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Dozens of police and protesters have been hurt in riots that broke out outside the National Assembly in the Serbian capital Belgrade. The protests began peacefully on Tuesday evening and included students and families, angered by a move to re-impose a weekend curfew because of a rise in coronavirus infections. Protesters broke into the assembly, prompting police to intervene. Clashes erupted and police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. Far-right nationalists have been blamed for stirring up the unrest and storming the assembly building. Serbian media said they included an MP who has pushed anti-vaccine and anti-5G conspiracy theories.

Serbian President Alexander Vucic on Wednesday condemned what he described as the most brutal political violence for years and appealed for the protests to end, citing the risk of increased infection. On Wednesday evening police again clashed with protesters, firing teargas as bottles, stones and flares were thrown from the crowd. Serbia saw its deadliest day so far in the pandemic on Tuesday. President Vucic announced in a televised address that there had been 13 further deaths and people were on ventilators, with 4, people being treated in hospital. The situation was most alarming in Belgrade, he said, before imposing a ban on gatherings of more than five people from Wednesday, with a curfew in force from local time GMT on Friday until on Monday morning.

Mr Vucic said on Tuesday the curfew would apply only to the capital, but he was keen for it to be extended nationally. However, in a that situation was being reassessed on Wednesday, Serbia's chief epidemiologist, Predrag Kon, said later that Belgrade was improving and a lockdown in the city was "unlikely". In a further TV address on Wednesday, President Vucic said a curfew would probably not be imposed on the capital, but stricter measures would be announced. A decision will now be taken by the Covid crisis response team Women looking for bbc Serbia Thursday.

Serbia has seen a dramatic rise in cases and authorities have announced a state of emergency in several towns and cities. Opponents accuse the president of lifting the lockdown far too early, in May, allowing football matches with spectators and few limitations on movement ahead of elections on 21 June that Mr Vucic's party won by a landslide.

Critics also accuse the government of not giving the true of deaths during the initial weeks of the pandemic. Serbian authorities say there have been deaths and 17, cases. Some new infections are being reported daily.

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Some restrictions were brought back last week in areas where the virus is most prevalent. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was booed when she visited Novi Pazar, one of the cities worst hit by the new outbreak.

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The protests against a fresh curfew began with a mixture of locals, including students and members of the "Don't let Belgrade drown" citizen movement, which described the gathering as spontaneous. Many of them observed social distancing although not everyone wore masks. Scuffles broke out between police and protesters later in the evening and shortly after local time GMTa large group entered the assembly building, reportedly involving ultra-nationalists and anti-vaccine campaigner Srdjan Nogo.

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Crowds could be heard chanting "Serbia has risen". After about 15 minutes, police managed to clear the assembly building, but clashes continued outside. Rocks were thrown, police used tear gas and protesters set police cars alight. Authorities said 43 police were among those wounded. Rights groups called for an investigation after video showed protesters being kicked and beaten by police with truncheons. Small-scale protests are common in Belgrade.

An atomised political opposition, and more recently an election boycott, means disgruntled citizens have to take to the streets to make their voices heard. But the protests don't normally feature police swinging batons and firing tear gas while protesters hurl stones and set light to police vehicles. The scenes reflect a sour mood in Serbia's capital triggered by Mr Vucic's warning of a weekend lockdown.

Some protesters expressed anger at the government's rapid removal of restrictions to allow last month's parliamentary election to go ahead.

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Tens of thousands attended football matches and nightclubs reopened, alling that normal life had d. The SNS gained the massive majority they wanted, but the Covid infection rate has been rising ever since. Authorities have placed barricades around the National Assembly to prevent a repeat on Wednesday evening.

President Vucic on Wednesday described the attack on parliament as an illegal, aggressive protest that had more to do with extreme right-wing politics than Covid He said another 11 people had died of the virus in the past 24 hours.

In a separate development, neighbouring Romania said on Wednesday that it had seen a record of cases in the past 24 hours. Romania has had more than 30, infections but only once, in April, has it seen more than cases in a day. Clashes at Serbian parliament protests. How is lockdown being lifted across Europe? Why the protests began. Greece bars Serbian visitors as Balkans cases rise How is lockdown being lifted across Europe? Austria issues Covid warning for six Balkan states.

What happened outside parliament. A sour mood in Belgrade. Related Topics. Serbia Coronavirus lockdown measures Self-isolation Belgrade.

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More on this story. Published 8 July Published 2 July

Women looking for bbc Serbia

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