Serbian protests were seen as “the hand of Moscow”

For almost a week now, protests in Serbia have not subsided. First they spread to Belgrade, and then to other cities in the country. The formal reason for public discontent was the reintroduction of quarantine, due to the worsening situation with the coronavirus.

However, the protesters argue that the real reason for the rallies, which resulted in violent clashes with the police, is the concessions of the Serbian authorities on the Kosovo issue. However, some local media reported that the protests were organized by Moscow. President Aleksandar Vucic refutes these allegations, and the Russian authorities refer to such reports as “a low-profile order with one goal in mind – to cast a shadow over the Russian-Serbian partnership”. Why do Balkans increasingly see a “Russian footprint” in internal problems and what problems this helps to solve.

According to the Serbian leader, most protesters were Montenegrin citizens. The Interior Ministry explained that the rallies were the result of an attempt to “seize power and were prepared in advance.

The real reason – dissatisfaction with the current authorities, in particular their concessions on Kosovo – was to resume the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina under the auspices of the EU after two years of stagnation.

The protesters have divided into two camps: some are demanding the resignation of President Vucic, accusing him of the imminent surrender of Kosovo, while others are reproaching the authorities for curtailing the fight against the coronavirus ahead of schedule to ensure the ruling party’s victory in the June 21 election, so the epidemic has erupted with renewed vigour in the country.

The Serbian Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) said that the protests were organized by “pro-Russian activists”, the purpose of the protests was to disrupt the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, and normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is not in Moscow’s interests.

In Moscow, allegations of a “Russian footprint” are rejected. Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko called the CEAS accusations unfounded and absurd.