Serbian church leaders turn on Milosevic

The Serbian Orthodox Church, once an ardent supporter of President Slobodan Milosevic's nationalist ambitions in the Balkans, yesterday added its voice to the groundswell of public opinion turning against the government with a withering attack on what it called a "Communist, Godless and Satanic" regime.

An unambiguous statement of support for the anti-government protests, now into their eighth week, was read out at the regular afternoon opposition rally in central Belgrade to a rapturous reception.

"He [Milosevic] has already set up against the whole world and now he wants to pit us against each other and trigger bloodshed in order to preserve power," said the statement, was drawn up by the Church's governing Synod at an emergency session earlier in the day and signed by Patriarch Pavle.

The Church has had its share of problems with Mr Milosevic because his government refused to return property confiscated by Tito's Communists in 1945 and failed to encourage the growth of religious schools. But in the run-up to the 1991-95 war it threw its weight behind Mr Milosevic's expansionist ambitions, seeing the dream of a Greater Serbia as an opportunity for an Orthodox revival.

Yesterday's statement was still nationalist in tone, accusing Mr Milosevic of betraying Serbs in Bosnia and the Krajina region, now reconquered by Croatia. But it was a significant indication of the way in which public opinion is moving away from Mr Milosevic. In recent days, scores of judges, university professors and other prominent officials have come out openly in favour of the anti-government protests.

On New Year's Day, the Writers' Union, which initially applauded Mr Milosevic in the 1980s, issued a fierce attack saying the President was the "enemy of Serbia". The union has revived its famous "protest evenings" - originally established to bring together dissidents of Tito's regime.

On the streets of Belgrade, tens of thousands of people again turned up yesterday to repeat the demands they have been making since late November: for Mr Milosevic to acknowledge the victory scored by the opposition coalition Zajedno [Together] in elections for city councils across the country.

Although the numbers were relatively modest, partly because of the bitter ice and cold and partly because of a menacing presence of armed riot police a few streets away from Republic Square, the focus of rallies and protesters was infused with a new spirit of optimism. Opposition political parties hoped that Mr Milosevic was on the verge of accepting the results of an inquiry by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) into the local elections and grant the opposition the victories it has been claiming. Mr Milosevic had been due to respond to the OSCE survey by yesterday, but it is now believed he will make a statement today or on Monday.

He has shrouded himself in silence in recent days, permitting no reference to the demonstrations either in his own communiques or on state media. His New Year message to the nation referred only to his intention of liberalising the economy in an effort to pull the country out of a deep slump exacerbated by war and four-and-a-half years of international sanctions that have yet to be completely lifted.

While Mr Milosevic's message was broadcast, hundreds of thousands of Belgraders thronged into the streets in their hundreds of thousands - an unmistakable political statement despite the overtly festive motive for the gathering.

Yesterday, the atmosphere remained good-humoured, with demonstrators cheering, setting off firecrackers and blowing through brightly coloured party whistles, while loudspeakers blasted out the frenetic, wildly energetic gypsy music from Underground, Emir Kusturica's prize-winning film about the wars in Yugoslavia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Manager - R&D - Paint

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing successful busines...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Advisor - Automotive Parts

£16400 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading online E-commerce ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Parts Manager

£27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea