Montenegrin police arrest dozens of pro-Serb protesters

 Police holding a defensive stance against protesters in Montenegro
 Montenegrin police have arrested dozens of people following several pro-Serb protesters in Podgorica and other cities.

The rallies were called by opposition officials, who support closer ties with Serbia and Russia.

The June 24 protests reflect the political tensions in Montenegro ahead of the August 30th parliamentary elections.

The protests erupted in the coastal city of Budva, where tensions have been high over a dispute between municipal authorities.

Police used tear gear on Friday, scattering hundreds of protesters and arrested 17 of them.

In the capital, Podgorica, police said 18 protesters had been arrested.

Authorities say dozens of other protesters were arrested in other parts of the country.

Tensions in Budva began on June 17, when President Marko Carevic, who is loyal to Montenegro's pro-Serbian opposition, refused to hand over power to the ruling coalition after losing control of a majority in the local assembly.

Earlier this year, the Serbian Orthodox Church held weeks of protests in Montenegro against a law on religion. The church leaders claimed that through that law they would lose their properties.

This law came into force in January. The law states that religious communities must prove their ownership before 1918 - the year Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and its church joined the Serbian Orthodox Church, losing all its property.

The Serbian Orthodox Church says the law aims to reclaim its property. Montenegrin officials have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Montenegro seceded from Serbia in a 2006 referendum. It has since distanced itself from Belgrade and its Orthodox ally Russia since then, taking a pro-Western foreign policy course and NATO membership in 2017.

Montenegro has also been negotiating steps towards European Union membership.

Serbian nationalists in Montenegro and Serbia have never fully recognized Serbia's secession from Montenegro, they claim it is a historic Serbian territory.
Montenegrin police arrest dozens of pro-Serb protesters Montenegrin police arrest dozens of pro-Serb protesters Thursday, June 25, 2020 Rating: 5
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