News for December 30th, 1996

The information service of the Yugoslav Army Command Headquarters issued a statement today saying: "Yugoslav Army Command Headquarters and the Army itself are unanimous in principled carrying out of their tasks. Any other interpretation of the Army's role does not represent its official position, regardless of the manner in which it is presented to the general public." The statement stressed the Army's allegiance to the Constitution and the "legitimate" institutions of the FR Yugoslavia, emphasizing its role as that of "a factor of stability and guarantor of sovereignty, integrity and security of the country and its citizens." The statement also stressed that members of the Army had exerted their rights in the "legally organized elections."

Dejan Bulatovic was released from prison today after serving 25 days. Speaking to Radio B92, he said he has no objections to the treatment he received at the hands of the prison wardens, many of whom offered help and identified themselves as supporters of the coalition Zajedno. He stressed the great difference between the prison wardens and the members of city police in Belgrade's November 29 Street police station who beat him, forced a baton up his rectum, put a gun muzzle into his mouth and terrorized him. "But I forgive them, for I am a Christian, although I have to struggle against them," said Bulatovic and added that he would continue protesting together with other citizens of Belgrade.

Today's 38th straight protest gathering of several thousand UofB students began with an address by the released Dejan Bulatovic, who thanked them for their support while he was in prison. The film director Emir Kusturica also addressed the students, saying he believes the students will win for the simple reason that they demand only the very minimum that must be granted. The "protest drive" set for today was canceled because the buses which were to take the students without wheels failed to arrive. Students tried to go for their regular march but were prevented by police forces. They were thus confined to Knez Mihajlova Street which was sealed off by riot squads. So, instead of marching, they first did "prison round" walks in front of the police lines, then made a snowman and had some fun with mock snow-ball fights among themselves. The next student gathering is set for tomorrow at 9 p.m. at the Republic Square, from where the students are to go on a New Year's protest march through the streets of Belgrade.

The Coalition Zajedno held its 41st protest in a row in the center of Belgrade. About 50,000 people attended today's rally. Since last Thursday, heavy police forces have been preventing the crowd from their usual walkabouts in downtown Belgrade. Today's rally was addressed by Dejan Bulatovic, protester who was severely beaten by the police and sentenced to 25 days in prison because he carried Milosevic's effigy at one of the rallies earlier this month. Dejan Bulatovic was released from prison today.

The Steering Board of the Student Protest '96 today sent a New Year's Message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The students' message says that the situation in the country is dramatic:
"It seems to us that we are just a step away from democracy, but we've never been closer to the civil war, too. We, the students, want peace and democracy in Serbia. We hope that you will not tell us that we have sent this message to the wrong address. You made the first step: you called the OSCE delegation to evaluate the disputed election results. We regret that this conflict could not be solved within the institutions of our legal system, but we support that act of yours. Now, when the truth has been established, it's time for the next step."

The Journalists of Belgrade's TV station Studio B have sent a letter of support to the organizers of the Student Protest 96. The journalists said that they are heart and soul with the students, but they cannot broadcast objective reports because they are led and censored by an editorial board which is under the absolute control of the state.

Spokesman of the Democratic Party Slobodan Vuksanovic today stated that the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia is trying to play games, via state-run media, with the OSCE's official report on the municipal elections in Serbia. He labeled that manipulation as "irresponsible and dangerous, because it is pushing Serbia into even deeper isolation." He added that the police in Serbia was misused and involved into ideological and political conflict conducted by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS).

In an interview published in today's issue of the independent daily "Dnevni Telegraf," leaders of the coalition Zajedno consider it likely that they may be arrested in the near future.

Vladan Batic, Democratic Party MP, has sent an open letter to Dragan Tomic, president of the Serbian Parliament, in which he accuses Tomic of being personally responsible for the de facto dictatorship which is now the political reality of Serbia.

Despite subzero temperatures, students of the University of Novi Sad today held their protest march, cheered on by many passers-by. No incidents occurred. A new protest march was announced for tomorrow.

Student Protest '96 has received an open letter of support signed by thirty-eight teachers of a Belgrade classical High - School. "You, the students of Belgrade, have given the best example of how to fight against the abuses perpetrated by this regime. We, who were your teachers until just recently, are acutely aware of the enormity of the current crisis in our educational system and of the futility of our own efforts to defend our dignity simply by honest and truthful work," reads the letter. "We appeal to you to persist with your demands and to maintain to the end the peaceful nature of your protests, ignoring all provocations to violence: the future rests with you."

Most of the special police units brought to Belgrade over the past few days spent yesterday inside the buses parked all over the downtown core of the Serbian capital, reports the independent daily "Dnevni Telegraf."

Tamara Milanovic, FoNet correspondent from London, reports that the Foreign Office has issued another official statement to the Serbian authorities. Britain has warned Milosevic's regime to desist from its attempts to prevent or otherwise stifle the protests, emphasizing that any further ignoring of the Nov. 17 electoral results could seriously damage Serbia's relations with the rest of the world.

