News for February 2nd, 1997

Strong police forces are preventing since 20:30 this evening a few thousands of Novi Beograd (a part of Belgrade), led by Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), from crossing the Branko's Bridge across the Sava river and joining the 75th protest rally of coalition Zajedno in Republic Square in the center of Belgrade.
The police commander warned the leader of the SPO that unless the citizens retreated, the police would act as authorized, and that criminal charges would be brought against the organizers of the rally.
Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the SPO, appealed to all Belgrade citizens to come out and block the streets in the parts of Belgrade in which they live.

Three huge processions consisting of at least 10,000 each approached the Branko's Bridge this evening, in order to help some 1,000 citizens in the fourth procession, who have been prevented from arriving in Republic Square by riot police.
A jeep with loudspeakers arrived near the Branko's Bridge, and it is expected that the supporters of the opposition will hold the protest rally there. Policemen have been posted on other bridges across the Sava river as well, so the crossings towards Novi Beograd are practically blocked by police cordons and multitudes of citizens. The police are trying to prevent citizens from going towards the Branko's Bridge along the streets between the Zeleni Venac marketplace and the Sava river.

The tension between the demonstrators and the police in the proximity of the Branko's Bridge started reducing at 22:00 this evening. The supporters of coalition Zajedno set fires in the street, they are listening to music and dancing, whereas the policemen have lifted visors on their helmets and lit cigarettes. Citizens nearest to the cordons are shouting: "This is Belgrade!"
The atmosphere on the Branko's Bridge is beginning to resemble the atmosphere in Kolarceva street where students stood in front of the police cordons for seven days.

Vesna Pesic and Zoran Djindjic, leaders of the oppositional coalition Zajedno, appealed to the supporters of the coalition to remain at the beginning of the Branko's Bridge until the police cordons withdraw and allow the citizens of Novi Beograd (a part of Belgrade) to cross the bridge and join the coalition's rally in Republic Square.

Strong riot police forces started at 23:30 this evening driving off the citizens on both sides of the Branko's Bridge on the Sava river. Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), appealed on the citizens to withdraw towards Republic Square, so that clashes be avoided.On the Belgrade side of the bridge, the police made a progress of some 100 meters, but the citizens in Branko's street sat down and thus stopped the progress of the police. Draskovic "commanded" the citizens to withdraw towards Republic Square, which was greeted with whistling. Draskovic offered to stay alone in front of the police cordons and appealed to the citizens not to respond to any provocations and not address any ugly words to the police. On the Novi Belgrade side of the bridge, the citizens were pushed as far as the petrol station "Dayton". The police used clubs. The atmosphere is very tense on both sides of the bridge. The police managed to drive the demonstrators from the street on the Novi Beograd side.

The police used water cannons just before 12:00 this evening to drive off the demonstrators gathered near the Branko's Bridge across the Sava river. The police used force in the moment when the citizens, at the request of Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), started withdrawing towards the Zeleni Venac marketplace. Many people were showered with water at the temperature of a few degrees bellow zero. Thousands of policemen participated in this action. On the Novi Beograd side of the bridge, the police managed to drive off the demonstrators completely.

Zoran Zivkovic and Sloboda Vuksanovic, delegates of the Democratic Party (DS) in Republic Parliament, demanded of Zoran Sokolovic, the Minister of Internal Affairs, to withdraw the police from the streets of Serbian cities immediately, announces the DS today.

The demonstrations of solidarity with Belgrade students were held in front of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Warsaw today. These demonstrations were organized by the youth of the Union of Freedom, a Polish oppositional party. A number of demonstrators blew their whistles and banged the pans, while the organizers spoke about the struggle of the opposition and students for democracy and for the recognition of the results of local elections. The organizers of the protest rally announced that through the Internet they would send messages to the young people of the whole world to express their solidarity with the students' struggle for democracy in Serbia.

Miodrag Ilic, a member of the Protest Board of the students of Nis University, said today that the students in Nis were prepared to persist in the boycott of lectures until their demands have been fulfilled. Ilic informed a press conference that the students are satisfied with the conclusions of the Teaching Staff of Nis University.

