News for December 26th, 1996

Serbian Ministry of the Internal Affairs officialy stated late last night that the police will not allow further blocking of the traffic in any of the cities in Serbia and that they will exert their authority to prevent it, report Belgrade media. If the law and the regulations are breached, the police will do their job according to the full extent of the law, stated the Ministry. The warning is clearly directed at the Zajedno coalition and Protest '96 demonstrations, whose by now traditional walkabouts have been blamed for causing traffic jams in Belgrade and elsewhere.

Predrag Starevic, age 39, supporter of the coalition Zajedno and participant in the recent demonstrations, died in a Belgrade hospital as a result of injuries sustained on Chirstmas Eve. Starevic died in the evening of December 24, few hours after he he had been admitted to hospital. A medical statement has been issued to the effect that Starveic had been injured the demonstrations but the actual cause of his death is still being examined. The police have unofficialy told his parents that there was a massive fight on the bridge across the river Sava, between an opposition crowd and a pro-Milosevic crowd, and that Starevic was taken to hospital after that.

Another Zajedno coalition protest was held today in Belgrade, attended by several tens of thousands of people. Due to the severe frost and heavy snowfall in the capital, but also due to the unusually strong police forces in the surrounding streets, the usual walk was canceled, reports FoNet. About 10,000 riot police were on stand-by, ready to prevent the protesters from their walkabout through downtown Belgrade. The beginning of the rally was marked by a minute of silence in homage to Predrag Starcevic, the demonstrator who died due to the injuries he sustained during a protest on December 24.

The Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) gave an official statement on the death of the protester, Predrag Starevic, saying: "The brutal killing of Predrag Starevic, done by Milosevic's squad, and the hiding of that awful crime, definitely show that the Serbian regime has chosen terrorism of the worst kind. The post-electoral crisis is entering a dangerous stage, and the consequences can be disastrous. The police ban on peaceful protest walks violates one of the basic political and human rights. The ban does not oblige anyone, because it is imposed by those whose main features are lawlessness and the uncivilized behavior."

The spokesman of the Student Protest Dejan Vasiljevic stated today that the organizers of the protest were warned by the police that the traffic must not be blocked, i.e. the police will not allow it. Before the beginning of today's walk, the organizers read aloud the information they have about a phone conversation which allegedly took place yesterday between US President Bill Clinton and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. According to that information, Clinton called Milosevic by phone last night, and urged him not to use force against the peaceful protesters. Today, eleven police buses and a great number of jeeps and police vans were spotted in downtown Belgrade.

Yugoslav Federal Minister of the Interior Vukasin Jokanovic announced that the police forces will not intervene if the street protests are peaceful. Asked what will happen today, the Minister said that he did not know, for the job is in the hands of the Chief Commander of the Belgrade Police.

A number of Belgrade citizens were beaten today by the police, after the protest meeting of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" in Republic Square was already finished.

The coalition "Zajedno" stated tonight that after their rally was finished, about ten people were hurt in the police intervention at Terazije, in the center of Belgrade. The coalition also said that "the police Headquarters for supressing the demonstrations, which were located in the "Komgrap" building across the street from the Democratic party premises during the whole time, were not evacuated until 20:00. The announcement further states that "the snipers that were aimed at the windows of the Democratic Party headquarters all day, as well as the RTS (Serbian state-controlled Radio- Television Network) television crew, who were taping the events for the convenience of the police were withdrawn from the same building only at about 19:00".

This evening after the rally of the "Zajedno" coalition, the police beat Oleg Supin, the cameraman of the Russian NTV television, and broke his camera afterwards. France Press reports that the police attacked a cameraman of the Associated Press, but he managed to escape.

Manager of the Belgrade Fund for Humanitarian Law Natasa Kandic stated that the supporters of Serbian President harrased her and dislocated her shoulder on December 24th.

A new world record in street protesting was set in Nis yesterday, as 15,000 people attended the city's 38th consecutive daily protest walk.

President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic today refused to receive of the ranking diplomat of the American embassy in Belgrade, Richard Miles. This afternoon, Miles spoke to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic about the possible intervention of the police in the Zajedno opposition demonstrations.

United States of America condemned the Serbian authorities for the use of force against the supporters of the opposition and announced that they still consider President Milosevic responsible for any possible violence.

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel today warned Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to let the opposition protest freely, reports FoNet. Kinkel emphasized that the world will not stand aside if the Serbian authorities ban opposition rallies. Using extremely curt terms, Kinkel emphasized that the international community will not stand by idly if Milosevic fails to heed these warnings.

Today France officially demanded from the relevant parties in Serbia to stop violent street clashes and urged Serbian authorities to respect the citizens' freedom of speech and assembly.

Russian Parliament has, after a long debate, made an official statement on the current events in Serbia. The statement says that Russia is against any foreign interference and any unilateral moves regarding the events in Yugoslavia, because they would only harm the basic interests of Yugoslavia, reports FoNet.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez will submit tomorrow his report on the current crisis in Serbia. Gonzalez led the OSCE delegation to Belgrade, whose mandate was to examine the post- electoral political crisis in Serbia and offer recommendations for overcoming the present impasse.

