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Yugoslav Unrest: Opposition Supporters Take Control of Parliament Building, State Television

Aired October 5, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We leave our sister network, CNN International, but we continue coverage of the crisis in Yugoslavia with the takeover of the parliament building, knocking state television off the air.

Alessio Vinci is overlooking the square where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered. It's about 7:30 in the evening in Belgrade.

And, Alessio, the question being asked around the world today, is this the beginning of the end for Slobodan Milosevic? There have been many other demonstrations, but there's a sense about this one that something is different. Do you get that sense?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN BELGRADE BUREAU CHIEF: Absolutely, Lou. There is a big difference today here in the streets of Belgrade, and that is the fact that the army and the police have so far kept huge restraint. They have not intervened in trying to break up those demonstrations.

At this point, that is happening in the streets of Belgrade is celebrations. We had a few hours of total chaos and mayhem outside the federal parliament when a group of demonstrators there stormed the building, breaking over police lines, police there reacting only lightly, certainly not doing a good job in preventing those demonstrators from entering the building. And in a matter of a few hours, the building fell into the hands of the opposition.

The same thing happened a few hours later with the state TV building where a group of demonstrators there also first entered the building. And then we've got some picture later today that the building was on fire.

All in all, after those dramatic events that took place about three or four hours ago, the situation is now under control. It is calm. There is no -- any kind of signs of riots, any kind of violence in the street. Opposition leaders are calling on the protesters to remain calm, not to destroy windows, not to take advantage of this situation, which is now, in the streets of Belgrade, really confused.

Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition leader, addressed about 100,000 people in front of the federal parliament. He said, thank you very much for your votes. Mr. Kostunica has been referred to many people here already as the Yugoslav president. He says, peace between Serbia and the world; peace between Serbia and Montenegro, Mr. Kostunica said. But there is one -- there are some people who took Serbia in permanent conflict against the world, they said, and they are the ones who lost the elections. And therefore, Mr. Kostunica said, we must now fight for our freedom. He said, our weapon is the truth.

Mr. Kostunica, in his speech, also saying that, for 10 years, Mr. Milosevic did not dare to face his people, to talk to them. He said, more and more people working with Milosevic are now siding with us. And he said, today, Mr. Kostunica said, today it is history. He said that we don't need neither Moscow nor Washington to celebrate that victory. First, he said, we need a new Serbia, a new Serbia that will enter the future with its friends: Greece, France, Norway, he said. Serbia is Europe. It is Serbia. He said that this is a country now that must exist without Slobodan Milosevic. Europe said that it could not be without Serbia. We are saying today, democracy has happened in Serbia.

This is the words of Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition leader.

You may hear behind me there are people celebrating in the streets of Belgrade. That speech ended about 20 minutes ago. People now marching throughout the streets. We understand more than 100,000 people are now gathered in downtown Belgrade. The television pictures that we are providing you are the only live pictures coming out of this country at this time. We understand, however, that the opposition has taken control of state-controlled -- of state television, and therefore they're hoping to resume broadcasts within the next few hours. When that happens, obviously, it could happen that the rest of Serbia will finally hear word of what is happening here in Belgrade.

Back to you, Lou.

WATERS: Alessio, we have seen the pictures repeatedly about the reserve of the police. It was more of a scuffle than a clash with batons waiving, but almost a reluctance to use them. But there are also internal security forces and military to worry about here. Have you seen any sign of them? And do they expect to be involved in any of this?

VINCI: Lou, one of the historical moments of what is happening here today is the fact that the police and the army have not intervened at all. We have seen absolutely no evidence of any kind of military presence in the street, any kind of top security forces here trying to prevent the crowds from doing anything.

I must tell you that the events that happened a few hours ago were concentrating from the federal parliament. The rest of the country -- the rest of the capital has been fairly quiet. It has been peaceful. Demonstrators did not attempt to attack any kind of building, especially did not attempt to go towards Dedina (ph), which is the area where President Milosevic lives. We don't even know if President Milosevic is there. But certainly a confrontation with the police could have happen if indeed demonstrators were to try to go towards Dedina. That did not happen. Opposition leaders here asking demonstrators to remain calm, not to take advantage of the situation. Opposition here, of course, trying to take advantage of the huge success that they have achieved so far, controlling the federal parliament -- that is more symbolic control -- but certainly controlling state television.

I think that within the next few hours, as soon as the opposition manages to rebroadcast what is happening here in Belgrade, the situation could change even more dramatically throughout the country, Lou.

WATERS: All right, Alessio Vinci keeping watch in downtown Belgrade as the crisis against the Milosevic government continues. We'll keep pace with the story. As soon as there's something new, we'll pass it along quickly.



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