Police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who tried to storm Serbia’s parliament on Friday as protests against the country’s president continued.
Demonstrators – who were defying a ban on mass gatherings amid a spike in virus infections – threw bottles, rocks and flares at the police guarding the domed parliament building in central Belgrade.
Several people were arrested, and many reporters were injured, mainly in attacks by the demonstrators.
Some opposition leaders have said the violence was the work of far-right nationalist demonstrators controlled by the government – with an aim to discredit the peaceful protests that began in response to president Aleksandar Vucic’s efforts to reimpose lockdown restrictions against Covid-19.
But they have mushroomed into an expression of wider frustration with his hard-line rule.
Mr Vucic has denied that “hooligans” who were seen beating up the peaceful protesters earlier this week are under his control, claiming they were brought in by the opposition.
On Friday evening, he told pro-government Pink TV that all those who were attacking the “brave” policemen will be arrested.
“The masks have fallen,” Mr Vucic said, describing the protesters as a mix of tycoons and bullies “who want to take over power”.
The protests started on Tuesday when Mr Vucic announced that Belgrade would be placed under a new three-day lockdown following a second wave of confirmed coronavirus infections.
They have continued even though the president suspended his plans to enforce the lockdown.