Protesters block roads in Serbia to criticize mining plans

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Thousands of protesters have gathered to block roads and bridges in Belgrade and other Serbian towns and villages, despite police warnings and intimidation campaigns launched by the authorities against the participants.

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Belgrade, Serbia – Thousands of protesters in Belgrade and other Serbian cities on Saturday blocked main roads and bridges to stop a planned lithium mine, despite police warnings and an intimidation campaign launched by authorities against protesters. be given.

Whistling and “Revolt! Rebellion!” Protesters blocked traffic on the main highway passing through the Serbian capital. In Ni, the second largest city in the Balkan country, the main city road was blocked, as was the Danube River bridge in the northern city of Novi Sad.

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In Novi Sad, football hooligans threw stones and bottles at protesters, who retaliated by chasing them. A miscreant was badly beaten up.

Uniformed police were not seen during the two-hour-long protest.

It was the second such nationwide protest called by environmental groups amid growing public discontent with the autocratic regime of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Last Saturday, protesters clashed with police and were attacked with sticks and hammers by unidentified masked men in a town.

Environmental groups have criticized Vucic’s populist government for not combating widespread pollution in the Balkan nation. They are particularly against two laws passed by parliament which they see as laying the foundation for a lithium mining operation by Rio Tinto in western Serbia.

In a sign of defiance, Vucic ignored the protests on Saturday and traveled to the site where the international mining company plans to begin its excavations. His office said he wanted to talk to local people about the project.

“Our goal is to have decent conversations and not be under pressure from the streets,” Vucic told pro-government Pink TV, adding that police would not intervene against the protesters on Saturday.

Several protesters complained that police officers came to their homes and warned them that they could face legal consequences and fines if they took part in environmental rallies. Activist Daniela Vujovic from the southern city of Ni said police came to her home in the morning and warned her the protest was a “criminal act”.

“I don’t see how this is a criminal act,” Vujosevic told N1 regional television. Vujosevic’s daughter can be seen holding a small banner that read, “I am in the public interest!”

Police reiterated their warning on Saturday that the protests are illegal and that the organizers will face all consequences. They also released a special telephone number and an email address for anyone reporting “the violence caused by the blockade.”

Vucic and other Serbian officials condemned the protests and alleged that they were financed by the West to destabilize the country.

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writer Jovana Geec contributed.

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Follow all the stories about pollution and climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate.

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