China supports the Russian position that foreign countries should not get involved in Serbian internal problems. "We are carefully watching what is going on in Belgrade. Municipal elections belong to Serbian internal affairs, and I hope they will find the solution among themselves," said the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One of the most renowned journalists of the Belgrade state-run daily newspaper "Politika," Biserka Matic, was denied entry into the company's building. She gave a statement to Radio B92 and said that she has been laid off. This is the second instance of a suspension imposed on journalists who have objected to the way in which "Politika" has been covering the current events in Serbia.

Open hostility towards the opposition, misuse of the state television, rekindling of nationalism and postponing of democratic changes represent the real authoritarian nature of the Serbian regime, announced the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia. The Forum expressed the conviction that recommendations of the OSCE delegation, which visited Belgrade recently in order to enquire into the regularity of the local elections of November 17th, would ensure the recognition of the will of the voters.

A group of the students of the Law School in Belgrade, which was heading for Student Square down Srpskih vladara street, paused in front of the building of Serbian Presidency at 12:00 today and booed at it for several minutes. The office of Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, is in that building.

Regarding a number of various estimations concerning the number of participants in the rally of support for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, held at Terazije on Tuesday, the "Dnevni Telegraf" (a daily newspaper in Belgrade) writes today that it has hired an expert who, after a precise estimation, claims that 75,000 people at most can gather in that space.

PRO TV, the independent television station in Bucharest, estimated today that that the counter-rallies in support of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would not be held in Belgrade again. In its comment, the PRO TV communicated that, owing to the complete absence of information at the state television and radio, most of the people brought to the SPS (Serbian Socialist Party) rally did not even know why the citizens of Belgrade and other cities in Serbia protested.

Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), said today that, in his speech at the counter-rally in Belgrade, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic showed "that he does not realize what is happening in Serbia". "His (Milosevic's) speech sounded as if it belonged to the bygone times. It was manifest that he does not perceive the cause and the consequences of the events in Serbia," said Seselj at the press conference.

There had not been almost any incidents at the protest rallies against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for more than a month, until Tuesday, when Milosevic bused his supporters to Belgrade, informs the London "Independent" today.

Around 10,000 citizens of Kragujevac gathered this evening in the center of the city at the 38th consecutive protest rally against the annulment of the results of the local elections. There were no unwelcome incidents during the rally. The newly elected Mayor of Kragujevac Veroljub Stevanovic, president of the City Government Borivoje Radic and vice-president of the City Assembly Vlatko Rajkovic lead today's protest rally.

Several hundreds of the citizens of Kikinda gathered today, for the first time, in town square at the rally of support for Belgrade students and the "Zajedno" coalition, who have been protesting for more than a month against the annulment of the second round of the local elections in Serbia.

During today's protest gathering of the "Zajedno" coalition and the citizens of Majdanpek an incident occurred when a small group of supporters of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), carrying guns, ran among the demonstrators. One of these men held a gun above his head, shouting that all the supporters of the SPS were armed and that they would drive all the demonstrators away from the town. The security of the "Zajedno" coalition called the police, who intervened and prevented further incidents.

A few thousands of the citizens of Sabac protested today in the city center for the 26th time, and against the annulment of the results of the local elections. No police forces were spotted on the streets. The new gathering of the supporters of the coalition "Zajedno" is scheduled for tomorrow at 15:00.

Around 1,000 supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition protested this evening in the center of Pirot against the annulment of the results of the second round of local elections.

The Stari Grad municipality in Belgrade made an announcement today, in which it stated that "the unknown organizers" of the pro-Milosevic rally held on December 24th "had broken the law, ignored the jurisdiction of the borough authorities and endangered the safety of the citizens and their possessions. The Assembly of the Stari Grad municipality cannot accept the fact that Slobodan Milosevic and the leaders of the SPS (Serbian Socialist Party) and the JUL (United Yugoslav Left) chose the oldest Belgrade Municipality for the site of the conflict, although they did not win one single delegate's mandate in this municipality, reads the announcement.

Novak Kilibarda, president of the People's Party of Montenegro (NSCG), announced today that he will demand that a discussion be held about the "grave" situation in Belgrade and Serbia at tomorrow's session of Yugoslav Parliament.

Nikola Poplasen, vice-president of People's Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, said today that the demonstrations in Belgrade and the events in Serbia are the manifestation of the people's intent to change the present regime.

Serbian National Radio-Television Network (the RTS) announced in its prime time news program this evening that the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition "seem to have finally understood the warning of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which it was stated that the streets cannot be obstinately blocked because it causes damage to the citizens and the economy". "That is why they did not even attempt to march along the streets of Belgrade today," claims the RTS.

President of the City Board of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Branislav Ivkovic called the representatives of the Initiative Commitee of the Student Protest '96 for a meeting today, Belgrade media report. It is stated in the announcement that they should, in the course of the conversation, express each other's opinions. One of the spokesmen of the Student Protest '96 told the Beta agency that they received no official invitation for a meeting from Ivkovic.

Vice-president of the Federal Government Nikola Sainovic and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zivadin Jovanovic declared today that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should neither arbitrate nor mediate in Serbia, Belgrade media report.

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