News for December 18th, 1996

Today's attempt of Belgrade students (their third so far) to take their protest walk to the streets of Dedinje failed. Students failed to reach this elite Belgrade area where Slobodan Milosevic also resides in response to yesterday's statement by the Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs Zoran Sokolovic that police never stop them from entering Dedinje in the first place. In the two previous attempts, the students were barred from proceeding any further by cordons of heavily armed police stationed in the Knez Milos street. Some 30.000 students were today again stopped in the same manner at another Belgrade intersection. The police message was again the same: "This is as far as you can go." The students reacted to this by putting a two-meter "pyramid" in front of the police cordon, with an inscription n it saying "Dedinje: The Forbidden City." The students of the School of Architecture erected an artistic construction on Plato today.

The Initiative Committee of the Students Protest '96 sent a letter to their colleagues in the Student Alliance, informing that the participants of the Student Protest '96 renounce collectively their membership in the Student Alliance.

Protest walks in Serbia do not merely make cracks in the monolith regime of Slobodan Milosevic, but are quickly becoming an alternative way of living and even a group therapy, writes the Guardian today. This daily paper reports that 250,000 people took to the streets during the weekend, which is 1/8 of the population of Belgrade, and that the same habit has been created in other cities, also.

Today the citizens of Belgrade took to the streets for the 29th time, protesting against the annulment of the second round of municipal elections. A few tens of thousands of Belgrade citizens went by the Embassy of the Russian Federation expressing their disapproval of the official attitude of the Kremlin towards the electoral crisis in our country. It was announced that St. Nikola's feast would be celebrated tomorrow at Republic Square, where fish, cookies and vine would be served.

Predrag Cvjeticanin, assistant at the School of Philosophy in Nis, stated that Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, received the three-member delegation of the Initiative Committee of the Student Protest in Nis. "The conversation lasted about 10 minutes; we read the letter we wrote to the President and handed him the forged records of the second round of the municipal elections in Nis", said Cvjeticanin. "Milosevic did not say a word about the demonstrations themselves, which is astonishing," said Cvjeticanin, since the shouts and whistles of 30.000 students who stood in front of the building of the Presidency, could be heard in President's office very well.

The students of the University of Novi Sad went for a long walk along the streets of that city today, the 15th day of the protest. The demands of the students were supported by more than 60 professors of the School of Medicine.

Thirty students of the University of Kragujevac started for Belgrade on foot this morning, in support of the protest of their Belgrade Colleagues, which has been going on the past 26 days. The students started on the "March of Truth" in order to hand a letter to Slobodan Milosevic together with their Belgrade colleagues and to demand a public address of him.

Around 20,000 citizens of Kraljevo gathered yesterday evening at the protest rally against the annulment of the second ballot of the local elections. After the protest walk, the gathered people were addressed by Zoran Djindjic, president of the Democratic Party (DS).

Coalition Zajedno accepted today the decision by OSCE to send a team to the the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisting of permanent international politicians, diplomats and legal experts who are to examine the regularity of local elections in Serbia. "Democratic 'Zajedno' coalition expects the conclusions of the OSCE mission to be obeyed by the Serbian authorities", said "Zajedno". "Zajedno" added that they would refuse any sort of political dialogue with Slobodan Milosevic for as long as the November 17th results are not acknowledged throughout Serbia.

Today's run of "Nedeljni Telegraf" (Weekly Telegraph) carries an article about the confusion among the top army ranks who are divided on the issue of how the position of themselves in the current, and so far non-violent conflict between the regime and its opponents. The article reports that SPS, the ruling party headed by Slobodan Milosevic, has been putting increasing pressure on the top generals of the Yugoslav Army to declare themselves openly and make a stand on situation in Serbia. The same article also adds that, according to the weekly's sources inside the Yugoslav Army, its commanding officers have been resisting this pressure so far with the support of the army top brass. At the same time, reports "Nedeljni Telegraf", a considerable number of officers have defied army orders and have been participating in street protests in Belgrade, Nis, Pirot, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Cacak, and Uzice. Faced with breaches of discipline, the Defence Council held an extraordinary session on December 10, at which lieutenant-general Momcilo Perisic, commander-in-chief at the Army Headquarters, was asked to visit all army units and hold top-level meetings with their commanding officers in an effort to prevent any future officer participation in the protests. "Nedeljni Telegraf" reports that lieutenant-general Perisic was explicitly asked to elaborate on the present state of the Yugoslav Army and give his personal evaluation of how the army would be likely to respond if asked to intervene and repress the current wave the opposition protests in Serbia. According to the sources quoted in the article, Perisic assured the Defence Council that the army has been put on the alert and is currently in the state of battle preparedness in all larger towns and cities in Serbia. He added, however, that in all probability it would respond only in case the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came under attack by a foreign power. The Belgrade weekly emphasizes that the Defence Council session ended in an atmosphere of ambiguity and ambivalence, with most of the questions left hanging in the air. It also reports that Momir Bulatovic, President of Montenegro, closed the session with an appeal to repress popular discontent. None of those present, concludes "Nedeljni Telegraf", including Zoran Lilic, Slobodan Milosevic, Pavle Bulatovic and Momcilo Perisic, responded to Momir Bulatovic's appeal.

The municipal electoral committee in Smederevska Palanka reexamined today, after the Municipal Court's verdict, its decisions about the second round elections for five mandates in the Municipal Assembly and confirmed its original decisions about the repetition of the second round elections in those five voting units. In that way, according to the results of all three rounds of elections, the Serbian Socialist Party has 27, and the "Zajedno" coalition 22 mandates in the City Assembly.

In Smederevska Palanka and Sremska Mitrovica, supporters of the left coalition staged a "meeting in support" of Slobodan Milosevic. Similar meetings are announced to take place in Krusevac tomorrow starting from 3 p.m. and, according to head of Pirot Serbian Socialist Party Momcilo Cvetkovic in Pirot on Saturday, December 21.

On December 23rd, farmers in Vojvodina, Serbia's bread basket, will start their boycott of food processing factories which have not paid for the agricultural produce bought and delivered so far, announced Serbian Independent Trade Union of Farmers today.

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