Last week, demonstration activity throughout the Balkans, Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia remained low due to coronavirus measures banning public gatherings. Despite the bans, a handful of demonstrations were held, primarily over coronavirus-related issues.
In Kosovo, villagers of Podujeva protested against the quarantine of the entire town. In Greece, Romani Christian Orthodox protesters rallied against the closure of churches. In Romania, healthcare workers in Botosani demonstrated over lack of equipment to handle the coronavirus patients transferred to them. In Ukraine, medics demonstrated for increased hazard pay and protests were held by people forced to quarantine in hotels.
Kosovo lifted the 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia, which had caused diplomatic tensions since November 2018 and were the biggest obstacle in continuing the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. Serbia called the decision “fake news”, claiming the policy of reciprocity that Kosovo plans to introduce is essentially even worse (RFE/RL, 1 April 2020).
Meanwhile, the government of Serbia was criticized after it limited the source of information on the coronavirus to the crisis headquarters and arrested a journalist for reporting on hospital conditions. The decision was later retracted a few days later after public backlash (Balkan Insight, 2 April 2020).
That same week, Twitter shut down over 8000 accounts, reportedly ran by activists of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) as well as state employees, for promoting the SNS and President Vucic, and violating the social network’s policy on manipulation and spam (Balkan Insight, 2 April 2020).
In Russia, authorities imposed new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in most of the Russian regions (Meduza, 30 March 2020), limiting public gatherings and travel, causing a significant reduction in demonstration events. Protest movements opted to cancel planned events, or the authorities cancelled events by revoking protest-authorizations. The few protests that did go ahead, for example on the constitutional amendments allowing President Putin to remain in power after 2024, all took the form of coordinated one-person protests but were still dispersed by police (RFE/RL, 3 April 2020; 7×7, 3 April 2020).
In Ukraine, members of Traditions and Order and National Corps demonstrated over the signing of a land market liberalization bill that they had demonstrated against since late 2019 (RFE/RL, 4 April 2020). In the Donbass region, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels sprung back up, after dropping by one-third in the week prior, with 127 armed clashes and 188 shelling incidents resulting in three reported fatalities.
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