News for December 24th, 1996

A large scale clash between Milosevic's and Zajedno supporters was avoided by a hair's breath in Belgrade today. Supporters of the Socialist Party of Serbia staged a pro-Milosevic rally 3 p.m., while at the same time Zajedno sympathizers gathered for their 35th march through the streets of Belgrade.
The atmosphere grew heated around noon, when supporters bussed in from other parts of Serbia started arriving to the Yugoslav capital. They were quickly surrounded by thousands of Belgraders with whom they proceeded to exchange verbal abuse -- so far without violent incidents, however. At the Terazije Square, from the seat of the Democratic Party, passers-by were showered with leaflets of the coalition Zajedno. The first serious incident occurred in Knez Mihajlova Street around 2 p.m., when an SPS supporter, acting in full view of several photo-reporters and TV cameras, shot a citizen in the head. The wounded, Ivica Lazovic, a member of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) from Boljevac, was taken to the Trauma Center in serious condition. Meanwhile, at the Socialist rally on the Terazije Square, President Milosevic made one of increasingly rare public appearances and addressed the crowd.
President's supporters left the square before 5 p.m. In the meantime, over 250,000 Zajedno supporters gathered in the Republic Square, hemmed in by several thousand-strong police force. They set off on their usual protest march through Belgrade streets around 4 p.m., in order to take the heat out of the situation and let the Socialists get done with their rally. Around 5 p.m., the police used tear-gas against the demonstrators in the city center, at the moment when the Zajedno supporters tried to get to the Terazije Square from the Republic Square. Although the police used their batons and hurt a number of people, the situation soon cooled down.
Opposition leaders called on the citizens to remain sensible and keep clear of the police. Addressing over 250,000 citizens gathered in the Republic Square after their march through Belgrade streets, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), Vuk Draskovic said: "Slobodan Milosevic had planned bloodshed and a start of a civil war in Belgrade today." He cursed the President in front of several hundreds of thousands of gathered opposition supporters because Milosevic "does not shrink from spilling blood in order to keep his power". He called on the citizens not to be drawn into "Milosevic's bloody intention to turn Serbia into a Vukovar, a Sarajevo, a Krajina," concluding that because of his actions, the Serbian President must leave his office. The situation finally settled around 7 p.m., when the police as well as the citizens of Belgrade withdrew from the city streets. A new protest march by Zajedno is set for tomorrow.

Fifteen casualties were taken to the Trauma Center in Belgrade today. All 15 had sustained injuries in the clashes between Milosevic's and Zajedno supporters. Two of the fifteen have been hospitalized. Studio B television reports that Rade Vasiljevic, a medical doctor at the Trauma Center, said that the 42-year-old man who was brought with a head injury inflicted by a fire-arm was kept in hospital after a successful operation. Another 44-year-old was detained with a broken leg. The other 13 were discharged with minor injuries, he added.

Representatives of the Belgrade Student Protest stated tonight that there were eight students injured at today's protest who required medical attention. According to the information the representatives of the Student Protest received from the private clinic "Anlave", a professor of the Medical School was also injured by members of the special police forces.

The police beat a reporter of the Radio Index during the opposition rally while working on his assignment. The reporter, who wished to remain anonymous, stated for Beta that he was hit with billies on all parts of the, and that he has a cut and inch long on this head.

Representatives of the Initiative Board of the Student Protest 96 informed journalists that they do not take the notice of the Belgrade police department, in which they were reminded that they did not report today's walk as a public meeting, as a restriction. If the gathering at the square in front of School of Philosophy is prohibited in spite of all, we shall meet in front of School of Law, from where we will begin our protest walk down Beogradska, Nemanjina, and Karadjordjeva streets to Kalemegdan and back down Dusanova street, responded the students. Beta was told that route will be changed if it is interrupted by protesters of the rally of support for the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic.

Some 50,000 UofB students marched down the streets of Belgrade for the 31st consecutive day today. They departed from their original itinerary and moved down the Pariska Street in order to avoid contact with SPS supporters. Some of the city's traffic wardens did not conceal their solidarity with the students. One of them took a whistle out of his pocket, one of the sound gadgets used by the demonstrators, and blew on it along with the students. In the course of their march, the students came into contact with several small groups of SPS supporters but incidents were averted thanks to the student security people.

Around 1,000 students of Novi Sad University gathered in the central square this evening to express their protest against the violence and bloodshed in Belgrade. They accuse Slobodan Milosevic's regime of causing the clashes between those who support it and those who are against it. The students appealed to the citizens to refrain from violence which could lead into the civil war.

