Thomas Keenan on 6 Oct 2000 21:20:59 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] ICG: Yugoslavia Situation Report #2

International Crisis Group

Yugoslavia Situation Report
No. 2,
Thursday, October 5, 2000, 5:20PM EST
Prepared by Eric Witte, Washington DC


 Protesters today took over the Federal Parliament building, the Radio
Television Serbia (RTS) building, and a police station, and surrounded the
Interior Ministry. RTS and the Parliament building were on fire, but the
fire in Parliament has now been extinguished. Police have used batons and
teargas in a futile attempt at stopping the hundreds of thousands of angry
protesters, but reportedly vacated the RTS building smiling and shaking
hands with protesters. Numerous reports say that many police have defected
to join the opposition. Tonight, Belgrade's police chief has reportedly told
the DOS that it will now only act to prevent common crime. The opposition
sought all day to speak with the leadership of the army and police.
Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church appealed to the army and
police to "do everything within their ability so that the change in
government will be carried out in a peaceful, dignified and civilised

Protesters converged on Belgrade from all around the country at the
invitation of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and its leader,
Vojislav Kostunica. Kostunica addressed the crowd this evening, opening with
"Good evening, liberated Serbia!" He appealed for calm and said Milosevic
"cannot fight the people's will." Later, he summoned the newly elected
Federal Parliament to meet on Friday.

Between one and three deaths are reported from the today's clashes, with
over 100 injured. Opposition organisation G17-Plus issued an appeal tonight
for citizens to return all arms taken from overrun police stations and to
refrain from looting.
The centre of Belgrade was relatively calm this evening, though thousands of
people remain in the streets; the atmosphere is celebratory. Convoys of
protesters approached Belgrade on roads from around the country. Interior
Ministry forces attempted to stop many convoys, but were largely
unsuccessful. A convoy of 50 buses from central Serbia arrived this morning,
with protesters from Cacak clearing police blockades by pushing obstructing
vehicles into ditches with a bulldozer; police at the scene did not react.
In Mladenovac, south of Belgrade, police directed traffic so that an
estimated 2,000 protesters could form a convoy. The DOS had given Milosevic
a 3:00PM ultimatum to step down.


Both RTS stations went off the air for a time, but by tonight were
broadcasting for the opposition. State news agency Tanjug issued a statement
referring to Vojislav Kostunica as the "elected President of Yugoslavia;"
the statement was signed "Journalists of Liberated Tanjug." Studio B
Television, which had been under regime control for months, is now back in
opposition hands and rebroadcasting CNN coverage. The original radio
frequency of opposition radio B-92, taken over by the regime in March 1999,
is now again broadcasting the opposition message. Opposition sources report
that the entire management of regime news agency Politika fled through the
back door of their Belgrade office tower today. Politika TV is now
broadcasting coverage of the revolution. This evening, opposition forces
broke into a regime-controlled television station in the southern town of
Leskovac, demanding a change of editorial policy.  Near Cacak, citizens took
over an RTS transmitter, which is now broadcasting independent Cacak TV.
Kostunica will address the nation on Serbian television later tonight.


Police withdrew from the Kolubara mine in central Serbia after a tense
six-day standoff with striking miners and their supporters there. Kostunica
spoke at the mine Wednesday night, telling a crowd of 25,000, "Together, we
have turned a new page in Serbian history."

Court Ruling:

Opposition anger increased following an announcement Wednesday night that
the Yugoslav Constitutional Court had decided to annul part of the election
process. The ruling effectively meant that the first round of balloting for
Yugoslav president would have to be repeated. The court is completely
regime-controlled, and the move was widely seen as a ploy by Slobodan
Milosevic to buy time. The DOS denounced the decision as unconstitutional
and repeated its demand that Milosevic recognise Kostunica's first-round


Slobodan Milosevic did not show himself in public today and it is not known
where he is. Conflicting reports put him at his retreat near the Romanian
border and at his home in a Belgrade suburb. Beta reported that three
Antonov transport aircraft took off from Batajnica airport in Wednesday
evening, heading south, and there is speculation that Milosevic may have
been aboard. Macedonian flight control says it has seen no sign of these

Beta said a source close to the army leadership said that its forces would
remain in barracks. The US Defence Department said this evening that it had
no indications of troop movements within Serbia.

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, also indicted for war crimes by the UN
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), met with
municipal leaders of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) from around the
country. He accused the DOS of attempting to break apart Serbia. Yugoslav
Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) of
Montenegro - a regime partner courted by the DOS -  said Wednesday that "We
will continue to support our presidential candidate [Milosevic] without any
dilemmas or calculations. Deputy Chairman of the SNP, Zoran Zizic, denied
that his party had been in discussions with the DOS. There had been some
signs Wednesday night that the regime might attempt a crackdown. A DOS
candidate for the Vojvodina assembly was arrested in Novi Sad and taken to
Belgrade; heavily armed police arrested the security staff of the Serbian
Renewal Movement (SPO) in Petrovac; police in Milosevic's hometown of
Pozarevac ordered the arrest of organisers of road blockades and protesters

International Reaction:

Tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin decried the "tragic" events in
Yugoslavia. He called for an end to Yugoslavia's international isolation,
but did not retract Russia's oft-stated support for a second round of
elections, as demanded by the Milosevic regime. Earlier today Secretary of
the Kremlin's Security Council, Sergei Ivanov, welcomed the annulment of the
vote as giving more time for Russian mediation between the regime and
opposition. Western leaders today repeated their calls for Milosevic to step
down following his September 24 election defeat, promising measures to end
Serbia's international isolation. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Wednesday
rebuked UN human rights envoy to the Balkans, Jiri Dienstbier, for saying
that the war-crimes indictment against Milosevic should be dropped in return
for his departure from Yugoslavia.


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