Belgraders voice fear and resignation after murder

BELGRADE, Feb 9, 2000 -- (Reuters) Belgraders reacted with fear and resignation on Tuesday to the murder of Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic, the latest in a string of high-profile killings in the capital in recent years.

"This is terrible, the list goes on and on," said Marija, a 60-year-old housewife. "I do not know what is happening with this country, what will happen with us normal people if ministers are killed just like that."

A Belgrade man voiced similar fears. "I think we are entering a period of living dangerously. You see, this is the second minister who ended up like this."

Radovan Stojicic, assistant interior minister and head of uniformed police in Serbia was gunned down, like Bulatovic, in a Belgrade restaurant in 1997.

Bulatovic's death was the latest in a long list of killings of policemen, politicians, businessmen and other public figures coinciding with the bloody collapse of socialist Yugoslavia over the past decade. Most of the murders are unsolved.

Bulatovic died less than a month after the killing of feared Serb warlord Zeljko Arkan Raznatovic, who was shot in a Belgrade hotel lobby.

"Papers are selling well this morning, just like when Arkan was killed," said Mile, a 65-year-old newspaper vendor.

Shot down "like a clay pigeon"

"This is stunning. During 17 years of war in Lebanon their defense minister was not killed. Here, he was shot down like a clay pigeon," said a Montenegrin businessmen based in Belgrade who asked not to be identified.

Nemanja, 30, said many people believed there was a connection between the two killings.

"But I don't think so," he said. "I think that the killing of Bulatovic is much more serious. I just hope they do not use it to deal with Montenegro as a state."

Bulatovic was a senior member of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, which supports Milosevic and opposes the Western-leaning leadership of Montenegro, an increasingly reluctant partner to Serbia in the Yugoslav federation.

Another man in the street said he believed Albanians were to blame.

Bulatovic was defence minister during repressive operations in the ethnic Albanian Kosovo province which led to NATO's air strikes last year.

Slobodan Vuksanovic of Serbia's opposition Democratic Party said the killings spread fear. "It is another proof that people are not safe in this country," he said.

But a Western diplomat was no longer surprised by killings. "It is simply part of everyday life here," he said.

Original article