The information office of the Ministry of the Interior confirmed today that the mass rally in support of Slobodan Milosevic scheduled to take place in Belgrade today is being organized by the SPS [ruling party's] City Board. Responding to the Student Protest '96 query about the possible problems arising from the simultaneous holding of student and pro- government rallies in Belgrade, the same office of the Ministry of the Interior responded thus, by fax: "Given the fact that you have not announced a public rally for Dec. 24, 1996, the law regulating public assemblies does not grant you any official status... Concerning this matter, therefore, the interest you have expressed about the place and time set aside for the public meetings scheduled for today [in Belgrade] is without any legal grounds."

Headmaster of a primary school in downtown Belgrade has ordered all classes canceled and sent the schoolchildren back to their homes with the instructions to attend this afternoon's pro- government rally at Terazije Square, reports the Zajedno Information Service. The same source also reports that it has received information from Belgrade postal workers who say that Milorad Jaksic, CEO of the Serbian postal corporation, has ordered all employees of this state-owned company to attend the pro- Milosevic demonstrations today. "We are receiving numerous calls from the citizens of Belgrade who are telling us that they have been threatened with summary dismissal by their supervisors and company CEOs if they fail to show up for the SPS rally this afternoon," reports coalition Zajedno's Information Service.

Today the US Government gave a statement regarding the intensification of the crisis in Serbia, expressing its concern about the clashes in Belgrade. It also appealed to both sides to refrain from any acts of violence and avoid further confrontations, reports Slobodan Pavlovic, the FoNet correspondent of the "Nasa Borba". The US Government holds the Government of Serbia and President Slobodan Milosevic responsible for the acts of violence committed by the demonstrators.

The respectable Moscow weekly "Itogi" criticizes the Russian government for not taking a stand concerning the demonstrations which Europe has not seen since the fall of Ceausesku. The paper especially states the independent role of the students, which give the the massive protests additional meaning.

Once again, according to a Reuters report late last night, the US has warned the authorities in Belgrade not to use force against their opponents, who have been demonstrating in the capital of Serbia and demanding the restoration of the original local election results. Reuters reports that a representative of the State Department has called on official Belgrade to focus its attention on solving the political crisis caused by the annulment of the opposition's electoral victory on November 17, and to cease encouraging actions which could result in street clashes. The State Department reminds Milosevic that it has repeatedly warned him that any attempt at a violent clamp-down would leave Serbia even more isolated internationally.

German Foreign Minister Claus Kinkel expressed today his concern over the violence in Belgrade and called on all sides to refrain from further confrontations, reports Reuters. He said the crisis in Yugoslavia can be resolved only through democratic dialogue and not by violence. Claus Kinkel has sent a message to Serbian President Milosevic that further violence would be a death blow to his efforts to return Serbia to Europe.

The rally of support for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade today was a near failure. One person was wounded from a firearm in the clashes between Milosevic's supporters and the supporters of the opposition, reports the France Press. Disoriented by the hostile reception in the streets of Belgrade, Milosevic's supporters, mostly elderly people from the provinces (many of them Serbian farmers from Kosovo), looked confused, since their xenophobic banners were energetically booed at, reports the AFP. The same agency reports that their spirts were aroused by the speech of Slobodan Milosevic, which contained the usual note of patriotism, and nationalism even.

France accused today the authorities in Serbia of instigating the violence in Belgrade and appealed to them to refrain from any abrupt actions in this crisis. "We had stated that the demonstrations in the Yugoslav capital have been held in peace for the past month and that the situation was abruptly edged during the counter-rally organized by the government", it is said in the statement of the ministry of foreign affairs.

The first channel of the Greek national television network announced today that violent street clashes had broken out in Belgrade between the supporters of the opposition and the supporters of Slobodan Milosevic. The commercial "Mega" TV-station in Greece announced that the situation in Belgrade after the street clashes is out of control.

Lamberto Dini, chief of the Italian diplomacy condemned the violence between the demonstrators in Belgrade, emphasizing that the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic promised that his conflict with the opposition would remain peaceful.

