Serbia has protested over the detention of eight Serbian Orthodox Church priests in neighbouring Montenegro after thousands of people attended a religious procession despite a ban on gatherings because of coronavirus.
Montenegrin prosecutors said the priests face charges of violating health regulations during the outbreak by organising the procession on Tuesday in the western town of Niksic. Most people participating in the procession did not wear face masks or keep a safe distance from each other.
Montenegro voted in favour of independence from Serbia in 2006 and there have since been protests about transferring the property ownership of Serbian church buildings in Montenegro to the Montenegrin state.
Supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church blocked a regional road in northern Montenegro on Wednesday, according to RTCG television, a channel in Montenegro.
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they hope the arrests won't spark any "unwanted unrest or clashes".
The patriarch said the detentions "are only a proof that the Montenegrin state is conducting a purge of the Serbian Orthodox Church".
Mr Vucic urged a peaceful resolution of the crisis and a quick release of the priests.