Milosevic turns up the heat in Kosovo

War in troubled province could save President

On the streets of Belgrade, the temperature has cooled from boiling to simmering point. Even while the mass protests continue, Slobodan Milosevic appears to hope the protesters will eventually give up and go home, if he dodges and weaves for long enough. In Serbia, some fear that the man who has saved his political skin so many times before may still have one last trick up his sleeve.

Above all, the opposition fears the Serbian President may fan tensions in the Albanian-majority province of Kosovo, where he first used nationalism 10 years ago to gain power in Serbia. There has been a familiar pattern to recent events.

The Serb rector of the university of Pristina, in Kosovo, was injured in a car bomb this month. The news was prominently reported on the front pages and blamed on "Albanian terrorists". Encouraged by the authorities, Serbs organised anti-Albanian protests in Kosovo. They claimed the Albanian "terrorists" were in league with the demonstrators in Belgrade demanding recognition of opposition victories in last November's elections. An ultra-nationalist leader, Vojislav Seselj, was shown on the television news visiting the injured rector in hospital. Talk of "separatists" and "terrorists" filled the air.

It all seemed alarmingly reminiscent of earlier conflicts which Mr Milosevic unleashed to keep power. From 1990 onwards, hate-filled television reports encouraged Serbs to lashout at their Muslim and Croat neighbours. Kosovo is such an emotive subject for many Serbs, and the Albanians are deprived of so many basic rights, that tensions in the region may explode.

This time, however, Serbs are less keen to be goaded into yet another conflict by the regime. Despite the inflammatory television news, others have been keen to pour water, not petrol, on the smouldering fire.

In Kosovo, the Serbian bishop emphasised it was unclear who planted the bomb, and said it could have been "the regime". Such statements would until recently have been unthinkable, given the strong nationalism of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In Belgrade, opposition leaders, including Vuk Draskovic, whose party has been strongly nationalist in the past, emphasised that Serbs must not allow hatred to be whipped up against the Albanians, who form 90 per cent of the population of Kosovo - a region Serbs regard as the historic "cradle" of their state.

Mr Draskovic has accused the Socialists' political allies of responsibility for the bomb. "Milosevic has always solved small problems by creating bigger problems," he told The Independent. "He did it in Croatia, and then disastrously with the war in Bosnia. He'll do anything to get rid of the pressures."

Vesna Pesic, a liberal opposition leader, is equally worried. She said: "Milosevic always seeks to externalise the problems. If you have five Serbs found dead in Kosovo and volunteers go there, and [the paramilitary leader] Arkan, in one day you would have war."

But in spite of Mr Milosevic's best efforts, political change seems certain to come. As in post-Communist Russia, the changes in Serbia will be messy. But it no longer seems possible that the process of change will be put into reverse.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?