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Protests Against Serbian Leader Reach Sixth Week

People march during a protest against populist President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Serbia, Jan. 12, 2019. Critics accuse the president of imposing an autocracy through strict control over the media and promoting hate speech against opponents.

Several thousand people turned out Saturday in Belgrade for the sixth week of street protests against populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his government.

Demonstrations first started after thugs beat up an opposition politician in November, prompting calls for more democracy and an end to political violence in Serbia.

Critics say Vucic has fostered an atmosphere of fear and hate speech against opponents in the Balkan nation while seeking to tighten his rule. He has denied the allegations.

Whistle-blowing crowds marched through central Belgrade despite freezing temperatures and icy streets. Some carried banners reading "Rise Serbia'' or "It's started.''

Smaller protests have been held in other towns in Serbia. Local media say Vucic plans to get his supporters out during next week's visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin.