News for January 9th, 1997
Several people were slightly hurt when a car rushed into the procession of students at the corner of Bulevar Revolucije and Beogradska Streets, reported Radio Index. The students who got hurt were transported to the "Anlave" clinic in an ambulance. The incident occurred some a little after 2 am. According to the statements of the witnesses, the car rushed into the rear of the procession and afterwards the driver tried to escape. He was stopped by a group of taxi-drivers who happened to be near the spot. The students have detained the driver and delivered him to the police.
Today's protest rally of the coalition Zajedno in Belgrade was attended by several tens of thousands of citizens as well as by a great number of policemen deployed in the streets around the Republic Square, where the rally was held. Head of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, Vesna Pesic, called on the citizens to drive down the streets of Belgrade at a speed by which Serbian institutions normally work -- 15 miles per hour. The residents of Belgrade may be considered "professional demonstrators," Vesna Pesic quipped, since the street protests have now gone on for over a month and a half.
At the beginning of today's student protest, the Steering Board of Protest 96/97 announced that the first on the list of student demands has been corrected: the students are now demanding full recognition of the election results from November 17, based on the original electoral minutes and the Report of the OSCE delegation. Several tens of thousands of UofB students protested today and tried to stage for a protest walks well. As in the past several days, they were stopped by police cordons. Students then staged their previously announced stand in front of the police line. During the afternoon, one of the police cordons backed away, cheered by the students, but the police line was formed again a few hours later.
In their newsletter today, UofB students call on their "parents and friends" to come out and join them on the streets. "We, your children, are sticking to the freedom-fighting tradition of our ancestors and the sense of justice which we have inherited from you. We have been protesting in the streets of Belgrade for more than 45 days against the insolent theft and self-will of a departing regime. We are neither criminals nor thieves, nor are we the hooligans and pro-fascists ruining this city. The police have much more important business to do than to stand in the way of the future. We want a strong and honest state. Those among the police who are true to their calling will take our side; the others may leave with those who have destroyed this country," says today's newsletter of the Student Protest. Their action began around 2 PM today.
The citizens of Belgrade made a deafening noise again this evening during the prime time news program of the RTS (Serbian National Radio-Television Network), expressing in that way their protest against the way in which that television network reports about the events in Serbia. Through the two independent radio stations, the citizens of Belgrade were informed about the noise made in different parts of the city, as if a noise contest was on.
The citizens of Novi Sad made a deafening noise this evening during the prime time news program of the RTS, using pots, whistles, firecrackers and other "instruments". This action was suggested to the citizens by the Novi Sad representatives of the "Zajedno" Coalition and the students of the University of Novi Sad. The first, spontaneous protests called "Noise against lies" started a few days ago in Liman (a part of Novi Sad). This evening the whole city protested in this way.
One of the vice-presidents of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Zvonimir Budisa, announced today that the protests in Nis will continue until the true election results are confirmed by the government. Serbian authorities yesterday officially recognized coalition Zajedno's victory of in Nis, where according to the Serbian Ministry of Justice, Zajedno won 37 mandates. The Coalition Zajedno claims that they won 41 mandates, i.e. that four of their mandates have again been stolen. Students of the UofN performed a makeshift bit of street theater on the streets of Nis. They symbolically "arrested" the Electoral Commission, played by students dressed in prison clothes. After the performance, they marched down the streets of downtown Nis.
Vesna Pesic, the president of the Civil Alliance (GS), stated today that yesterday's decision of the Serbian Government to recognize the mandates of the "Zajedno" Coalition delegates in Nis is the evidence that the authorities have chosen to solve the crisis in the country by foul means, since the Republic government authorized to correct the election irregularities. At the press conference, Vesna Pesic stated that the authorities have probably played this foul trick in order to diminish the revolt of the citizens, giving a chance to the Serbian Socialist Party to get hold of the mandates later, through the courts, which are the only authorized organs in this matter.
The "Zajedno" Coalition in Nis stated today that the latest decision of the Serbian Government concerning the election results in Nis means the confession on the part of the authorities that the socialists have committed the theft.
German and Dutch Foreign Ministers, Klaus Kinkel and Hans Van Merlot, called on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to immediately acknowledge and confirm the opposition's victory in the local elections in 14 cities, reports FoNet. "The OSCE [mission] determined that the opposition had won in the elections in Belgrade and most of the large cities in Serbia," Kinkel also said and called on Milosevic to "establish democratic relations in Kosovo and not let the minority treat the majority in a non- democratic way."
In her letter today, Kati Marton, Chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and wife of former American peace mediator Richard Holbrooke, demanded from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to do everything in his power to enable the independent Radio Boom 93 in the city of Pozarevac to resume broadcasting. Radio Boom 93 went off the air on December 3, 1996. Radio Boom 93 was silenced at the same time as Belgrade's independent radio station B92 was taken off the air, too.
