5 held for alleged violent bid to overthrow Serbian leader

Feb 15, 2023, 3:45 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2023, 6:23 am
People hold a Serbian flag reading "Kosovo" during a protest against the Serbian authorities and Fr...

People hold a Serbian flag reading "Kosovo" during a protest against the Serbian authorities and French-German plan for the resolution of Kosovo, in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. Hundreds of pro-Russia nationalists have rallied outside the Serbian presidency building demanding that President Aleksandar Vucic reject a Western plan for normalization of ties with breakaway Kosovo and pull out of negotiations. Shouting “Treason” and carrying banners reading “No surrender,” the protesters on Wednesday blocked traffic in a busy street by the presidency. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s police on Thursday arrested five people on suspicion of calling for the violent overthrow of the Balkan country’s president during a protest a day earlier, and of arms possession.

The arrested men, some with alleged links to Russia’s private military Wagner Group, took part in a protest on Wednesday evening of far-right, pro-Russian groups demanding that populist President Aleksandar Vucic rejects a Western plan on normalizing ties with Serbia’s breakaway Kosovo province.

The protesters gathered in front of the presidency building in downtown Belgrade, carrying banners that read “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia,” “No surrender,” and “Betrayal of Kosovo is betrayal of Russia!”

They blocked traffic and at one point tore down a metal fence in front of the presidency shouting: “Where is Vucic?” Some hurled eggs at the building.

Serbian officials were quick to denounce the protest, claiming it was an attempted coup against the president and the government.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that the five men were arrested on suspicion of calling “for the violent overthrow of the Government and the President of Serbia, as well as the possession of weapons and explosive materials.”

Vucic late Wednesday accused the protesters of being anti-Serbian and receiving funding and support from “a foreign country,” apparently referring to Russia.

“Do you really think it’s possible, you think there won’t be an answer to that? The state will react very efficiently, very quickly, very seriously and very responsibly,” he said.

The Russian ambassador to Serbia, Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, reacted tweeting that “Russia is determined to continue all-round cooperation with friendly Serbia and does not interfere in Serbia’s internal affairs.”

“We strongly condemn the threats sent from the gathering that took place last night near the Presidency of Serbia,” he added.

The protest come amid efforts by U.S. and European Union officials to mediate a solution for the long-standing dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, a former Serbian province whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize.

Serbia has relied on its traditional Slavic ally Russia, as well as China, in its refusal to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence, which is backed by Washington and most EU countries. Western officials fear Russia could use simmering tensions in Kosovo to try to destabilize the Balkans and avert some attention from the invasion of Ukraine.

Vucic has said he is ready to consider the Western plan. Its provisions have not been published but it reportedly stipulates that Serbia would not object to Kosovo’s membership in international institutions, including the United Nations, while Serbia would get a faster track toward the EU membership.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
23 hours ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
23 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
2 days ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
2 days ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
2 days ago
South Carolina Senators hear from the parents of people who died from fentanyl overdose on Jan. 19,...
Associated Press

With overdoses up, states look at harsher fentanyl penalties

State lawmakers nationwide are responding to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history by pushing harsher penalties for possessing fentanyl and other powerful lab-made opioids that are connected to about 70,000 deaths a year.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
5 held for alleged violent bid to overthrow Serbian leader