News for January 10th, 1997

Yesterday, students made their protest walk down the streets of Belgrade during the night. They were supported by many prominent Serbian theater and film actors, who sang and danced with the crowd. Two women students raised their short skirts in a good- natured taunt aimed at the policemen, while some of the other students played soccer and even chess. Many Belgraders brought food, drinks and blankets for the students. The walk began at about 1 a.m., when the police cordons definitely left the street, and ended around 4:30 a.m. in front of Serbian government's building. A student delegation handed in their letter for the Prime Minister, Mirko Marjanovic, in which they demand from him to move the police lines off the streets. Students said that their letter was officially accepted and is going through the normal channels.
A single incident happened during the walk. A car drove into the crowd and hurt three people, an eleven-year old girl and two students. According to the medical board of the Student Protest, the injuries are not serious and have already been treated in Belgrade hospitals. The students' security people detained the two young men who were in the car until the police arrived on the scene. No student protest is scheduled for today; because of the long and exhausting walk last night, the next protest action has been announced for 6 p.m. tomorrow.

Spokesman for the Student Protest Dusan Vasiljevic told a press conference today that the Serbian Government has offered the student delegation a meeting with Serbian government vice- presidents, Ratko Markovic and Nedeljko Sipovac, as well as minister of education Dragoslav Mladenovic, instead of the requested meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic. Vasiljevic said that the Steering Board of the Student Protest has not yet decided whether to accept the offer. If accepted, the meetings could take place today at 18:00 or tomorrow at 11:00. Commenting on today's attempts to break the police lines, Vasiljevic said that the students have maximally radicalized the situation without resorting to violence and proved to be more persistent and persevering than the police. Tomorrow, the students are to continue their standoff action in front of the riot squad lines until they back off and leave the streets. The press conference was also attended by a student delegation from Nis, who had come to Belgrade to support the action "blockade against the blockade."

The Belgrade protest "drive" planned by the coalition Zajedno for today was prevented by the police. Instead, a protest rally attended by several tens of thousands of citizens was held at the Republic Square in the center of Belgrade. After the rally, protesters took a walk up and down Knez Mihajlova, one of the Serbian capital's central streets and its only pedestrian zone. At the Republic Square, the crowd was addressed by three American congressmen who said that the U.S. Congress supports all those who fight for their basic rights. The U.S. congressmen's address was followed by speeches of the leaders of the coalition Zajedno. Head of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, called on the citizens not to let those who stole their votes sleep peacefully. "Let us remind them that they are thieves who got caught, and that we will not let them go until they are made responsible for what they did," said Djindjic, adding that "from tomorrow on, our working day does not begin at 3 p.m., we will work non-stop."

The noise-making campaign timed to coincide with the main news bulletin on state-run RTS television continues, and noise can now be heard in almost all larger cities in Serbia. The coalition Zajedno has nicknamed this operation "Serbia, Get Into the Rhythm."

The European Community once again called on "the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, to accept the conclusions and the recommendations of the OSCE delegation which recently visited Belgrade." The statement appears in the EU Declaration on the situation on Yugoslavia which FoNet received today from the Dutch embassy in Belgrade. The declaration says that the European Union fully supports the OSCE conclusion that the coalition Zajedno won in 13 cities, as well as in 8 Belgrade municipalities and in Belgrade Assembly, by the will of Serbian voters.

Head of the UN's office in Belgrade, Suzanne Manuel, stated today that General Secretary of UN Kofi Anan today called for the respect of human rights and democratic processes in Yugoslavia. Anan believes in the importance of free and fair elections in general and hopes that all parties will be able to find an appropriate solution, stated Suzanne Manuel at a press conference in Belgrade.

The United States today announced that official Belgrade's decision to accept the ruling party's defeat in the local elections in one city is not enough and that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic cannot expect to international support for "making petty concessions," reports Reuters. Spokesman of the State Department, Nicholas Burns, emphasized that the Serbian government's announcement about its recognition of the opposition's victory in Nis represents a positive, but insufficient first step.

Spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Genadiy Tarasov, has stated that Russia's attitude towards the events in Serbia remains unchanged and that the two sides, the authorities and the opposition, should find a way out of the current situation by means of dialogue, reports FoNet.

Member of the European Parliament, Dorris Puck, stated today that the government in Belgrade has only one way out of the crisis -- acceptance of the recommendations given by the OSCE to recognize opposition victories in 13 Serbian cities and in Belgrade.

Deputy foreign minister of Yugoslavia Zivadin Jovanovic yesterday received the emissay of the French Ministry of foreign affairs, Paul Poudade. Belgrade official media reported that that the meeting focused on the bilateral relations between France and Yugoslavia. French foreign ministry has stated that the main task of their representative is to tell Serbian authorities that "the conclusions of the OSCE must be respected." Poudade, who arrived to Belgrade yesterday, talked this morning to Milan Milutinovic, the head of Yugoslav diplomacy, and concluded that the election results can hardly be negotiated.

Three of the members of the American congressional delegation which arrived in Belgrade today conveyed the official U.S. message to Yugoslav foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic. The U.S. position is that the authorities should reinstate the electoral results from November 17. One of the congressmen said that they will not press Milosevic to recognize electoral results; they will attempt to persuade him.

Today's issue of the Belgrade daily Blic says that Zoran Todorovic, general secretary of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL), is preparing to resign from his function. Blic also says that JUL wanted to deny that information and postpone the discussion "for quieter times." Todorovic's decision to resign came after the conflict within JUL between "hard-liners" and "soft-liners" at JUL's management meeting a few days ago. It was reported that Mira Markovic, head of JUL and Milosevic's wife, took no sides in that conflict.

Zajedno's Nis department has sent a message to the Nis Electoral Commission to reinstate immediately the results of the second electoral round, said a Zajedno statement today. According to the coalition Zajedno, 41 seats in the Nis City Council are rightfully theirs, 16 were won by the Socialists, the Radicals got 1, while voting in 12 polling stations should be repeated due to irregularities.

The statement of the Republic Government, by which the partial victory of the "Zajedno" Coalition in Nis was recognized, is cynical, announced the Municipal Board of the Democratic Party in Nis today. By recommending the recognition of the victory of the "Zajedno" Coalition in Nis, the Government attempted to use the tactics of separating Belgrade from other cities, and the cities from one another, in order to mollify the revolt of the people, said Dragan Corbic, the head of the Democratic Party Board in Nis, at the press conference.

Branimir Aleksandric, the head of the autopsy team at the Forensic Medicine Institute, stated today that the report about the autopsy on Predrag Starcevic was delivered today to the office of Dragoslav Rakic, the president of the Inquiry department of the District Court in Belgrade. Starcevic died in the Clinic Center in the night of December 24, 1996, of wounds received in the clash between the supporters of the "Zajedno" Coalition and the participants of the counter-rally "For Serbia". Aleksandric repeated that the sole cause of Starcevic's death were the injuries caused by beating, and not a heart attack or a fall caused by the alleged intoxicated condition.

Dragan Tomic, the president of Serbian Parliament, talked today to the deans of the University schools and to the members of the Belgrade university Council, announced Serbian Ministry of Information. The reason for this meeting was the letter sent by the deans of 12 Belgrade schools to the presidents of the Republic, of Parliament and of the Government. According to Belgrade media, the current situation at Belgrade University and the ways of resuming the lectures as soon as possible were also discussed.

The students of Nis University gathered in a high number today, for the 51st time, to express their protest against the annulment of the results of the local elections, announced the information service of the student Protest. After that, the students started the protest walk towards the building of Nis Assembly, where they left boxes with their ballots for the members of the City Electoral Committee to count.

