Protests have become the rage—or to put it more accurately—rage has turned into protests in Serbia, following two mass shootings within two days in early May that left 18 dead and scores injured.
Following the second shooting, an drive-by spree by 20-year-old U.B. that took place on May 4, Serbs turned out en masse to protest violence and the glorification of violence on television and in the media. Since that point mass protests have taken place on a weekly basis, despite the government and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claiming that opposition groups are attempting to co-opt the cause to their advantage.
While Vucic has made angry statements that he will not be controlled by “politics of the street,” the government has also placed police in schools, and in the case of the elementary school where the first shooting took place, enabled classes to be taken on-line. The government has also instituted a gun-amnesty program that has reclaimed more than 25,000 weapons.
Yet protests have continued, which as prompted Vucic to declare a protest of his own, with a pro-government “Serbia of Hope” rally/march scheduled today (May 26). At the same time, Vucic has hinted that his reign may come to an end by stepping away from the leadership of the Freedom Party—a party that he has dominated as leader for a decade—and noted that he could be democratically “removed” as president.
“It is necessary to collect the signatures of two-thirds of the people’s deputies,” Vucic told TV Pink, as cited by breakinglatest.news. “They don’t have it and I told them that I will help them with that, but then there is a referendum and if the people say that they are in favor of removing the president – I am removed. But if the people say that they’re not, then they’re in trouble.”
Meanwhile, an opposition protest, which will likely be larger, is scheduled for May 27. Also, Vucic has come under consistent pressure from the US and the EU with regard to aligning Serbia with the West—and imposing sanctions against Russia. A visit on Thursday by US senators to Belgrade was highlighted by pointed statements on the part of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who bluntly stated that there “is no future” with Russia.
“there is no future” in an alliance with Moscow.
“Russia’s invasion has been an absolute disaster and my belief is that Russia is ultimately going to lose this conflict,” Murphy said, as cited by ABC News.
Maybe, but the head of Serbian intelligence, Aleksandar Vulin, in fact journeyed to Moscow to take part in a “security conference” May 25 perhaps to send a message that Serbia will walk its own path.
This drew further criticism from Murphy, who met Vucic and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic together with fellow US Sen. Gary Peters on Wednesday (May 25).
Photo of Serbian head of the intelligence, Aleksandar Vulin by Medija centar Beograd, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.