So a mob attacked the US, Croatian, Turkish and Bosnian embassies in Belgrade today. The US embassy — evacuated in advance — was looted and partially burned. The other embassies also suffered varying degrees of damage.
This came at the same time as a government-sponsored mass demonstration against Kosovo’s declaration of independence. (Yes, Serbia still does government sponsored mass demonstrations. It’s a bad old habit that they still haven’t shaken.) The official line is that the two events were completely unrelated, and indeed the US and Croatian embassies were a couple of kilometers away from the center of the demonstration. On the other hand, there’d already been embassy attacks earlier in the week — the Slovene embassy was broken into and looted on Monday — and the Americans, at least, had pre-emptively evacuated their embassy and asked for increased police protection.
Which they got, in the sense that police were there. By all accounts the cops formed a line around the embassy… then moved aside once stones started flying. They then stood by while the embassy was looted, fires were started inside, and the US flag pulled down and burned. Croatian embassy, much the same. Then a bit later they lobbed some tear gas and moved to clear the streets.
A couple of random notes. One, the cops did move aggressively to protect the Bulgarian and Italian embassies. Why those and not the other? Well, Bulgaria and Italy are EU members. Possibly a coincidence; I really don’t know.
The Kostunica administration has worked hard to paint the US as the main villain of the loss of Kosovo; the government’s consistent line, repeated across all Serbian media, is that it’s Washington that wants to steal Kosovo and crush Serbia. Europe doesn’t really want to, but the brutal Americans are arm-twisting the craven Europeans into going along. Yes, it’s that level of stupid. And yes, people are buying it, or at least some people… the media in Serbia are less free today than they were a few years ago, and the government has become a lot more strident about pushing the official line. (The offices of B92, the radio station that used to defy Milosevic, were attacked earlier this weekl.)
Serbian Prime MInister Kostunica was the star of the rally, but President Tadic was ostentatiously out of town (in Romania, hobnobbing with Romania’s President Basescu).
All this just happened a few hours ago, so no official diplomatic responses yet. But that faint slapping sound you may have heard in the distance? Two million Kosovar Albanians high-fiving each other.