News for January 18th, 1997

At 6:30 on Sunday morning several thousand students finally set off on their protest march through the streets of Belgrade, after an all night stand-off with riot police in Kolarceva street. Around 4 a.m. they were joined by the Montenegrin Orthodox Archbishop, Amfilohije Radovic. In his address to students, the Mr. Radovic blamed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for sending police to block the students. At 5 a.m., the chief of police told the students to disperse. The student response was to sit down, blockading the street together with the Archbishop Radovic. After one hour the riot police dispersed allowing the studnets to march chanting "Victory! Victory! ." Next student protest is scheduled for Monday at 18:00 hours.

More than thirty thousand people in Belgrade celebrated the 60th day of protests at the November election fraud on Saturday. Opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, one of the Zajedno told demonstrators that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was deliberating a government reshuffle at a moment when the whole was watching for something crucial to happen in Serbia. Zoran Djindjic invited today the citizens of Belgrade to bring their pets to the protest rally tomorrow, since "the police will not be able to ban their walk". The citizens wore different kinds of uniforms during their today's protest walk: the uniforms of former Yugoslav Army, of Serbian King's Army, of Russian Army, etc. Uniforms worn by stewardesses, medical staff, astronauts, postmen, divers, etc. could also be seen. After the addresses of the "Zajedno" coalition leaders, the citizens started their walk along Knez Mihajlova Street, since the riot police prevented them from going towards Terazije. Around 1,000 citizens managed to penetrate the cordon at Terazije and block the traffic in Srpskih Vladara Street, but the police directed them onto the sidewalks shortly after.

The campaign to drown our the noise of the state television's prime time news bulletin continued Saturday. Banging drums, or any other make-shift noise-making instrument, was accompanied by citizen walks through their neighbourhoods. The residents of Senjak made their bit of noise on Saturday by ringing the interphone of Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's home in their neighbourhood. They were disappointed to find nobody at home.

At the start of Zajedno protest meeting in Sabac on Saturday, several policemen beat demonstrators, while other riot police forced the crowd back to Sabac's Liberty Square. Exact numbers of those beaten are still unknown. The protest meeting in Sabac continued after local Zajedno leaders managed to calm the situation. At the end of the protest, some 100 protestors managed to break through riot police cordonsline and march unimpeded through the centre.

The teachers' branch of the trade union Nezavisnost [Independence] staged a protest "public lesson" in Belgrade's Republic Square on Saturday. The 'lesson' was attended by over a thousand teachers and citizens of Belgrade. Jelena Hristodulo, chair of the Steering board of the teachers' branch outlined their key demands:
1. that all overdue wages be payed
2. that Serbian Minister for Education, Dragoslav Mladenovic, resign
3. that Employment regulations be changed.
Ms. Hristodulo announced that teachers throughout Serbia would strike unless their demands were met by January 21 and that "public protest lessons" would be held daily in Belgrade's Republic Square. The teachers gave their full support to student and Zajedno demands. After their public lesson, the teachers marched along Knez Mihajlova Street. But that walk was stopped by riot police at the junction of Knez Mihajlova and 7. Jula Street. The teachers then joined the protest meeting of the coalition Zajedno.

The University Board for the Defence of Democracy announced today that the Council of Belgrade University (BU) was responsible for the postponing of lectures at the University. Chancellor Dragutin Velickovic and Student vice-chancellor Vojin Djurdjevic were not dismissed at the Council meeting on January 15, although the members of the Council had previously expressed their support for the students' demands. The Council meeting showed how absurd the present organization of University management is, since it is the representatives of the authorities that decide upon all significant issues at universities, reads the announcement.

Students of the University of Nis ended their usual march though the streets of Nis on Saturday in front of TV Nais, the so-called first independent television station in Nis. Student representatives presented the general manager of TV Nais with an used TV set. That present was meant to convey the students' gratitude for the opening of a channel for the free flow of information through this tv station. The students stressed the importance of this in encouraging the citizens of Nis to keep up their struggle. Students of UofN have scheduled an evening march for Sunday and invited the citizens of Nis to join them.

UN Special Envoy for Human Rights Elizabeth Rehn met leaders of the coalition Zajedno on Sunday. After that meeting, she stated that elections are an inalienable human right and that the will of people must therefore be respected. She stressed that it was essential that the Serbian goverment find a way to implement the conclusions of the Gonzalez report.

AP Belgrade reported that Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic had met with U.N. Special Envoy for Human Rights Elizabeth Rhen on Saturday. Minister Milutinovic informed Special Envoy Rhen that the students of the UofB had been paid to protest by foreign powers, whose aim it was to destabilize Serbia, reports for FoNet Slobodan Pavlovic. Meanwhile The U.S. have been reserved in further responses to the situation in Serbia, waiting for the term of appeal against the Belgrade Electoral Commission's decision to recognize opposition victory to expire.