France is sending its special emissary to Belgrade to inform the Serbian authorities about France's official position and its conviction that the international recommendations for the acknowledgment of the opposition's victory must be respected, reports AFP. The French emissary will hold separate meeting with both members of the Serbian government and the leaders of the coalition Zajedno.
The newly appointed American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that it is encouraging to see the expanding of the democratic movement in Serbia. The most important issue now is that the media in the political system should open and that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should manage to forward the electoral process, said Madeleine Albright last evening at the public hearing of the American Senate Board for International Relations. She promised the Senators that should her nomination be affirmed, the U.S.A. would not hesitate to act openly against those who violate the internationally recognized human rights, no matter whether it is in Cuba, Afghanistan, Burma, Belgrade or Beijing.
The decision of the Serbian Government to recognize the electoral victory of the opposition in Nis is the first significant concession made by Slobodan Milosevic, and it represents an attempt to mollify the protests of the opposition which threaten to endanger the power of Slobodan Milosevic, reports the Financial Times today. According to the report of the BBC, the Financial Times states that this decision of the Government is the result of the increasing international pressure on Slobodan Milosevic caused by the annulment of the opposition victory in 12 of the 18 biggest cities in Serbia. The same newspaper reports that this decision proves the increasing pressure put on Serbian President by members of his Socialist Party with a view to find the solution to the crisis which paralyzes the country.
The New York Times reports today that the statement of the Serbian Government confirming the electoral victory of the opposition in Nis represents the most significant concession made by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic since the street protests began seven weeks ago, but that it has not satisfied the opposition. The opposition in Nis rejected that statement immediately, saying that the demonstrations will continue until the ruling Serbian Socialist Party recognizes the victory of the opposition in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia, concludes this daily.
The traffic jam made in the center of the city by the vehicles driven by the supporters of the opposition caused the biggest disturbance in the functioning of the city during the two-month protests in Belgrade, reports the Daily Telegraph today. This London daily informs that the latest events have brought Belgrade to the verge of bloodshed, adding however that the leaders of the opposition have used the tactics of peaceful protest until now, hoping that the rule of Slobodan Milosevic will start tumbling down from the inside.
Two months ago, Great Britain argued for the establishing of commercial relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia more ardently than any other European country, whereas now, after the seven weeks of the pro-democratic street protests against the president of Serbia, that policy is beginning to fall apart, reports today's Independent. From the very beginning, that policy seemed unacceptable to some people. It offered some badly needed fresh air to the president of Serbia. Foreign investments would only strengthen his power and encourage the gangster economy which he has built up during the four-year war and the sanctions imposed by the international community, reports the Independent.
Chinese news agency Hsinhua reports today that the official confirmation of the opposition's victory in the local elections in Nis, second largest city in Serbia, is the first clear concession by the Serbian government since the coalition Zajedno began organizing and holding daily protests for almost two months ago, reports FoNet.
Today's issue of the Belgrade daily Dnevni Telegraf says that the explosion at the headquarters of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) was thought up by Zoran Todorovic, Secretary of JUL's Steering Board. The allegation about Todorovic rests on the statement made by an unnamed high ranking member of JUL who has asked to remain anonymous. The same source claims that Todorovic intended to present the explosion as a "proof" of the alleged terrorist nature and ambitions of the coalition Zajedno.
Yugoslav United Left (JUL) today stated that it is suing the Belgrade daily Dnevni Telegraf for slander. Today's issue of Dnevni Telegraf claimed that the bomb-attack on the JUL headquarters in Belgrade was conceived by a high ranking JUL member, Zoran Todorovic, in order to "demonstrate" the allegedly terrorist nature of the coalition Zajedno.
Today's issue of the Belgrade daily Blic carries an interview with Dragoslav Markovic, formerly a high ranking official of ex- Yugoslavia. In his interview, Markovic observed that "no matter how the protests end, they represent the beginning of the end of a policy that was catastrophically wrong for Serbian people. After this, the position of both Milosevic himself and his regime as such can never be the same as it used to be. It is hard to predict when, but he [Milosevic] must resign,"
At a press conference held today, Ratko Krsmanovic, President of the Board of the Communist Alliance-Movement for Yugoslavia, said that the elimination of all irregularities committed in Serbia's recent local elections is crucial for the sake of peace and stability in the country. He also accused the coalition Zajedno for being "potentially forces of chaos and anarchy."
Today's issue of Belgrade daily Nasa Borba says that there are two mutually opposed factions within the Yugoslav United Left (JUL). The conflict between them was evident at yesterday's meeting of JUL's Managing Board, when Nenad Djordjevic and Nebojsa Maljkovic sharply criticized Zoran Todorovic's actions concerning local elections. President of JUL, Mira Markovic, also wife of Slobodan Milosevic, just sat quietly and observed the debate, says Nasa Borba.