The recording aired by CNN, which was claimed to be made at the time when the member of SPO Ivica Lazovic was shot, is not an authentic shot, reports Beta. The recording was made 10 minutes after the incident and shows one of the supporters of SPS shooting into the air. Lazovic was shot by a man in a long gray coat, at least 50 years old wearing metal-rimmed glasses, and was seen by a reporter of Beta. Supporters of SPS seized his gun, because he threatened to continue firing. The gun found its way into the hands of a man in a red jacket who shot it into the air, frightened by the cries of citizens bitter because of the incident. Lazovic was shot on the corner of Knez Mihajova and Uskocka streets at 13.40 and there were no cameras present at the time.

The spokesman of the Foreign Office stated for Beta that the British government "appeals to both sides, the Serbian government as well as the opposition" not to use force and refrain from violence. The Foreign Office has no comment concerning the happenings in Belgrade, and can only repeat the earlier appeal, said the spokesman in response to the questions to comment the incidents which occurred during today's demonstrations.

Members of the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia "beat tens of citizens, who expressed their displeasure with the speech of Slobodan Milosevic in a peaceful manner", stated the coalition Zajedno. Milosevic has "shown today in the best possible way, how much he can be trusted, when he promised foreign diplomats that he will not use force against the demonstrators", it is said in the statement.

Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic Party, said this morning that the planned counter-demonstration by Milosevic's supporters looks "curioser and curioser" by the hour. "It presents us with a truly mysterious set of circumstances," said Djindjic, "since neither its organizer nor its aims have been made public." Djindjic went on to tell Radio B92 that Milosevic seems to be at the end of his tether, and is trying to create the conditions which would allow him to impose a state of emergency on Belgrade, if not the whole of Serbia, too. He estimates that Milosevic's tactic is to try everything within his power to sideline the whole issue of electoral fraud.

Tonight's performances of Belgrade theatres: Atelje 212, the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, and the National Theatre were canceled, Beta has confirmed in these three theatres. The coalition Zajedno stated that the actors canceled the performances "in sign of protest for the shedding of blood and the police on the streets of Belgrade, which was caused by the Socialist Party of Serbia."

The Initiative Committee for the defence of democracy, which is consisted of university professors, estimated that Slobodan Milosevic brought the situation to the edge of a civil war and asked of him to act as the president of all the citizens of Serbia. They characterized Milosevic's statement in which he called political opponents "fifth column" as an lynch invitation.

The delegation of the Student Protest 96 meet today in Podgorica with, Ratko Djukanovic, Chancellor of the Montenegrin University and Goran Jevric, the student-vice-chancellor, stated the Informative Service of the Student Protest. During the conversation full support of the professors and students of Montenegrin university was expressed for their colleagues in Serbia and their demands. The delegation also spoke with the President of the Parliament of Montenegro. It was stated that the students "found understanding and the same views, which they could not expect".

The SPS delegate in the serbian parliament, former minister of internal affairs Radmilo Bogdanovic spoke today to the journalists of BETA agency and emphasized that "the time has come to stop the protests of citizens in Belgrade and other large cities of Serbia". "They are a group of people who found a themselves nice amusement", said Bogdanovic. Speaking of today's counter-rally held in support of president Milosevic, Bogdanovic remarked that "this is the first rally organized by the socialists in Belgrade". He also said that he does not expect confrontations between demonstrators, because "if the intention was to confront and fight, they would have done so by now".

Shop-windows of the caffe-bookshop "Srpska Rec" in Zmaj-Jovina street were demolished this morning, two waiters were injured and a part of the interior was destroyed. Blagica Stojanovic, journalist of "Srpska Rec" stated today for BETA agency that six armed men burst into the bookshop at 9.15 this morning and demolished it. "This act of violence leads to disorder which the regime has prepared for today's so called counter-rally" specifies today's "Srpska rec".

Radomir Janicijevic, the recently elected delegate of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL) in Kragujevac said that at the last elections "SPS has beat itself". "People who lead SPS in this city do not belong in this party. The actions of a few of it's leaders helped the victory of candidates of the coalition "Zajedno" in Kragujevac", indicated Janicijevic at last nights meeting of the local boards of JUL.

Few thousands of Serbs from Kosovo, last night and this morning traveled to Belgrade to support the politics of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic at the forthcoming rally. Transportation by trains, buses and automobiles was completely organized, and free of charge.

Between processions of the sympathizers of the United Branch Syndicate "Nezavisnost" and supporters of the Serbian Socialists Party, which passed by each other in the Srpskih vladara street, two Santa-Clauses stood by with banners reading "Happy New 1997". The Santa-Clauses, dressed in the usual red coats and long white beards-also held a large greeting-banners, which they later took down the Terazije street, towards the counter-rally organized by the supporters of the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic.