A group of professors at the Nis University has formed the Board for Citizen Initiative, the aim of which is to "articulate and institutionalize" the democratic protest of the citizens. "This citizen protest in all parts of Serbia has proved that the citizens are ready to take their fate in their own hands. We are prepared to offer them our knowledge so that they can articulate their demands," said Predrag Cvjeticanin, secretary of that Board and teaching assistant at the School of Philosophy, at today's press conference. He announced that the first action of this Board would be organizing of the school of democracy, with teachers from the country and from abroad, which would be open for all who would like to learn something in this area. The boards for an active attitude towards media and for the defence of human rights will also be formed.

Slobodan Milosevic's regime must fall, not because it has many enemies, but because it has no friends, stated Bogoljub Pejcic, the vice-president of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), in Liberation Square in Nis. In front of around 15,000 citizens who attended the 54th protest gathering against the annulment of the second round of the local elections, he said that the democratic opposition has the support of the entire world and that therefore it must win.

A vast procession of cars blocked the traffic in the center of Novi Sad around 5 pm today. That was an action by which the drivers in Novi Sad responded to the appeal of the "Zajedno" Coalition to join the citizens of Belgrade, who organize similar actions in the capital.

More than 10,000 citizens of Kragujevac gathered today in the center of the city and marched through the streets, expressing in that way their protest against the stealing of their votes. The citizens paused in front of the building of Kragujevac Television, which had been annexed to the RTS (Serbian National Radio-Television Network) some time ago, and threw hundreds of firecrackers at it.

During today's protest rally against the annulment of the results of the local elections in Serbia, the girls in Sabac chose the most attractive among the policemen who stood in cordons around the central town square. That flattering title was given to captain Dragan Sakic, who got a whistle and several kisses as a prize.

More than 1,500 people gathered today in the center of Bor to express their protest against the annulment of the results of the local elections. It was their 32nd protest rally. The police prevented the protest walk of the citizens.

Around 2,000 citizens of Smederevska Palanka gathered today in the center of the town, expressing their disapproval of the Municipal Court decision by which the complaint of the "Zajedno" Coalition was rejected. That decision enables the Serbian Socialist Party to keep 20 mandates in the Municipal Assembly, whereas the "Zajedno" Coalition has 19 mandates.

Around 2,000 citizens of Jagodina gathered this evening in the city square to express their protest against the annulment of the results of the local elections. The police prevented the protest march of the citizens. A number of workers joined the citizens today, which is explained by the fact that the employees of the cable factory in Jagodina have gone on strike because they have not been given the advance payment for December yet.

Around 1,500 citizens of Bela Palanka held today the 17th protest rally against the annulment of the election results. The rally was organized by the "Zajedno" Coalition. According to the report of the City Board of the Democratic Party, strong police forces prevented the protest walk of the citizens, but there were no incidents.

Spokesman of the Democratic Party, Slobodan Vuksanovic said today that a part of the SPS and JUL leadership are directly jeopardizing state interests. The reactions expressed so far by the Montenegrin leadership, the Yugoslav Army, Serbian Orthodox Church and a part of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences indicate a growing public awareness of the peril this policy represents to the future of Serbia, he said. The RTS crew was not allowed to cover the press conference because the Democratic Party has refused to continue being the subject of the incredible distortions of their coverage.

The management of the Democratic Center Party (DC) today expressed their grave concern over the present situation, characterized by "great tension, divisions within the society and "autism" among the authorities." Stressing the authorities' responsibility for this state of affairs, the DC Management warned that if they refuse the OSCE recommendations to recognize and reinstate the Nov. 17 local electoral results, the authorities would actually be opting for a possible civil war.

The nongovernmental organization for the defence of the freedom of media, "Reporters without frontiers", sent today a message to Serbian Ministry of Information in which they protested against the ban imposed on the Radio Boom 93 from Pozarevac. The "Reporters without frontiers" protest because the Federal Government remained deaf to the requests of that radio station to be allowed a temporary frequency, until it gets a permanent licence.

