Dozens of prisoners after pro-Serb protests in Montenegro

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PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) – The Montenegrin police arrested dozens of people after seven officers were injured in clashes with pro-Serb opposition protesters in various cities.

Police say two opposition lawmakers are among the prisoners following protests in late Wednesday in the capital Podgorica and other cities.

The incidents reflect mounting political tensions in the small Balkan nation pending a parliamentary election due to take place on August 30. The main opposition parties in the country of 620,000 people are seeking closer ties with Serbia and Russia.

The demonstrations on Wednesday broke out in the coastal town of Budva, where tension has been high for days after a dispute between municipal authorities. Police in Budva used tear gas to expel protesters and detain 17 people.

Later in the day, hundreds gathered in other cities and started throwing stones, bottles and other objects at the police. At least 50 people were detained in different locations, police said.

In Budva, opposition parties have refused to hand over power after the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists obtained the majority in the local assembly.

Tensions in Montenegro have also escalated in recent months due to a religious property law opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Thousands have protested against a law that the Church says allows the state to take away his property. The government has denied that the law does this.

Montenegro split from much larger Serbia after a referendum in 2006. Montenegro has joined NATO since 2017 due to Russia’s strong opposition and intends to subsequently enter the European Union.

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