Milosevic on ropes


Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia – Mobs seeking to topple Slobodan Milosevic turned their fury on his centers of power Thursday, leaving parliament and other key Belgrade sites in shambles and flames. The 13-year rule of the Yugoslav president appeared to have collapsed.

State media said that army commanders were meeting in Belgrade early toFday and that a statement was expected.

Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said Milosevic was holed up near the eastern town of Bor, some 50 miles southeast of the capital, near the border with Romania and Bulgaria. He said Milosevic had not been in touch with the opposition camp.

“As of today, Serbia is again a democratic nation,” declared an opposition leader, Nebojsa Covic, referring to Yugoslavia’s main republic. “It belongs to all of us, to Europe and to the world.”

By nightfall the crowd’s fury was spent as the symbols of Milosevic’s power -_police stations, state media – had fallen to the opposition. Huge crowds wandered the streets and gathered in the squares celebrating their apparent victory.

Opposition leaders, including some former senior military officers, appealed to the armed forces to support their candidate, Vojislav Kostunica.

Djindjic said shortly before dawn today that he felt “the critical period” overnight when Milosevic military could have counterattacked against the opposition supporters “was over.”

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of people swarmed through the capital to demand that Milosevic accept his apparent electoral defeat by Kostunica in the Sept. 24 election. The uprising developed with stunning speed, swelling as security forces showed little willingness to battle the largest anti-Milosevic protest ever.

Some police who did fire on demonstrators were beaten, as was the director of Serbian state television, Dragoljub Milanovic, one of Milosevic’s closest allies. He was punched, kicked and pummeled with sticks as he tried to flee the television station.

The government’s Tanjug news agency, which defected to the opposition, said two people were killed and 65 injured in the rioting. All but 12 of the injured were treated and released from hospitals, Tanjug said.

Many police put down their clubs and joined flag-waving crowds as they surged across central Belgrade through clouds of tear gas. As demonstrators charged and riot police cowered behind helmets and shields, the federal parliament building, the state broadcasting center and police stations fell in quick succession.

Protesters tossed documents and portraits of Milosevic through the broken windows of the parliament complex. Smoke billowed from the building and from the state television headquarters nearby.

“What we are doing today is making history,” Kostunica proclaimed during an evening speech in front of Belgrade city hall, across from parliament.

The opposition’s domino-like successes did not fully erase fear that Milosevic could strike back.

“The most critical moments are not over,” said Vuk Obradovic, a former general turned opposition leader. “It is very important that people stay in the streets.”

Kostunica asked supporters to continue demonstrating until dawn to try to block any possible counterattack by the military.

Tens of thousands were still heeding his call as dawn approached today, roaming the streets in impromptu celebrations.

Kostunica also appealed to people from the countryside to stream into Belgrade for rallies today.

“We call on the military and police to do everything to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” he said.

At the White House, President Clinton said: “The people are trying to get their country back.” British Prime Minister Tony Blair said of Milosevic: “Your time is up. Go now.”

A former Yugoslav army chief of staff, retired Gen. Momcilo Perisic, appealed to the armed forces to support the democratic forces. He said what was left of the police force had already agreed not to attack people “unless they break into public buildings and cause damage.”

“I talked to the army leaders and they promised not to intervene,” Perisic said without elaborating. Perisic said, however, that Milosevic and his allies are “determined” and there remains a chance they might be planning a counterattack from somewhere “outside Belgrade.”

During an interview on state television, Kostunica said he envisions a democratic Serbia that has normal relations with other countries and does not suffer under diplomatic sanctions.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions against the Milosevic regime for several years. But French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, is “taking the necessary steps” for the EU to reconsider the sanctions as soon as Monday.

The Yugoslav military remained in its barracks and it was unclear whether the army remained loyal to Milosevic, but his security forces appeared to be disintegrating, with protesters seizing police precincts without a fight. The level of defiance was unprecedented in Yugoslavia’s 55-year communist history.

“They’re giving up,” said a demonstrator who identified himself only as Sasha.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.s

Most Read