissolved, according to media reports.

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Ten police officers were injured in the riots, as Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said. No official information was initially available on possible injuries among the demonstrators. Opposition politician Bosko Obradovic told N1 that he was beaten by the police. Serbian television reported that camera teams were attacked by demonstrators during the protests in Novi Sad and Nis. The protests, which have been going on for days, are directed against planned drastic measures to curb the renewed flare-up of the corona pandemic in Serbia.

Neue Ausschreitungen vor dem Parlament in Belgrad © Getty Images / AFP / A. Isakovic New riots in front of the parliament in Belgrade

Vucic seems to be giving in

Shortly before, President Aleksandar Vucic had announced the waiver of an announced curfew. "There will certainly be new measures for Belgrade, but no police hour," he said. The government's crisis team will announce the details this Thursday. Vucic had announced on Tuesday that the government would impose a curfew that would last from Friday evening to Monday morning due to the recent sharp increase in the number of coronavirus infections.

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  Demonstrators storm Serbian parliament in protest over lockdown Demonstrators storm Serbian parliament in protest over lockdownSerbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday evening that stricter measures including the lockdown of Belgrade over the weekend would be introduced because of the rising number of coronavirus infections.

During the Corona State of Emergency from mid-March to early May, the government had used extensive curfews to combat the spread of the pandemic. The number of infections decreased significantly. But for a good two weeks now, around 300 people have been infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus every day. The capital Belgrade is particularly affected. Vucic said Tuesday that the hospitals in Belgrade were already full of patients.

Aleksandar Vucic feiert den Wahlsieg seiner Partei am 21. Juni © Reuters / M. Djurica Aleksandar Vucic celebrates his party's election victory on June 21

Record number of deaths

The number of new corona pandemic deaths in the Balkans has recently reached a record high. On Tuesday, the authorities recorded 13 deaths within 24 hours - more than ever since the spread of the novel virus in Serbia. Since the beginning of March, almost 17,000 corona infections and 330 deaths have been counted in the country. Critics doubt this information, however, and accuse the government of disguising the actual scale of the pandemic.

23 Arrests after Corona Protest in Belgrade

 23 Arrests after Corona Protest in Belgrade Around 100 troublemakers had mixed up with thousands of peaceful demonstrators in the Serbian capital. Then the situation escalated. This was triggered by new conditions in the fight against the corona virus. © Reuters / D. Kojadinovic Protesters set fire to Bengali fire in Belgrade After riots in the Serbian capital Belgrade, the police report 23 arrests. 43 officials and 17 rally participants were injured in clashes.

Vucic called the demonstrators "fascists". In addition, there is suspicion of "interference by foreign secret services," said the president, without giving any details. The opposition accuses Vucic of an increasingly autocratic leadership style. The parliamentary elections on June 21, from which his progressive party SNS emerged as the clear winner, had been boycotted by several parties.

Thousands of people had gathered for the demonstration in front of the parliament in Belgrade, just like the previous evening. The opposition alliance Alliance for Serbia, which was also behind the boycott of the election, had called for the protest. The demonstration was initially peaceful. Violent confrontations with the police occurred after a large part of the demonstrators had already left the rally.

Tausende versammeln sich zur Kundgebung vor dem Parlament in Belgrad © Getty Images / AFP / A. Isacovic Thousands gather for the rally in front of the parliament in Belgrade

Vucic resigns

The demonstrators demand the President's resignation. Many critics accuse Vucic of loosening the corona restrictions too quickly with a view to the parliamentary elections and thus promoting a second wave of infections. "The government has only its own interests in mind," said 53-year-old protester Jelina Jankovic. Her colleague Danijela Ognjenovic said that people were fed up with "tweaked" Corona statistics and were "very angry".

At least 60 people, including 43 police officers, had been injured in police demonstrations on Tuesday, police said. 20 people were arrested. The opposition accused the police of excessive force. The N1 broadcaster released recordings showing police officers beating three men peacefully on a bench with batons. Council of Europe human rights officer Dunja Mijatovic criticized the "violent displacement" of demonstrators and was "seriously concerned" about possible human rights violations.

Vucic admitted failure of individual police officers. You would be held responsible, he announced. Serbian police chief Vladimir Rebic rejected the allegations of excessive police violence and said that the officers only used violence "if it was used against us".

kle / gri (afp, dpa, rtr)

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