Serb Demonstrators Attack US and Croatian Embassies in Belgrade

The Washington Post reports that following a massive (upwards of 150,000 participants) and peaceful demonstration in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, with the theme “Kosovo is Serbia”, a group numbering a few thousand at most has attacked the US and (neighboring) Croatian embassies, setting the US embassy on fire. The demonstrations were held in the aftermath of Albanian Kosovars’ official declaration of independence on Monday. The US is one of many countries to have officially recognized Kosovo as the newest ex-Yugoslav independent state, setting off a public and official outcry on the part of Serbs, for whom Kosovo is the historical birthplace of their nation.

Politicians in Belgrade are caught between their rhetoric to do what it takes (short of violence) to prevent Kosovo from achieving full-fledged independence and the lack of many good non-violent options to do so, given the Serb leadership’s openly declared goal of one day joining the European Union. One possibility would be to energize (or otherwise entice) the Serbs in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina to agitate for higher levels of autonomy, or outright independence, stressing the similarities of the situations. This would certainly raise the ire of European leaders and would not earn the Serbs any bonus points in their quest for further integration into European political and economic institutions.

Here is footage from the Belgrade independent media outlet B92:

From the “About Video” (translated by me): Beograd — Stotine nasilnih demonstranata nakon završetka mitinga napalo američku i hrvatsku ambasadu. U 19:13 intervenisala policija.

“Upon the conclusion of the [official] demonstration, undreds of violent demonstrators attacked the American and Croatian embassies. The police intervened at 7:13 pm.”

You can find a gallery of photographs from the day in Belgrade at B92’s website here.

Serbian Reactions to Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence

Serbia’s B92–an independent news source in Serbia–reports that protesters have ransacked the Slovenian embassy in Belgrade, and damaged the U.S. Embassy and a McDonald’s. The protesters view the U.S. as the major patron of the Kosovar Albanians and the major facilitator (with help from the E.U.) of today’s declaration of independence. I presume that the Slovenian embassy was attacked because Slovenia is the current holder of the rotating Presidency of the EU. Here’s part of the report (in English), along with footage of the protesters:

BELGRADE — At least 30 policemen and 30 civilians were injured as protesters demonstrated against U.S. and EU Kosovo policy.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse rioters that attacked them after vandalizing a McDonald’s restaurant in downtown Belgrade.

Earlier, the Slovenian embassy came under attack when a group of some 30 people broke a police cordon to smash the windows and ransack the building, tearing and burning the furniture inside and flags displayed on the balcony. Police then managed to contain the situation and push them back.

Previuosly, the protesters, several hundred strong, shortly stopped in front of the Serbian government headquarters, to proceed toward the U.S. embassy.

Police were out to secure the parameter, but although the organizers said the protest would be peaceful, cars were being demolished, while stones and lit flares were flying toward the embassy building and the officers themselves.