In the past few days, it has become evident that the number of policemen on the streets of Belgrade is steadily growing. Radio B92 has tried to contact some of the police officials but most of them were not in the mood for any kind of talk, except for one. He is Marko Nicovic, former Head Of Belgrade Police Department, recently dubbed "the local Elliott Ness." Nicovic stated: "Two months of continual protests have resulted in a political crisis and the blockade of the system. Police lines cannot solve the problem, because there is no police force large enough to confront the people. In their dealings with the police, the students cannot lose."
President of the Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, today condemned Slobodan Milosevic, Interior Minister Sokolovic, and General Momcilo Perisic, for receiving "supposed student representatives," while not having the courage to talk to the leaders of Zajedno -- Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic. "Draskovic and Djindjic are leading the citizens' protest. No matter how much we may condemn that, you can't deny the fact that they are the rightful leaders of a part of our people. Dialogue should have been opened with them, not with the students. The students' protest is not serious. When the students come up with [genuinely] political demands, I expect them to establish their own political party. Milosevic's regime thinks that it can do the same thing Tito did in 1968 -- support students, and later, when the tensions relax, chase them away." According to Seselj, "Americans are pulling all the strings."
The Information Service of the coalition Zajedno announced today that members of the special forces of Serbian police who yesterday beat up on protesters in the center of Belgrade, will be taken to court. The incident was described as "another mindless attempt of the regime to destroy the democratic movement and stifle the protests that have gone on for [a couple of] months now." The Zajedno statement pointed out that the opposition coalition has videos of Belgraders being beaten up by the police and that the names of the individual policemen who took part in these attacks are known.
Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, stated that the crisis in Serbia could only be brought to an end by the recognition of the election results of November 17 and by calling those who have provoked the people to protest to account for their actions. In his today's interview for the "Blic", Draskovic said that those who have brought about the street rallies which have been lasting for 50 days now, who have caused the death of Predrag Starcevic, the shooting of Ivica Lazovic, the beating up of children and citizens on Terazije and the "beastly" treatment of Dejan Bulatovic in the police station in Belgrade, must answer for their actions.
Momcilo Trajkovic, the president of the Serbian Resistance Movement, stated for today's "Demokratija" that the Albanians at Kosovo had tried to use the protests in Serbia as the means of attaining their objectives. Trajkovic said that the address of Adem Dimachi, the president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, had not been sincere. Dimachi did not demand the democratization in Serbia so that we could all benefit from it, but in order to give the reason to the regime to accuse the "Zajedno" Coalition of cooperating with the separatists and to acquit themselves of their act of recognizing Ibrahim Rugova as the president of the so called Kosovo Republic, said Trajkovic.
Nebojsa Covic, Mayor of Belgrade, said today for the Beta agency that he would very soon give the statement about whether he had or had not submitted his resignation. Covic stated that he would invite the journalists and give his statement when the time comes for it. He did not give the precise time, though.
HRH Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, Heir to the Throne, stated for today's Daily Telegraph that the rule of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has come to an end and that the time has come for a change, since the people have had enough of everything already. The people will not allow that man to steal their votes any more, said the son of the last Yugoslav king, Petar II, reports the BBC radio in its program in Serbian.
The Students of Subotica will continue their protest against the annulment of the results of the second round of the local elections in Serbia tomorrow, by organizing a discussion in the amphitheater of the Open University. They had, at the start of the winter holidays, agreed with their colleagues from Belgrade and Novi Sad to discontinue their daily gatherings and protest walks, announcing that they would continue their protest, but in a different form.
The New Democracy (ND) would not side either with the "Zajedno" Coalition or with the Serbian Socialist Party in the current situation, stated today Rebeka Srbinovic, the spokeswoman of this party. "The conflict is becoming more and more serious. We are of the opinion that neither side offers the solution, so the ND will adhere to its original program and it will remain the party of the political center," said Srbinovic at today's press conference. She added, however, that the ND would remain both in the Serbian Government and in Federal Parliament, and that they have no intention of leaving the Government "so that Djindjic could become the Mayor or something similar".
A group of professors at the University of Montenegro sent today a letter to the parliamentary parties in Montenegro, in which they stated that a global political agreement must be reached immediately, so that a new decline of the Republic should be prevented and the democratic rights of its citizens protected. The events ensuing the elections in Serbia have come to the point at which everything, including the very substance of the people and the state, is sacrificed for the sake of personal will and the narrow interests of a group, reads the letter signed by around 30 university professors.
Theodoros Pangalos, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, will arrive to Belgrade on Sunday in order to learn the facts concerning the political events in Serbia, report the Greek media this evening, relying on their sources among diplomats. The state television announced that Pangalos would meet the Serbian authorities and, most likely, the leaders of the opposition. According to the commercial "Mega" TV-station, the head of the Greek diplomacy will meet the Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church as well.