Several hundreds of members of the United Branch Syndicates "Nezavisnost" gathered today in front of Serbian Parliament around 13:00, during the session of Parliament.

Tomislav Nikolic, head of the delegates from the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in Serbian Parliament, criticized today the delegates of the serbian Socialist Party (SPS) for rejecting the suggestion that the political situation and the level of security in Serbia should be discussed at today's session of Serbian Parliament. He pointed out that in this way the SPS is pushing the country into the civil war.

The Republic Board of the Communist League - Movement for Yugoslavia (SK-PJ) in Montenegro condemned today "the several weeks long street manifestations of the dissatisfaction with the election results on the part of the "Zajedno" coalition". In their statement, the SK-PJ expressed their conviction that the dissatisfaction with the election results is only the occasion for the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition to start realizing the plot to destabilize Yugoslavia conceived in one of the world's power centers.

Mirko Marjanovic, president of the Serbian Government, said today that history has not recorded an example of such betrayal of one's people as is being performed by the "Zajedno" coalition. In the introduction of his speech on the economic policy of Serbia in 1997, Marjanovic pointed out that what the "Zajedno" coalition and the Albanian separatists at Kosovo do represents "shameful acts" and hinders the intensive process of Serbia's integration into the world's political and financial currents. He added that representatives of the "Zajedno" coalition are "traitors", and that they will bear the responsibility for potential clashes in the streets of Belgrade today.

Radovan Radovic, a delegate of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) in Serbian Parliament, confirmed today for the Radio B92 that the SPS is the organizer of today's pro-Milosevic rally and said that it would be better if the "Zajedno" coalition simply disappeared. "The SPS is the organizer. Our organization is bigger because we have more members," said Radovic.

Aleksandar Vulin, the spokesman of the Yugoslav Left, stated for the Radio B92 around 14:00 today that there are no policemen at Terazije because, as he said, it was probably thought that no ugly incidents would occur. Vulin said he hoped that the police would separate the two groups - the supporters of Serbian President slobodan Milosevic on one side, and the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition on the other.

Radio Belgrade (state-controlled radio station) announced in the news program at 15:00 today that more than 200,000 supporters of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic were gathered in the center of Belgrade at the rally "For Serbia". "It is the biggest rally ever held in Belgrade," announced the Radio Belgrade.

The host of the prime-time information program on RTS "Dnevnik 2" estimated that there was "more than half a million citizens" at the rally of support for Slobodan Milosevic. According to other reports from the rally there was approximately 100,000 people on Terazije. In this program, of which the first half hour was dedicated to the gathering, there was no mention of the conflicts between the supporters of the coalition Zajedno and the Socialist Party of Serbia, who came to Belgrade from all over Serbia, nor of the clashes between the citizens of Belgrade and the police. There was also no mention of the supporter of SPS who shot a member of the coalition Zajedno, who is fighting for his life.

Several thousands of citizens of Kragujevac continued today their protest against the annulment of the results of the second round of local elections in Serbia. The participants of today's rally were informed that the constitutive session of the City Assembly is scheduled for 9:00 tomorrow.

Nenad Canak, president of the Social Democratic League of Vojvodina, and leader of the coalition "Vojvodina", stated that it is clear Slobodan Milosevic is pushing the country into the civil war and that, in order to keep the position which he usurps together with his family, he will regret neither money nor human lives.

The journalist of the Belgrade BK Television rebelled today because the owner of the company, Bogoljub Karic, didn't allow the airing of all the information concerning today's protest rallies in Belgrade. Because of the mutiny, the regular information program "Telefakt" was not transmitted, stated an un-named source from the television company. Instead of the program, an announcement that there were technical difficulties was transmitted.

More than 1,000 citizens of Sabac protested against the annulment of the second ballot of the local elections in Serbia. The demonstrators were joined by the members of the Independent Sydicate of the "Zorka" who gave an announcement in which they support the student protest.

About 2,000 citizens of Leskovac gathered tonight at the 20th protest against the annulment of the second ballot of the local elections in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia. The protesters went for a one-hour protest walk down the streets of the city.

More than 3,000 citizens gathered in the streets of Pirot for the 26th protesting the annulment of the second ballot of the local elections.

Around 2,000 citizens of jagodina participated today in the protests of the coalition Zajedno because of the disrespect of the electoral will of the citizens. A local radio station stated that the Socialist Party of Serbia had sent 110 buses transporting participant of the rally of support for Slobodan Milosevic to Belgrade.

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