Eight police injured, 38 detained in Serb opposition protest over election

Eight police injured, 38 detained in Serb opposition protest over election
Eight police injured, 38 detained in Serb opposition protest over election

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Protesters throw rocks to police officers that guard the door of the city hall during a protest by supporters of the opposition 'Serbia Against Violence' (SPN), after the SPN alleged major election law violations in the Belgrade city and parliament races, in Belgrade, Serbia, December 24, 2023. — Reuters pic

BELGRADE, Dec 25 — Eight policemen were injured and 38 people detained during and after an opposition protest over election results, Serbia's police said today.

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Thousands gathered in the centre of Belgrade on Sunday to demand the annulment of parliamentary and local elections a week ago that international observers said were unfair.

The protesters broke windows and glass at the main entrance of the town hall, before police used pepper spray to disperse them around 10pm (5am Malaysian time).

Ivica Ivkovic, head of the police administration, said two of the eight wounded policemen sustained serious injuries.

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"We will continue to work to maintain peace and order and we expect to see more arrests in relations with protests last night," Ivkovic told a news conference.

Serbia's ally Russia said foreign-backed forces were trying to foment trouble.

"There are processes and attempts by third forces, including from abroad, to provoke such unrest in Belgrade," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "We have no doubt that the leadership of the republic will ensure the rule of law."

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The opposition parties accused police of excessive force, and some social networks showed footage of policemen beating up men in streets near the town hall.

Russian help

Outgoing Prime Minister Ana Brnabic thanked Russian secret service for providing information on planned activities by the opposition. "This (my statement) is not going to be popular in the West," Brnabic, of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), said on a TV show.

A European Union aspirant, Serbia has resisted pressure by Western countries to introduce sanctions against Russia.

Moscow has been one of Serbia's closest allies for decades, especially after 1999 when Russia opposed the Nato airstrikes against rump Yugoslavia which comprised Serbia and Montenegro.

An international monitoring mission last Monday said the SNS gained an unfair advantage through media bias, the improper influence of President Aleksandar Vucic and voting irregularities such as vote buying.

Serbian authorities deny any irregularities.

The opposition led by the centre-left alliance Serbia Against Violence said the protests will continue today, with students planning to block traffic.

The populist ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won 46.72 per cent of the votes in last weekend's snap parliamentary election, according to state election commission preliminary results.

Serbia Against Violence came second in the election with 23.56 per cent of the vote, and the Socialist Party of Serbia third with 6.56 per cent. — Reuters

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