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Thousands Rallied May 12 in Serbian City of Nish

500 000 Ukrainians Demand: Free Slobodan Miloshevich!
And they're still signing....

by Jared Israel [19 May 2001]

In Ukraine, the powerful Peasant Party has collected 500 000 signatures on a very strong statement demanding that former Yugoslav President Miloshevich be freed from jail immediately. They have sent the petition and a cover letter to Yugoslav President Kostunica and others.

Meanwhile, in the most significant reaction to Mr. Miloshevich's arrest to date, ninety-two out of the one hundred and thirty members of the Russian Parliament's Upper House have signed a statement condemning the arrest in the strongest terms and demanding the Russian government take action to secure Mr. Miloshevich's release.

RUSSIANS DEMAND ACTION

The Russian statement was circulated among members of the Federal Council, upper house of the Russian Parliament. While the Council is not the primary legislative body it includes all provincial Governors as well as Mayors of the biggest cities. This group wields immense political and economic strength. Included are Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow, Mayor Yakovlyev of Petersburg and Governor Kondratyenko of the Krasnodarsk region.

The signers, including members of all parties including Pres. Putin's UNITY Party, called on Putin and the Russian Government to take immediate action to secure the release of Mr. Miloshevich.

Here is a translation of their statement, transcribed by phone hookup:

"We cannot understand how it is possible that those who used armed force to bomb the cities and villages of Yugoslavia, trampling all human values without any justification in International Law, are now trying to destroy one of the greatest Yugoslav and world politicians, the former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a true patriot of his country.

"The attack on Miloshevich is an attempt to avoid the punishment for the crimes they committed directly and for encouraging genocide against the Serbian population in Kosovo.

"We protest the policy of the United States and NATO countries in the Balkans and demand that the prosecution of Slobodan Miloshevich cease. We declare our support and solidarity for Slobodan Miloshevich in this most difficult struggle.

"We appeal to the President and government of the Russian Federation: Take action to defend the former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a country which has always been Russia's most reliable friend!"

The Council members have also signed the petition being circulated by the newly formed Russian Committee to Defend Slobodan Miloshevich. We will have the Russian Committee's petition translated into English and other languages as soon as possible.

HALF MILLION SIGN UKRAINE PETITION

On May 5th the powerful Peasant Party, the 3rd or 4th biggest in Parliament, launched a major campaign called, "FREEDOM FOR SLOBODAN Miloshevich!". They set up 449 action committees to collect signatures demanding Miloshevich be released from jail. As of 16 May they have collected about one half MILLION signatures.

Here's what people signed [capital letters as per Ukrainian original]:

"To President Kostunica:

"Stating the will of hundreds of thousands of citizens of Ukraine, we address to you the demand that you release from the walls of his jail THE GREAT CITIZEN OF YUGOSLAVIA, THAT IS, OF THAT COUNTRY WHICH BY AN ACCIDENT OF HISTORY YOU LEAD. In demanding you take this action we count on your honorable relationship with the heroic past of your very much suffering but never broken people and with its best sons such as the steadfast leader of the Socialist Party, Slobodan Miloshevich."

This statement has been sent along with a letter to Yugoslav President Kostunica. We don't yet have the exact wording of the letter but in general it attacks the conditions under which President Miloshevich was arrested and explains in detail what has been done in Ukraine to organize to organize for Slobodan Miloshevich's release.

The Ukrainian activists are sending a similar letter to the United Nations, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to the OSCE, and to the leaderships of Russia, Belarus and Greece and the Parliamentary opposition in all the NATO countries.

***

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