On the frontline in the spiraling political standoff in
Yugoslavia sits a young man named Bane. He is one of several
thousand students blocking the main north-south highway on the edge
"Of course I'm a bit scared," says the veterinary student, warily
eyeing some 100 helmeted riot police nearby. "This has to be the end
of the regime, or else I have no hope," says Bane, unwilling to
give his last name.
The students' determination evoke images of a similar pro-
democracy standoff in China's Tiananmen Square a decade ago. But
Belgrade is not Beijing. The students here are not alone. The
resolve of anti-Milosevic protesters is deepening, and their
numbers are growing across Serbia.
Opposition leaders - in what they're billing as a final push to
drive President Slobodan Milosevic from power after nearly a week
of general strikes - have called on all of Yugoslavia for a make-
or-break march on Belgrade tonight.
The standoff between democracy and dictatorship could lead to
violence, analysts say, in the wake of the contested Sept. 24
election, which opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica claims he
"Strictly speaking, you can't remove Milosevic without some
trouble," says Srdan Darmanovic, head of the Center for Democracy
and Human Rights in Serbia's sister republic of Montenegro. "I
don't like violence, but the Serbian people feel they must test the
armed forces and police - not to fight them, but to test them.
Otherwise, Milosevic will not step down."
A nationwide strike that began Monday has brought parts of Serbia
to a standstill. But Milosevic - who admits that Mr. Kostunica won
more votes than he did in the earlier election, just not enough to
avoid a runoff - has shown no signs of moving aside. Yesterday, his
government began carrying through on Tuesday's promises of
arresting strike leaders and using "special measures" against
"organizers of criminal activities."
Police in full riot gear and flak jackets yesterday arrested
several miners at Kolubara coal mine - the largest of hundreds of
work stoppages nationwide. And about 30 miles southeast of
Belgrade, in Pozarevac, Milosevic's hometown, police arrested
several truckers who were blocking a main road. But elsewhere in
the country, roadblocks remained in place for a third day.
Tonight's march, timed to coincide with a strike by the Council
of Trade Unions, (the nation's largest labor organization and in
the past a firmly pro-Milosevic group) is a bid to send a
definitive message that a second-round runoff vote, scheduled by
Milosevic for Sunday, is unacceptable.
Regime opponents have been here several times in the past decade,
only to be beaten back by riot police with plastic shields, body
armor, blue helmets, and truncheons.
"This time, this will be resolved only in a direct clash between
the Serbian people and the regime," Mr. Darmonovic says. "Milosevic
always puts his opponents in a situation of 'double regret.' if you
move one way, you regret it. If you move the other, you regret
But evidence is mounting that the strike action is beginning to
bite. Work stopped at coal mines has meant power outages across
Serbia, and in the capital Belgrade, mountains of trash have been
growing as garbage collectors refuse to work. …