Albanians protest price hike, gov’t blames war in Ukraine
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Thousands of Albanians held protests Thursday to complain about significant price hikes in recent days, which the government blames on the war in Ukraine.
Hundreds gathered in front of the main government building in the capital, Tirana, with some blocking main streets by sitting down and holding up posters. Police urged protesters to get off the streets, and later moved in to remove them. Minor scuffles broke out.
Footage on TV showed police detaining protesters.
Protests were also held in other cities, where participants blocked roads.
In the past week, fuel prices have risen abruptly by 50% and the cost of all food items also rose significantly. Protesters accuse the government of profiting from the price hike, suggesting it should do the same as other governments in neighboring countries which have cut excise or other taxes.
Prime Minister Edi Rama argued Thursday that the increases, especially those for oil and gas, are due to the war in Ukraine, and were not a result of Albania joining in international sanctions against Russia.
In a Facebook posting while the protest was going on, Rama said the government has not raised electricity costs, and is already subsidizing 80% of households’ and small businesses’ power bills.
The price of electricity affects everyone, including those who don’t have cars, while the fuel price affects only those using vehicles, he said.
Rama added that the government would create an emergency board with fuel-supplying companies to set prices, and would take drastic action to enforce them.
Energy Minister Belinda Balluku has urged Albanians to cut spending on fuel for their cars.
There were calls in Facebook and at the rally for a nationwide protest on Saturday.
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