Serbs roar for velvet revolution

Roars of "Vuk, vuk, vuk" boomed around central Belgrade as Vuk Draskovic, his long black hair and beard flecked with snow, moved forward to address the 60,000 demonstrators. "Can we do it like the Czechs?" he asked, referring to the peaceful overthrow of Communism in Prague in 1989. "Yes!" they cried. "Shall we?" he demanded. "We shall!" came back the thunderous response.

Denouncing President Slobodan Milosevic as "lopoglavnik" (the chief robber), he burst into a passage of passionate, flowing oratory. "That master of judicial terrorism, that head of thievery of electoral will of the people, is for us no longer president, he is the chief robber, the master of thieves."

Mr Draskovic's Messiah-like features make him easily the most identifiable of the three intellectuals who have orchestrated 18 days of protests in Belgrade, the biggest challenge to Mr Milosevic in his nine years of nationalist, neo-communist rule. The authorities yesterday made some minor concessions, promising extra cash for students, payment of delayed pensions and cheaper electricity.

They also allowed a well-known independent radio station, Radio B-92, to go back on the air, rescinding a ban that they imposed earlier this week.

Mr Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, was once a staunch Serbian nationalist, advocating the unity of all Serbs in former Yugoslavia with a fierce conviction which paralleled that of Mr Milosevic. A lawyer and novelist, he swears he now adheres to European standards of democracy and, if in power, would support the Dayton peace settlement for Bosnia - a vital issue for the West.

Mr Draskovic was a central figure in the protests in 1991 which Mr Milosevic crushed with tanks. He has suffered imprisonment. Yet he insists that the campaign must remain peaceful: "We want to defeat his lies with truth, his hatred with love, and his bombs with eggs."

The second opposition leader is Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic Party, who shares Mr Draskovic's Serbian nationalist background but otherwise could not be more different - with his short, grey hair and plain suits. A philosopher by training, his speeches lack the crowd-stirring rhetoric of Mr Draskovic. He has tried to organise trade-union protests in support of the opposition.

The third leader, Vesna Pesic, who is chairman of the Civic Alliance of Serbia, is a sociologist and describes herself as "a necessary intermediary between the two men who surround me". She was the most explicit of the trio in opposing the 1991-95 wars in former Yugoslavia, which she says enabled Mr Milosevic to deflect demands for democracy by creating "national confusion".

The coalition movement of the three politicians, Zajedno (Together), would almost certainly fall apart if they ousted Mr Milosevic. But the more immediate question is whether the opposition has the strength to bring down the "chief robber".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence