Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) accused the opposition on Sunday of being behind the murder of a senior government figure and warned of dire consequences. An opposition leader said, by contrast, that the victim was a moderate in Milošević's party, who may have angered hardliners, because he was open to cooperating with political rivals. "The shot at Boško Perošević is a shot at all of us," Gorica Gajević, secretary-general of the SPS, remarked at a commemorative ceremony. "Whether they are called Otpor (Resistance) or whatever, they are nothing but NATO mercenaries, and Serbia will fight against them, as it has done against every other evil," Gajević told those gathered at the ceremony. The ceremony was attended by Milošević, his wife and leader of the Yugoslav Left (YUL) Mirjana Marković and other top officials. Perošević was shot in the head by a lone gunman, while touring a farm fair in Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina province, on Saturday 14 May. The assassin was identified as Milivoje Gutović, a member of the fair's security staff.
About 20,000 Yugoslav opposition supporters gathered on Saturday 13 May to celebrate the anniversary of the Četnik uprising against Nazi German occupiers during the Second World War. Vuk Drašković, the leader of the main opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), was greeted by loud cheers and a volley of guns, from hand and artillery weapons fired into the air, to which he responded: "Save your ammunition." SPO supporters dressed as Serbian monarchist guerrillas fired an old wooden cannon at the site where the seat of the monarchist guerrilla movement was formed on Ravna Gora, near Valjevo city. Drašković said the current Yugoslav government would be ousted in elections, but only if they were democratic and if the terror against the people, media, judiciary and students ended. "As of today, we will not be defending ourselves only with rallies, speeches and statements, but by all possible means," Drašković said. He repeated accusations against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević, his wife Mirjana Marković and Vojislav Šešelj of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRP) for their responsibility in the deaths of four SPO officials in a mysterious car crash on the Ibar highway in October of last year.
Over 15,000 opposition supporters turned out in Belgrade on Monday 15 May to blame President Slobodan Milošević for Yugoslavia's isolation and poverty. The opposition called the latest demonstration after cancelling a protest in Požerevac, Milošević's home town, last Tuesday, accusing authorities of blocking access roads and detaining activists and independent journalists. That rally was planned as a protest against the alleged beatings of three supporters of the Otpor movement in Požerevac. Monday's organizers had hoped to get close to the 100,000 who attended a rally in Belgrade on 14 April. "We do not want war, we are saying 'stop the terror' and demanding free democratic elections," opposition leader Vladan Batić of the Christian Democratic Party told the crowd. He and others wore t-shirts bearing the clenched-fist symbol of Otpor, which began two years ago as a student organisation but now says it has 50,000 members.
On Monday 15 May Serbian police detained 20 activists of the opposition movement Otpor, in connection with the weekend murder of Perošević, the state news agency Tanjug reported. Tanjug earlier reported that police issued arrest warrants for two other Otpor members allegedly linked with Saturday's shooting of Bosko Perošević, a senior official of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević's party. The police arrested the assassin on the spot and said he was an activist of Otpor and of Serbia's main opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Both Otpor and SPO have denied the man had anything to do with them. Tanjug, quoting police, said warrants were issued for Stanko Lazendić, 27, and Miloš Gagić, 28, who are "in flight and believed to be in Bosnia." Later on Monday, it was reported that police had detained 20 people from the area of Novi Sad and other Vojvodina towns, saying they were suspected of being connected with the crime. Tanjug said they were all members of Otpor, which authorities have labeled a "fascist-terrorist" organization.
Serbian authorities took control of the opposition-run Studio B television station on Wednesday 17 May, accusing it of calling for the overthrow of the government. An official statement read on the channel after it was seized said: "The Serb government has decided to take over all the assets of Studio B ... Several times, Studio B called for the violent overthrow of the legitimate authorities." It also said the television station had called for an uprising. Station director Dragan Kojavinović said Radio B2-92 and another independent radio station, both with offices in the same Belgrade building as Studio B, had also been closed. He said police moved into the building at around 02:00 and that employees were not allowed to enter. "This is the beginning of a state of emergency," Kojavinović told Reuters. Studio B was run by Belgrade city hall, which is currently controlled by the SPO. The statement read out on Studio B said the television would continue to operate and that a new acting editor-in-chief, Ljubisav Aleksić, had been appointed.
Belgrade's popular opposition daily Blic said on Tuesday that a government printing press had refused to print the paper, because of its editorial policy, forcing it to cut circulation. "Last night, just before closing the issue, Borba printing press said it would no longer print our paper," Blic said in a front-page announcement to its readers. "Officially, the reason given was technical - the breakdown of a press - but we were unofficially told that the real reason was Blic's editorial policy," the paper said, adding it knew that the press was not broken. It said Borba had tried to hinder the paper earlier by inflating prices for printing Blic. "The last move is a violation of the printing agreement and the freedom of the press, which includes publishing opinions that are not in line with the official (government) policy," it added. A line of non-government media have been fined over the past few months, in what analysts say looks like a crackdown against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević's opponents ahead of local and presidential elections due later this year. "Žika Djordjevic, Borba's director, said before a number of witnesses that they cannot print papers in a state printing press that are working against the state," Blic Editor-in-Chief Veselin Simonović told B2-92 radio.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Živadin Jovanović said on Tuesday that opposition to President Slobodan Milošević is losing steam and that authorities had no intention of bowing to demands for early elections. Jovanović was speaking at a press conference after two days of talks with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, during which both sides reaffirmed a commitment to developing closer ties. Jovanović said Monday's rally in Belgrade to demand early elections at all levels had drawn 10,000 to 15,000 supporters, which is much lower than previous gatherings. "I don't know whether the organisers will rejoice or be disappointed. This shows the slowing down and a reduction in the numbers of followers," he said in English. "But the statements, if you interpret them correctly, indicate that the authors are not favouring legality, law and order, but calling for something undemocratic and for violence," Jovanović concluded.
Vana Suša, 12 May 2000
- Return to CER front page
- Archive of Serbian news reviews in CER
- Archive of articles on Yugoslavia in CER