Lennie Fischer, European Parliament spokeswoman in Strazbourg, demanded Saturday that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic be totally isolated from the international community, FoNet reported on Saturday. In an interview with Berlin radio 'Deutchland Funk', Fischer opposed the idea of new sanctions as they would hit Serbian people and not the authorities She underlined that clear international support to the opposition in Serbia and political isolation of Milosevic were essential to drive the message home to Mr. Milosevic that his behaviour as unacceptable.

On Sunday, the Zajedno coalition strongly condemned the assassination attempt on Pristina University Chancellor, Radivoje Papovic. "This act was an attempt to halt democratization in Serbia and against the interests of all its citizen," the Zajedno statement said. Zajedno also urged a prompt investigation.

2 months after the second round of local elections the government is still unwilling to recognise the official and full results of those elections, said a statement from the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Saturday. The SPO also accused the ruling parties of trying to confuse the general public by "bombarding" it daily with contradictory statements from various jurists, courts and commissions.

Tahir Hasanovic, Secretary General of 'New Democracy' (ND) told Reuters on Sunday that he expected the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) to appeal against the decision of the Belgrade Electoral Commission. That decision recognized Zajedno's election victories in the Belgrade City Assembly. According to Hasanovic, this would show that the SPS was not prepared to "end the crisis elegantly."

Nebojsa Covic, current Mayor of Belgrade, told the daily 'Dnevni Telegraf' Saturday that he had had a meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic three days before he was dismissed from the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). He said he had urged Milosevic to end the crisis by recognizing the opposition victories in the November local elections and to open dialogue with the oppostion and encourage free media. Mr. Milosevic allegedly promised to reply to his requests a day or two later. Mr. Covic now fears that his expulsion from the SPS may be an indication of type of solution Milosevic has chosen.

Russian independent tv network NTV reported that recent stories about divisions in the ruling Socialist Party and the readiness of the Serbian authorities to gratify the demands of protests for democracy had proved hasty. Russian newspaper 'Sevodnia' said demonstrators will keep to the streets until they succeed in securing free access to the media and finally toppling Milosevic.

The news of the day on German Television Saturday was Saturday's meeting between German Foreign Minister Claus Kinkel and Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindic. This was taken by opposition as a clear sign that the German media ascribe huge importance to Djindjic's visit. Djindjic will return to Belgrade after discussions on Sunday.

Protests at the cancellation of opposition wins in the second round of local elections continue in cities throughout Serbia. On Saturday, protest meetings were held, among others in Jagodina, Kragujevac, Becej, Kraljevo, Svilajnac and Nis. Only demonstrators in Kraljevo had the privilege of going on an unimpeded march. No incidents with the police were reported in other protesting cities.

Vesna Pajevic, the vice-president of the city government in Kragujevac, said today that the protests in Serbia "represent the revolt of dissatisfied people, and not the rallies of a party" and that "the most significant elections in our lives will be held next year". During today's rally, which started with the usual walk, the participants applauded the policemen for their correct behaviour and work. The protest of the citizens of Kragujevac will be continued on Monday. The student protest gathering is scheduled for this evening.

The 23rd protest rally against the annulment of the results of the local elections in Serbia was held in Kikinda today. Radio Kikinda announced that the Organizational committee of the Protest had postponed the gatherings until January 21, since the Parish of Serbian Orthodox Church asked that the demonstrations should cease during the St. John religious feast. The electricity for the protest rallies held so far was supplied from the Parish premises.

The Legal board of the "Zajedno" coalition announced today that the statement of Ratko Markovic, vice-president of the Serbian Government and professor of the Law School, about the "nightmarish decision" of the City Electoral Committee (GIK) - was too rigorous, and asked him "to direct his just anger against the decisions of courts, including the Supreme Court of Serbia".

The Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) announced today that criminal charges must be brought against all those who had hindered the counting of the votes of the local elections held two months ago. The SPO pointed out that instead of the recognition of the election results, the public was daily bombarded with contradictory statements of lawyers, courts and commissions, aiming at complete confusion.

Around 1,000 citizens of Pristina (of Serbian and Montenegrin nationality) participated in today's protest rally provoked by the attempt on the life of Radivoje Papovic, the Chancellor of Pristina university.

The Reformation Democratic Party of Vojvodina (RDSV) joined today the coalition "Vojvodina", which consists of the Social-democratic League of Vojvodina (LSV), lead by Nenad Canak, and the People's Farmer Party (NSS), lead by Dragan Veselinov.

Vlado Vrkes, head of the Main office of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in the Republic of Srpska, stated today that the chief aims of the SDS planned for this year were the victory in the local elections, the revitalization of the economy, permanent settlement of the refugees and the strengthening of democratic institutions in the RS. Concerning the post-election crisis in Serbia, Vrkes said that the people's will is "undisputable" and that the results of the local elections from November 17 must be fully recognized.

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