Russia said on Monday, Dec. 25, foreign-backed forces were trying to foment trouble in Serbia, where protests continue for a second week after an election earlier this month that international monitors said was unfair.

“There are processes and attempts by third forces, including from abroad, to provoke such unrest in Belgrade,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We have no doubt that the leadership of the republic will ensure the rule of law.

Several thousand people gathered in front of the central election commission building in Belgrade on Monday. The protesters marched to the main police station where they believed those detained by police were being held.

Earlier in the day, police said 38 people had been detained during and after an opposition protest over election results on Sunday. The police said eight policemen were injured in clashes.

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Protesters on Sunday broke windows and glass at the main entrance of the town hall, before police used pepper spray to disperse them around 10 p.m. (2100 GMT).

Serbian opposition demonstrators broke windows at Belgrade’s town hall Sunday, during protests over alleged electoral fraud, and police responded with pepper spray, an AFP reporter saw.

Ivica Ivković, head of the police administration, said two of the eight wounded policemen sustained serious injuries.

“We will continue to work to maintain peace and order and we expect to see more arrests in relation to protests last night,” Ivković told a news conference.

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The opposition parties accused police of excessive force, and some social networks showed footage of policemen beating up men in streets near the town hall.

Russian help

Outgoing Prime Minister Ana Brnabić thanked the Russian secret service for providing information on planned activities by the opposition. “This (my statement) is not going to be popular in the West,” Brnabić, of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), said on Serbian television.

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A European Union candidate, Serbia has resisted pressure by Western countries to introduce sanctions against Russia.

Moscow has been one of Serbia’s closest allies for decades, especially after 1999 when Russia opposed the NATO airstrikes against rump Yugoslavia that comprised Serbia and Montenegro.

An international monitoring mission last Monday said the SNS gained an unfair advantage through media bias, the improper influence of President Aleksandar Vučić and voting irregularities such as vote buying.

Serbian authorities deny any irregularities.

Vučić on Dec. 21 accused an “important country” of interfering in the country’s elections, following a torrent of international condemnation of alleged irregularities during the weekend’s contest.

The populist ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won 46.72% of the votes in the Dec. 17 snap parliamentary election, according to state election commission preliminary results.

Serbia Against Violence came second in the election with 23.56% of the vote, and the Socialist Party of Serbia third with 6.56%.

Germany on Dec. 18 condemned reported irregularities in Serbian elections as “unacceptable” for a candidate to join the European Union.

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