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Thousands rally in support of Serbian president

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A supporter of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic holds a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin in front of the National Assembly building during his “Future of Serbia” campaign rally in Belgrade on April 19, 2019. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)

Tens of thousands of supporters of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday rallied in Belgrade, in a show of force after months of opposition demonstrations.

Vucic, once an ultranationalist and close ally of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, has become a staunch pro-European liberal who hopes to bring Serbia into the EU.

Marchers, who waved signs with slogans such as “support to Vucic” and “Kosovo loves you” came from all over Serbia as well as from Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, North Macedonia and Montenegro.

Media outlets close to the government put the crowd at more than 100,000; independent media did not make any estimates.

Weekly protests by the opposition began in December against what critics describe as Vucic’s slide towards autocratic rule.

On Sunday, thousands rallied around the presidential palace in Belgrade accusing him of authoritarianism and muzzling the media. Vucic has rejected the claims.

Although it has EU aspirations, Serbia was criticised by the European Commission last year over press freedom with concerns over threats, intimidation and violence against journalists.


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