Demonstrators arrange blockades on most important roads forward of deliberate inauguration of latest head of Serbian Orthodox Church.
Protesters have clashed with riot police within the outdated capital of Montenegro, establishing blockades earlier than the inauguration of a brand new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church within the small Balkan nation.
The ceremony deliberate for Sunday in Cetinje has angered opponents of the Serbian church in Montenegro, which declared independence from neighbouring Serbia in 2006. Since then, pro-independence Montenegrins have advocated for a recognised Orthodox Christian church that’s separate from the Serbian one.
For protesters, the upcoming inauguration of Metropolitan Joanikije is considered as creeping Serbian affect – an try by Serbia to occupy the small Adriatic nation or pull it into the so-called “Serb world”.
On Saturday, tons of of protesters confronted the police in Cetinje and briefly eliminated a few of the protecting metallic fences across the monastery the place the inauguration is meant to happen.
Montenegrin state RTCG TV mentioned the protesters broke by means of a police blockade on the entrance to Cetinje and threw stones at them, shouting “That is Montenegro!” and “This isn’t Serbia!”
Waving pink Montenegrin flags with a double-headed eagle, protesters then arrange street boundaries with garbage containers, automotive tyres and enormous rocks to forestall church and state dignitaries from coming to the inauguration.
Al Jazeera’s Milica Marinovic, reporting from Cetinje, mentioned protesters close to a roundabout focused the police with rocks and bottles, with the officers responding by throwing “some chemical substances, maybe tear fuel or pepper spray”.
“They [protesters] don’t plan on leaving … [On the blocked road] resulting in Podgorica, protesters requested the ladies to face as a human wall in entrance of the barricades of tyres for so long as doable,” Marinovic mentioned.
Montenegrins stay deeply divided over their nation’s ties with Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is the nation’s dominant non secular establishment. Some 30 p.c of Montenegro’s 620,000 folks contemplate themselves Serb.
Regardless of calls comprised of the mayor of Cetinje in addition to opposition events to the federal government and church to cancel the inauguration because of the deteriorating safety scenario, the church says it is going to go forward with the inauguration on Sunday morning at 8am on the Cetinje monastery, Marinovic mentioned.
Montenegrin authorities have urged calm in the course of the weekend ceremonies, which begin with the arrival on Saturday night of the top of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.
Porfirije is about to attend the inauguration of Joanikije, whose predecessor because the church’s chief in Montenegro, Amfilohije, died in October after contracting COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Montenegro’s Minister of Inside Affairs Sergej Sekulovic mentioned that whereas he would attempt every part he might for the inauguration to proceed peacefully, the police couldn’t assure that they’d be capable to present absolute safety in Cetinje for residents.
The Serbian Orthodox Church performed a key position in demonstrations final yr that helped topple a long-ruling pro-Western authorities in Montenegro. The brand new authorities now consists of staunchly pro-Serb and pro-Russian events.
Montenegro’s earlier authorities led the nation to independence from Serbia and defied Russia to hitch NATO in 2017. Montenegro is also in search of to change into a European Union member.