In the sports center "Jezero" in Kragujevac, a football game "Students against the authorities" will be played tomorrow. The game has been organized by the Student Protest 96/97, and financed by the City Assembly. The student team will play against the team consisting of the newly elected delegates and the officials of coalition Zajedno, the captain of which will be Veroljub Stevanovic, the new Mayor of Kragujevac. The price of the tickets for this game will be two dinars, and the money will be spent for humanitarian purposes.

Sasa Curcic, member of Yugoslav football national team and former player of FC Partisan, Belgrade, now in FC Aston Villa, stated today that he supported the protest of Belgrade students, who have been demonstrating against the violation of the citizens' electoral will for 73 days now. Curcic said for Radio B92 that students ought to be supported, since they were struggling for "the right cause", and added that something should be changed in the country.

The 71st protest rally against the annulment of the results of the second round of local elections was held in the central square in Pirot. Only around 1,000 citizens participated in the rally, because it was very cold. There were no policemen in the streets, so the citizens took a protest walk along the streets of Pirot.

The citizens of Koceljeva have joined the protest against the annulment of the electoral victory of coalition Zajedno, by organizing rallies in their municipality. According to the announcement of the representatives of coalition Zajedno in Koceljeva, citizens in that municipality have also joined the action of noise making during the prime time news program of the RTS (State Radio-television Network).

Two constitutive sessions will be held in the building of the town Assembly of Jagodina tomorrow. One of them has been scheduled by the Serbian Socialist Party and the Yugoslav United Left, and the other one by coalition Zajedno.

Ivan Djuric, the president of the Movement for democratic freedoms, stated today that the media which supported any option of political life in a country did not follow the line of their profession. The only thing which could be useful for any party or political option was "the objective and unbiased information", said Djuric for Radio Kragujevac.

Ljubisa Ristic, the president of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL), denied the information that London "Net-West Market" company had decided not to represent Yugoslavia in the negotiations about the foreign debts any longer. "That is not true. It is a mere fabrication ... While they (the Net-West Market Bank) get paid, they will do their job without enquiring into the internal political situation here," stated Ristic for the today's "Dnevni Telegraf".

Vojislav Seselj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), appealed to all political forces in the country to act wisely, so that possible clashes in the streets of Serbian cities be avoided. In a program of Arandjelovac television station, Seselj said that the SRS was for the recognition of the results of local elections held on November 17, but "in a legal way, for which only courts are authorized at this moment, and not the City Electoral Committee", reads the announcement of the SRS.

Miroslav Milanovic, the spokesman for the City Board of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) in Nis, announced today, in front of several thousand protesters, that he would soon suggest that Nis should be the first city to start a protest with the demand that the parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia should be called earlier than scheduled, "since Nis was the first city to start the protest against the manipulations with the elections". After the protest rally. The citizens joined the students, who were also demonstrating, for the walk along the streets of Nis.

Most of primary and secondary schools in Sabac intend to go on strike tomorrow. Twelve of sixteen schools in Sabac have announced that they would go on strike, whereas it is certain that the Gymnasium and the School of economy will not join the strike. It was announced today that all lawyers in sabac would go on strike tomorrow.

A 3-member delegation of the opposition coalition Zajedno will go to Davos, Switzerland, on Monday at the invitation of the World Economic Forum. Vojin Dimitrijevic, a member of the delegation, told Beta on Sunday that this was the first time that the Forum have invited non-government representatives to a meeting. He said that the delegation would present its plan for Serbia's re-entry into international institutions, and take the opportunity to meet ``democratically oriented'' leaders from neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia.

Zoran Djindjic, the president of the Democratic Party and one of the leaders of coalition Zajedno, stated today that in the World Economic Forum in Davos he would support the project of stabilizing the region, which presuppose a democratic and economically developed Serbia. He said that he would back the concept of a special economic status of Serbia, since a Serbia which would develop economically and have established democratic institutions would be the best protection of the Dayton treaty and the peace in this region. Zoran Djindjic, together with Milan Bozic and Vojin Dimitrijevic, travels for Davos tomorrow.

The association of Branch Trade Unions 'Nezavisnost' will hold a discussion of the programme for rapid economic recovery, recently launched by a group of independent experts, on Monday. Many of its principles coincide with their own, said their statement on Sunday.

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