Hans Kosnik, former EU administrator for Mostar, called upon the European countries to isolate Serbia politically and diplomatically. In the interview for the "Deutschlandfunk" radio, Kosnik said, however, that he is against the economic boycott since it would affect the people who already live in difficult conditions. Europe should finally realize that for quite a long time it has been supporting those who in fact bear most of the responsibility for the tragedy on the Balkans, said Kosnik.

Mirko Klarin, correspondent for the independent daily "Nasa Borba," reports that a majority of European newspapers today carry editorials on the current situation in Serbia. The common thread is the shared opinion that Slobodan Milosevic's policy is now a major threat to Serbia's future and that the opposition is the only political actor in the country that can defend Serbia from a renewed round of economic sanctions.

The information service of the Student Protest '96, announced their New Year's celebration, which begins tomorrow at 9 p.m. in front of the School of Philosophy. A rock-concert will be held during the night. The students also announced that they will be in front of the RTS building (the state-run TV) on January 1st: they will use pots, kettles and cutlery as their percussion instruments, trying to raise as much of a din as possible during the RTS's main news service at 7:30 p.m. Protest '96 has invited all Belgraders to come out on the streets on Jan. 1st and have their own "percussion sessions" in protest against the state propaganda machine.

Miodrag Perisic, the vice-president of the Democratic Party, and Branislav Canak, the president of the United Branch Syndicates "Nezavisnost", expressed their approval of the support of Veton Suroi and Adem Dimachi for the demonstrators in Belgrade and stated that a democratic Serbia would solve the problem of Kosovo.

The City Assembly of Kragujevac appointed today six members of the new city government. Four members more are to be appointed at the first session of the Assembly in January 1997. The delegates of the Serbian Socialist Party did not attend the session today because of the protest marches organized by the oppositional "Zajedno" Coalition, which - as they said - disrupt traffic and make supplying difficult.

The 34th protest rally was held in Kragujevac today against the annulment of the results of the local elections and against the decision of the Serbian Socialist Party to annex the Radio-Television Kragujevac to the state television. The new-elected Mayor of Kragujevac, Veroljub Stevanovic, informed the citizens gathered in the central city square that new city government was appointed today and appealed to them to continue the protest against the violation of their basic rights.

The University Initiative Board for the Defence of Democracy demanded today of the Ministers of Internal Affairs of Serbia and Yugoslavia to order immediately that the violence against the citizens of Belgrade be stopped and to punish those who committed those crimes and those who directed them. If they are not able to do that, they ought to resign immediately, stated the Board.

Announcing that the democratic opposition in Serbia will celebrate the New Year's Eve demonstrating in the squares of Belgrade and other cities, the American media report today that the resistance to the regime is spreading even among those who have been considered its supporters and close allies until a short time ago, reports Slobodan Pavlovic, correspondent of the "Nasa Borba" for FoNet.

Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, appealed today to the authorities of Montenegro to join the democratic Serbia and withdraw their representatives from Federal Parliament, from the Federal Staff and from the Federal Government.

Kosta Cavoski and Vojin Dimitrijevic, professors at the Law School in Belgrade, stated today that they had not been allowed to hold a public dialogue about the Hague Tribunal, because "certain organizers and certain school authorities" were of the opinion that Cavoski and Dimitrijevic were not professors but only members of political parties.

The 42nd rally of the "Zajedno" Coalition, was held this evening in Kraljevo. 8,000 citizens participated in the rally. The leaders of the Municipal Board of the Yugoslav Left said at today's press conference that the blocking of the local media in Kraljevo should be ceased and the events in which the citizens have been participating for 40 days presented objectively.

Around 1,000 citizens of Bor walked today, on the 21st consecutive day of the protest, around the Culture Center, and afterwards they cleared the snow from that space, where the supporters of the "Zajedno" Coalition will spend the New Year's Eve. Since the street marches were forbidden three days ago, the citizens' rallies in Bor are held under the strict control of the police.

Around 2,000 citizens of Pirot participated today in the 30th protest rally of the supporters of the "Zajedno" Coalition. The gathered citizens expressed their enthusiasm about the letter of the Yugoslav Army officers sent to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and to Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army Momcilo Perisic. That letter was signed by the officers of the Army unit in Pirot, among others.

Around 1,000 citizens of Negotin held their today's protest gathering in Svete Trojice Church, announced the "Zajedno" Coalition. Episcopate Justin, of Timok, invited the citizens to gather in the church, since there was no electricity in Djordje Stanojevic Square, where the protest rally was to be held.

More than 400 citizens of Bela Palanka protested today against the annulment of the results of the local elections in Serbia. It was the 6th day of protest in this town.

Should Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic attempt to violate the Constitution by declaring a state of emergency, the constitutional and ethical obligation of the Yugoslav Army would be to prevent that and protect the Constitution, the citizens and the state from the autocracy of an individual, stated Tatjana Paunovic in Nis today, speaking in the name of the women of Nis.

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