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  • Protesters walk past the Serbian National Assembly building during a protest in Belgrade on June 11, 2016

    Protesters walk past the Serbian National Assembly building during a protest in Belgrade on June 11, 2016 | Photo: AFP

Critics of the development project fear the development will be of little benefit to most Serbian citizens.

Thousands protested in the Serbian capital Saturday, accusing the authorities of theft and violence connected to plans to redevelop a popular area of Belgrade.

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Protesters chanted "We will not be ignored" and "thieves" at the rally against the US$3 billion deal with an Abu Dhabi-based developer to transform part of Belgrade into an upscale housing and shopping complex.

Demonstrators took aim in particular at an incident on April 24 in the arts and nightlife district of Savamala, where several buildings were demolished in the night by mysterious masked men.

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Organizers said some 15,000 people joined the march, which went off without violence. Police put the number at 4,000, though journalists at the scene said at least double that number of protesters had attended.

The agreement signed with developer Eagle Hills aims to turn parts of Savamala and surrounding areas into nearly 21.5 million square feet of malls, offices and apartment blocks.

The centrepiece of the project is a 200-meter tall Dubai-style tower.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who unveiled the waterfront project in 2014, has branded the masked men "idiots" for their behavior, but said the buildings had been scheduled for demolition.


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