Thousands of people demonstrating against ethnic Albanians massed outside Parliament on Wednesday, while a senior official inside told lawmakers that ethnic violence threatens to tear Yugoslavia apart.
Lazar Mojsov, a member of the ruling 12-man state presidency, also charged that an illegal group of ethnic Albanians has a detailed plan to disrupt Kosovo, an autonomous southern province within Serbia, the state news agency Tanjug said.
“The integrity of Yugoslavia is jeopardized to the extreme degree,” Mojsov said in comments carried on Belgrade Radio.
The government indefinitely extended a ban on all public gatherings in Kosovo, Tanjug said, after more than a week of widespread unrest in the province.
Outside Parliament, about 4,000 members of the Serb and Montenegrin minority from Kosovo blocked streets and chanted songs to protest alleged persecution in the province by Albanians, who make up 90% of Kosovo’s estimated 2 million people.
The flag-carrying protesters were joined by at least 10,000 Belgrade sympathizers. On Tuesday, a Belgrade rally led by Serbian Communist Party boss Slobodan Milosevic drew an estimated 500,000 people.
The mainly Christian Serbs believe the predominantly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo, which was ancient Serbia’s heartland, want to unite the province with neighboring Albania. The ethnic Albanians have demanded that Kosovo’s autonomy not be restricted.
Growing ethnic nationalism and an economic crisis have created the greatest threat to Yugoslav unity since the 1980 death of President Josip Broz Tito, whose leadership held the loose confederation of six republics and two provinces together. The country’s 23 million citizens belong to a number of nationalities and religions.
Mojsov said the presidency has retrieved a document signed by members of “an illegal Kosovo group” detailing plans for destabilizing the province, according to Tanjug.
The plan’s initial stage reportedly called for “passive strikes in factories, firms, schools and universities” and other actions, which Mojsov said were “carried out in full” last week.
Meanwhile, it was disclosed that a Serbian shot and killed two ethnic Albanians on Tuesday.
Belgrade Television said Wednesday that a young gunman killed a woman and her son in their pastry shop in the town of Kragujevac south of Belgrade. No other details were given.