Police dispersed hundreds of demonstrators gathered in historic city of Cetinje to block inauguration of new head of Serbian Orthodox Church in the tiny Balkans nation.

A man walks past burning tyres s at a barricade set up to block access roads to the historic city of Cetinje on September 5, 2021 in Montenegro.
A man walks past burning tyres s at a barricade set up to block access roads to the historic city of Cetinje on September 5, 2021 in Montenegro. (AFP)

Montenegro police have used teargas against rock-throwing protesters during Sunday's enthronement of a Serbian Orthodox Church cleric as the nation's religious leader, with dozens reported injured.

The enthronement of Joanikije II at a monastery in the town of Cetinje has stirred divisions within Montenegro over ties with neighbouring Serbia. 

Some people burned tyres and sat on roads.

Montenegro's deputy police director Dragan Gorovic told state TV that 20 officers were hurt, while a state clinic in Cetinje said around 30 civilians sought help for injuries.

The protests reflect tensions in the Balkan country between those who advocate closer ties with Belgrade and others opposing any pro-Serb alliance.

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PM blames president for protests

Montenegro left its union with Serbia in 2006 but its church did not become autonomous and remained under the Serbian Orthodox Church – in the eyes of some, making it a symbol of Serbian influence.

Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic described attacks on police in Cetinje as "an act of terrorism".

He blamed President Milo Djukanovic's party, which ruled the country for three decades before losing elections last year, for organising the protests.

Djukanovic opposes the enthronement, but has not commented on Krivokapic's allegations of organising the demonstrations. Djukanovic's adviser Veselin Veljovic was arrested for participating in an attack against police on Sunday, state TV reported.

The EU special envoy for Montenegro, Tonino Picula, said that the rising tensions were worrying.

"The freedom to expression, but also to protest is inviolable," Picula told state TV.

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Source: Reuters