Violence Erupts in Montenegro After the Country’s Recognition of Kosovo

Podgorica, Montenegro Thirty four people have sustained injuries after riots broke out in the Montenegrin capital city of Podgorica. Opposition supporters gathered to protest against Montenegro’s recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state. Thousands carried Serbian flags of various shapes and forms and banners proclaiming “KOSOVO IS SERBIA,” “MONTENEGRO IS ALWAYS WITH SERBIA,” “TRAITORS,” “HONOR IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVERYTHING.” His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral (of the Serbian Orthodox Church) said that the day Montenegro recognized Kosovo was “the darkest day in Montenegro’s history.” The rally was peaceful but loud, for the most part.

But just when it was about to end, a group of younger demonstrators threw torches and rocks at police, who were in full riot gear and who responded to the demonstrators with tear gas. This sparked a confrontation between several hundred demonstrators and the police. The demonstrators at one point managed to break through the security fences close to the Parliament. The police heavily protected the Parliament, Government and Presidency buildings, quickly dispersed the crowds and are still present in Podgorica’s downtown area in substantial numbers, although the situation has calmed down.

Opposition has given the Montenegrin Government a deadline of Wednesday, October 15 to cancel its recognition of Kosovo, or else. It has also called for a referendum on this issue, as a majority of Montenegrin people are against the recognition of Kosovo. The opposition has also called for extraordinary parliamentary elections. The Government has blamed the opposition for the violence and has banned the next opposition rally planned for Thursday.

The situation in the smallest republic of the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro, with just about 600,000 inhabitants, has thus become even more complicated, as was anticipated. For centuries, Montenegro and Serbia lived in one state and in separate states, but had always maintained very close relations. Serbia expelled the Montenegrin ambassador the same day Montenegro recognized Kosovo, and now the large Serbian community in Montenegro is not willing to let this move go unchallenged.

For about 20 years, Milo Djukanovic, first a prominent ally of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and then his bitter opponent and a former Communist turned pro-democratic and pro-European, has governed Montenegro as if it were his own private despotic state. The Italian Court had several hearings regarding current Prime Minister Djukanovic’s involvement in cigarette smuggling, but it all quietened down when Djukanovic received immunity from prosecution due to his position in office. Many Serbs in Montenegro blame Djukanovic for doing everything he could to diminish the centuries-long ties of Montenegro with Serbia – by changing the flag and national anthem, almost banning the Cyrillic alphabet, changing the street names of medieval Serbian rulers, and turning toward Croatia instead of Serbia as Montenegro’s key ally in the Balkans.

Some say Djukanovic is simply a puppet of the West, unable or unwilling to do anything on his own. Serbian politicians are fully convinced that Montenegro recognized Kosovo just a day after Serbia won a major diplomatic battle at the UN, as an attempt to dilute the great diplomatic success Serbia had achieved. The Montenegrin Government has said that the recognition of Kosovo was done bearing in mind European integrations, although the EU itself has said recognition of Kosovo was not a pre-requisite for Montenegro’s advancement toward the EU. Serbia has said that Montenegro was pressured into doing the most shameful act in its entire history, and that the relationship between the two states will never, ever be the same again.

Ed. Note: A reader points out that the link below to a Reuters news article is not where a majority of the above text is taken. It occurs to me the original lead-in to the link (News Source) was misleading and I have therefore renamed it (Read More). Apologies.

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Reuters AlertNet

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