Serbia’s interior minister said on Wednesday the government would crack down on rising far-right groups trying to destabilize the Balkan country’s pro-Western government.
Sebian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told reporters that anti-gay rioters and the fans who disrupted a soccer match against Italy belong to the same extremist groups.
“Generally, those are extremist groups that existed for years and are registered in police files and their members have been arrested in the past,” Dacic said.
“They have various goals and are looking for various reasons for violence,” he said. “The state must react to protect public peace. Now, all depends on the judiciary.”
More than 150 people were hurt on Sunday in downtown Belgrade in running battles with police as thousands of far-right -demonstrators tried to disrupt a gay pride march by hurling firebombs and stun grenades at police.
Nearly 250 people were arrested after the riots, and 66 have been ordered to remain in custody for 30 days as a pretrial detention measure.
An Italy-Serbia European championship qualifier game was abandoned on Tuesday in Italy when Serbia fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch, burned a flag and broke barriers.
“The Serbs are experts at shooting themselves in the foot,” Dacic said. “The whole of Europe was watching what happened at the stadium yesterday.”
Serbia’s National Security Council, which is chaired by Serbian President Boris Tadic, was meeting on Tuesday to discuss measures to be taken after the riots.
The Serbian fan groups are known to be infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other extremists with a staunch anti-Western agenda. The rise of extremism in Serbia has been attributed to the economic crisis and a lack of jobs in the wake of the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
“Those groups have a number of supporters, but I’m sure their strength is not big enough to jeopardize the state order,” Dacic said.