Milosevic rival claims assassination attempt

Vuk Draskovic says a car accident last week was an attempt on his life.

Published October 4, 1999 6:00PM (EDT)

Yugoslavia's most prominent opposition leader, Vuk Draskovic,
has claimed that a car accident last Thursday in which he was injured and his
brother-in-law killed was an attempt on his life. Draskovic
was the only survivor of a massive three-car accident on Thursday
afternoon, two miles from the town of Lazarevac in central Serbia.

The allegations illustrate the high tensions between different Yugoslavian opposition factions, as well as the increasingly violent conflict between President Slobodan Milosevic and the forces calling for his resignation.

Draskovic and his entourage were traveling in three vehicles when a large
transport truck smashed into the first two vehicles,
killing four people instantly. The Serbian opposition leader announced on
Thursday evening's 10 o'clock news on his Belgrade television station,
Studio B, that the crash was in fact an assassination attempt.

"The truck came out of nowhere," he said. He warned the perpetrators to "think well about what they've done."

Though he did not explicitly say who may have been responsible for the attack,
Draskovic certainly has no shortage of enemies. After almost bringing down
the Milosevic regime during the winter of 1996-97, Draskovic was viewed as
a traitor for joining Milosevic's government. But he resigned from the
Milosevic government in April, in the middle of the NATO bombings of
Yugoslavia, and quickly reemerged as the primary opposition leader in

One of Draskovic's chief rivals is also a member of the anti-Milosevic movement. Ever since the acrimonious split of their anti-Milosevic coalition "Zajedno" in early 1997, Draskovic and Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic have been jockeying for position as the natural successor to Milosevic. Some in the Serbian opposition, however, have accused Draskovic
and Milosevic of entering into a wink-and-nudge agreement to help divide the Serbian opposition, and keep both men in power.

Draskovic's party, the Serbian Renewal Movement, has not joined Djindjic supporters in the nightly demonstrations in Belgrade, in which dozens of protesters have been beaten by police.

But there have been signs of goodwill among the anti-Milosevic factions.
Last week, one of Draskovic's representatives met with rival opposition
parties for the first time in three years to discuss conditions for fair
elections and political opposition strategies.

Meanwhile, Milosevic has been cracking down. Not only have the daily
anti-Milosevic protests ended in violence, but police have been conducting
door-to-door interrogations to confirm that citizens reside in their declared place of residency. There have been reports of police entering apartments and intimidating

Dozens of Belgrade cafes have been shut down for unpaid taxes, and a popular
opposition newspaper, Glas Javnosti, was ordered to stop publishing for 15
days because it employed three illegal workers. The newspaper's printing
press had been publishing an opposition newsletter that advertised the anti-Milosevic rallies.

Nearly half of the academics in Serbia's Academy of Arts and Sciences signed
a recent letter calling for Milosevic's resignation.

After the world condemned last week's brutal use of force against
demonstrators and journalists, police stopped indiscriminately beating
people during the nightly march. On Sunday evening, hundreds of well-armed
police blocked Belgrade's streets and kept marchers corralled within a few
square blocks.

By Alex Todorovic

Alex Todorovic is a Belgrade writer.

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