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Breaking News

Yugoslav Opposition Supporter Enter Parliament Building

Aired October 5, 2000 - 10:48 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Going to shift our focus back to Belgrade. On the streets of the Yugoslav capital, videotape that shows all too well, the unrest that has been under way now for about two hours' time.

Just to bring you up to date now, protesters apparently have stormed the parliament building that you are seeing here. Clearly, they are guarding themselves from the smoke that has been fired off of tears gas by the police that have gather to try and disperse the crowds. Also saw some videotape of the smoke coming out of the building you see back on the left-hand side there. That, indeed, is the federal parliament building.

Our Belgrade bureau chief, Alessio Vinci, on the scene right now. He is reporting live on CNN International. We are going to go ahead and pick things up with Alessio in progress now from Belgrade.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN BELGRADE BUREAU CHIEF: A group of about 100 or 200 perhaps tried to provoke the rest of the protesters into entering the federal parliament. I just want to stress that even if the opposition is reporting that opposition supporters are into the federal parliament, it does not mean that they are occupying that building, because we know that inside that building there are hundreds of riot policemen.

So it could be, at this point, that, yes, some, indeed, some opposition supporters did mange to enter the building. But it could also be that either police detained them or perhaps they are negotiating a way out to this crisis because both opposition leaders and the protesters here and the opposition leaders and the police have tried to keep the situation under control. They do not want violence.

These pictures that you see now are outside of our bureau, about 500 meters or yards away from the federal parliament. These are some of the protesters who have come away from the federal parliament because of the tear gas.

HEMMER: Alessio Vinci, again, reporting live from Belgrade. As we continue to monitor the streets here at Belgrade. As Alessio was saying, this street right here and this picture is right outside of our bureau in downtown Belgrade.

The streets have grown darker, just about two hours ago, when we took our first pictures here, and clearly the sun was up. And now coming up at 5:00 local time, the sun will be heading down soon.

In addition to that, we have seen the protesters take to the streets and inside the parliament building, including one piece of videotape that shows all too well what is happening now.

Again, here is Alessio.

All right. We will continue to monitor that. Alessio Vinci, the Belgrade bureau chief there on the scene. They are trying to pick the very latest of what we know. But, again, this is a live picture. I don't know if we have it currently cued up in our machines here back in Atlanta. But there is some very telling videotape that we have seen of the protesters storming the front steps of the parliament, throwing rocks et cetera inside.

Here is Alessio.

VINCI: They're telling us is that the police has tried to contain the crowd. They have not tried to react harshly against the protesters, even if they tried to enter the federal parliament. What you can see from this picture is policemen using tear gas to disperse the crowd. In the past, when we have seen similar demonstrations, police hit a lot harder against demonstrations.

You may remember the pictures of the baton-wielding policemen hitting the crowd. This is not happening at this time. The police is not reacting at this point anyway against protesters. They are just trying to push them away and to prevent the crowds from entering the federal parliament.

HEMMER: Again, the big issue here: the elections of last month, which seemed to unseat Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president there, the president of Yugoslavia rather. But apparently those elections will be held again, as dictated by a higher court.

VINCI: Vojislav Kostunica will address the crowd, supposed to address the crowd at any moment now. So according to what the opposition thinks is that the situation in front of the federal parliament at this time is under control. Because they were able to organize a speech by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica. Those pictures were taken about a half hour ago, 45 minutes ago, and these were when the demonstrators tried to storm the building.

Again, a reminder that the opposition here claims that several demonstrators have entered the building of the federal parliament. However, we also know that inside that building, there are hundreds of riot policemen. And so what that means, it doesn't mean that is there are a few dozens of opposition supporters inside the building it does not mean that the parliament is now under control of the opposition. What it means is that perhaps those people inside the building are either detained by the police or perhaps they are just negotiating with those policemen.

HEMMER: We have spoken with two different experts on the Balkans at earlier times here on CNN, and both do believe that this may be the very end for Slobodan Milosevic, and his rule there in Yugoslavia. However, we have also seen in past days and past times, that previous experiences where protesters have taken to the streets in Belgrade that Milosevic has proven to be a survivor and very resilient when it comes to his grasp on power in Yugoslavia.

We will continue to track this. Again, videotapes just a short time ago. You see the protesters gathered there. The reports we have through Alessio was, indeed, that the leaders of the opposition did not order these protesters to go inside this building. Apparently it seems to be an independent act by the protesters who have gathered.

In addition to this, what we are seeing with the people who have gathered in Belgrade, we are also getting reports that several thousand people, maybe tens of thousands of people, depending on the varying reports that we are getting here, also trying to make their way into the Yugoslav capital city.

However, some of those people have been prevented by police in army units in different parts of the countryside, preventing them to travel along the roads that are needed to gain access to the city of Belgrade. Again, a situation that has reached a rather volatile point.

It is difficult to say right now how this will all unfold and the future of Yugoslavia, and the future for Slobodan Milosevic for that matter, what indeed will take place as a result of these protests.

We have been tracking this story for the past five years. The trouble in the Balkans is nothing new. However these protests seem to have a different taste, simply because previous protests seem to be more peaceful.

We saw nighttime vigils for several nights on end, dating back two or three years ago, where protesters, largely peaceful, in the streets of Belgrade, but this, however, has a completely different tone.

Again, what you are seeing is the parliament building here in downtown Belgrade, that's the smoke coming out from the front side, the front facade of that building and these protesters at various times you can see them hurling stones and rocks at the buildings' windows there, and helping to knock those out.

Here, again, Alessio Vinci.

VINCI: ... black smoke coming behind the parliament building, and we understand that, from our crews on the ground, that perhaps a car was set on fire. There was a black smoke, a kind of a black smoke coming out here. You can see it on the right-hand side of your screen, a black smoke coming our from behind the building. It is not the building itself which is on fire. We understand it was a police car, perhaps, that was set on fire by demonstrators.

HEMMER: It could be the history today -- history in the making in Belgrade. We will continue to monitor it. Alessio Vinci on the scene there, our Belgrade bureau chief. We will talk with him throughout the morning and the afternoon, depending on what happens there locally in Yugoslavia.

Again, the protests well under way on the streets of Belgrade. The end result is a wide open question at this point.

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