Last week, demonstrations continued in the Balkans, Southeastern Europe, and Eastern Europe, with about half of demonstrations relating to coronavirus. In some cases, demonstrations appear to be fueled by disinformation. Notable developments were the reduction of anti-government protests in Serbia and the resurgence of Serbian Orthodox demonstrations in Montenegro.
In Croatia, owners and employees of transport companies continued to protest over not being able to work due to the coronavirus measures.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, thousands protested in several cities against a Catholic mass commemorating Nazi-allied troops and civilians executed at the end of World War Two (Balkan Insight, 16 May 2020).
In Serbia, several protests by opposition and government supporters were held after opposition and government-aligned MPs fell out and went on a hunger strike. The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MPs have since given up on the strike, but two members of the opposition right-wing Dveri Movement are still striking (Balkan Insight, 11 May 2020). Mass anti-government balcony protests during prior weeks subsided after coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
In Montenegro, demonstrations by Serbian Orthodox Christians over the controversial Religious Freedom Law that was introduced early 2020 resurged, despite public gatherings still being banned due to coronavirus. Demonstrators clashed with police after a bishop and several priests were arrested for leading processions and violating coronavirus measures (Balkan Insight, 14 May 2020; RFE/RL, 13 May 2020).
In Albania, labor protests continued with employees in the textile industry calling for additional government assistance despite being able to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
In Bulgaria, the nationalist Revival party organized a series of anti-government demonstrations, with some demonstrators rallying around disinformation involving conspiracy theories that blame Bill Gates, George Soros, and 5G mobile networks for the spread of the coronavirus (RFE/RL, 14 May 2020; Sega, 14 May 2020).
In Greece, demonstrations increased with large events held against the government’s education reforms and against the recording of classes, which would allow for remote attendance during the coronavirus pandemic (Avgi, 13 May 2020; MAKEDONIA, 13 May 2020). Demonstrations were also held over a smattering of coronavirus-related issues fueled by disinformation, including conspiracies linked to 5G mobile networks and vaccines. Demonstrators included members of nationalist and far-right groups, and were met by counter-demonstrations of anti-establishment groups (To Pontiki, 15 May 2020; ThessNews, 15 May 2020). In addition, members of a community in Larissa demonstrated after they were subjected to additional coronavirus restrictions due to a local spike in infections (The National Herald, 15 May 2020). Riots broke out at a migrant holding site near the Evros border after the pandemic caused weeks of delays in processing asylum claims (Ekathimerini, 12 May 2020).
In Cyprus, a small explosive targeting a Turkish Cypriot bakery in the bi-communal village of Pyla caused minor damage. Due to inter-communal tensions, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus is highly concerned over the incident and has stepped up patrols (Cyprus Mail, 12 May 2020). Turkish Cypriots protested at various locations in the North demanding to be allowed to commute to their employment in the South through crossing points that are still closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
In Belarus, the environmental protest in Brest continued with slogans demanding the release of protest leaders and the resignation of president Lukashenka. Four protesters were arrested (Viasna, 10 May 2020).
In Moldova, market workers protested in Chisinau and Balti for two days, demanding the opening of the markets despite coronavirus restrictions (Ziarul de Garda, 16 May 2020; Deschide, 15 May 2020). On 15 May, the state of emergency was replaced with a public health emergency and quarantine was lifted in most isolated localities, but many restrictions and recommendations remain in place (Moldova.org, 15 May 2020).
Protesters gathered in Bucharest, Romania, condemning the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and questioning information about the coronavirus (Agerpres, 16 May 2020). At least 100 people protested at the Nadlac checkpoint, complaining about the long waiting time at the Hungarian-Romanian border due to coronavirus measures (News.ro, 16 May 2020).
In Russia, medical workers staged protests at their workplaces, demanding to be paid the promised coronavirus-related emergency wage increases, which they claim failed to materialize despite President Vladimir Putin’s promises earlier this month (Interfax; 15 May 2020; Caucasian Knot; 16 May 2020; IRK.ru; 16 May 2020).
In Ukraine, entrepreneurs and public transport workers staged more than a dozen demonstrations against coronavirus lockdown measures (KyivPost, 14 May 2020).
The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine continued negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Parties discussed the next prisoner swap, disengagement at Zolote, and election conditions, but no major agreements were concluded (Unian, 15 May 2020). Meanwhile, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels continued at similar levels compared to the weeks prior, with 106 armed clashes and 146 shelling incidents resulting in two reported fatalities.
© 2020 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.