Hundreds of Serbian nationalists have rallied in Belgrade, demanding that President Aleksandar Vucic reject a Western plan to normalise ties with breakaway Kosovo and pull out of negotiations. The protesters believe that the president should instead focus on strengthening Serbia’s ties with other countries in the region.
The right-wing protesters in Belgrade are worried that the conflict could continue to boil over and lead to an armed clash. They’re calling for an end to the fighting and accusing the government of betrayal.
The protesters are also strongly pro-Russian, and one banner read: “Betrayal of Kosovo is a betrayal of Russia!”
Serbian media reported that a group of protesters attempted to push through metal fences toward the entrance of a building at the end of a rally, but were prevented by riot police from reaching the door. The protest came amid efforts by US and European Union officials to mediate a solution for the long-standing dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, a former Serbian province whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognise. Serbia has relied on Russia and China in its refusal to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence, which is backed by Washington and most EU countries.
Western officials fear Russia could use simmering tensions in Kosovo to try to destabilise the Balkans and avert some attention from the invasion of Ukraine.
A NATO-led international peacekeeping force remains in Kosovo.