The lead news story yesterday and today on the Canadian radio and TV is the acknowledgment of the opposition victory in Nis as well as the announcement by opposition leaders that the demonstrations will not cease until the local electoral results have been recognized in all 14 cities in which Zajedno won. The respected daily Globe and Mail says that the Serbian government has promised to correct all irregularities concerning the annulment of the opposition victory in Nis.

The Brussels daily "Libre Belgique" reports today the statement of the observers in Belgrade, who believe that the postponing of the recognition of the electoral victory of the "Zajedno" Coalition has nothing to do with any political logic; it only undermines the little credibility Milosevic's clique still has. The importance of the student protest is stressed in the report. This newspaper also publishes an interview with Dusan Vasiljevic, the spokesman of the Student Protest, who stated that the latest actions of the authorities show that they are ready to make certain concessions.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic seems to be on the point of making considerable concessions in the confrontation with the demonstrators who protest in the streets of all major cities in Serbia; the crisis could be solved this weekend at the earliest, reports the Independent, relying on its diplomatic sources in Belgrade. This British daily points out that the eight weeks of the protest have seriously damaged Milosevic's authority, even among his supporters, and that for the past seven days, with the increasing pressure on them, the authorities have been making certain concessions.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is preparing to make further concessions to the oppositional "Zajedno" Coalition and dismiss some of the leading officials in his Government, in order to quell the revolt in his own party, reports the Daily Telegraph today. The BBC program in Serbian gives an account of the report in this daily, which quotes a source in the Serbian Government stating that the recognition of the electoral victory of the opposition in Nis represents a new Milosevic's tactics, who wants to prevent discord inside the Serbian Socialist Party. According to the Daily Telegraph, many of the high officials in this party have had enough of Milosevic's stubbornness, which damages the image of Serbia and blocks the use of important credits from abroad.

According to today's issue of the "Army" newspaper, any political involvement of the Yugoslav military would seriously harm its unity and ethics.

President of the Foundation for Peace and Crisis Solution Boris Vukobrat said in an interview published in today's issue of the daily Nasa Borba that the present authorities and the regime in Serbia are unacceptable for both the world and the people here.

Tomorrow's issue of Belgrade daily Nasa Borba carries an interview with Karl Bildt, High Commissioner for Bosnia. In his interview, Bildt says that "Serbia is the most serious candidate for being the greatest 'sick man' in Europe." Its sickness, Bildt explained, is the result of neglecting to carry out political and economic reforms. He also said that the behavior of the protesters in Serbia "is getting more and more impressive" each day. "The main question in Serbia today is: Are you for the changes or for the status quo," said Karl Buildt in his interview for Nasa Borba.

Official Croatia today warned that the current Serbian opposition could be a danger for peace if it assumed power in Serbia, reports Reuters. The agency adds that Milosevic got unexpected support from his former enemy. In its report, Reuters reminds its readers of the fact that, since the beginning of the nineties, Croatia has considered Milosevic most responsible for the war in ex-Yugoslavia, but that now, with all of Croatian territories retrieved, they tend to see him as "the devil we know."

The Secretariat of Internal Affairs (SUP) in Belgrade announced today that Masan Aleksic (18) from Resnik, who had rushed his car into a group of the participants of the Student Protest around 2 o'clock this morning, had been arrested. According to the announcement, Aleksic was driving a "Peugeot 605", with the registration number BG-966-399, towards Dimitrije Tucovic Square. The vehicle hit a group of demonstrators who were going in the opposite direction, and a number of persons were hurt. Ivica Seselj and Ivan Todorcevic, both demonstrators from Belgrade, were taken to the Trauma Center where it was found they had slight injuries, whereas other injured persons did not ask for medical help. After that event, according to the announcement of the SUP, a fight broke out between the students on one side and Aleksic and the persons who were in his car on the other. Aleksic's car was damaged during the fight.

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