Hundreds March in Belgrade in Anti-Authorities Protest | Voice of America
BELGRADE – Thousands of protesters marching in Belgrade to mark the anniversary of the murder of a Kosovar Serb leader on Wednesday accused authorities of covering up the perpetrators of the unsolved murder.
The march, the seventh such anti-government protest since December 8, took place on the eve of a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, an event designed to increase the popularity of President Aleksandar Vucic, who also heads the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS)) .
Demonstrators brought together by the Alliance for Serbia, a loose group of 30 opposition parties and organizations, marched in silence that evening in honor of Oliver Ivanovic, who was shot a year ago in the Kosovar city of Mitrovica.
“This is not just about Oliver, who was a man of peace, but also about the climate of fear-mongering. This is due to a regime that intimidates its own citizens,” said 23-year-old Nenad Nikolic. old student.
The 64-year-old Ivanovic was shot dead on January 16 when he arrived at his party office in Mitrovica, a city bitterly divided between the ethnic-majority Albanians of Kosovo and the nationalist minority heirs who dominate the northern region around Mitrovica.
During the 1998-99 guerrilla uprising in Kosovo against repressive Serbian rule, he was tried again for the murder of ethnic Albanians. Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008 and Ivanovic was later known as relatively moderate for advocating dialogue and compromise with the Kosovar Albanians.
Ivanovic also became one of the key interlocutors for NATO, UN and EU officials based in Kosovo in order to lead him to a stable democracy and rule of law.
“This is a symbolic day because we not only mark the murder of a great man, but also a year of cover-up by the state and Pristina,” said 59-year-old Stana Ilic. “I hope this murder will be solved once Vucic and his gang are replaced,” she said.
Three Serbs were arrested in connection with the November 2018 murder when a special police unit dispatched by the Kosovar Albanian government to Pristina carried out an attack on the Serbian-dominated north side of Mitrovica. They still need to be charged.
On Wednesday, protesters marched to the largest Orthodox church in Serbia, Saint Sava Church, which Putin will visit. Tens of thousands of SNS supporters are expected to come to church on Thursday to greet the Russian leader.
Since taking power in 2012, Vucic has struck a delicate balancing act between Serbia’s goal of joining the European Union and maintaining close ties with Orthodox Russia. Vucic and his coalition have a majority of 160 MPs in the 250-seat parliament, but protests could shake their popularity.
“There is dissatisfaction, it is a matter of time whether there is a more sustainable risk for the government,” Florian Bieber, Balkans expert at the University of Graz, told Reuters.