More than 1 million Serbs demonstrated in Belgrade and eastern Yugoslavia Tuesday to protest alleged discrimination by Albanian separatists in Kosovo Province, officials said.
"Serbia has risen" and "Let us go to Kosovo" were among slogans chanted by protesters, who blocked traffic by the Yugoslav Federal Parliament building in the center of Belgrade. About 40 people suffered injuries in the rally, doctors in the capital's medical center said.Kosovo, on the Albanian border, is one of two provinces in Serbia, the dominant republic in non-aligned Yugoslavia. It has been one of East Europe's trouble spots for years because of friction between 2 million ethnic Albanians and 200,000 Serbs living there.
Serbian leaders claim the Serb minority in Kosovo has been persecuted by ethnic Albanian separatists. In the past eight years, about 35,000 Serbs have left Kosovo under pressure from separatists.
On Monday, authorities implemented "special measures," sending troops and tanks to contain any ethnic violence in Kosovo.
That action followed an Albanian miners' strike, which forced the resignation of three Kosovo Communist Party leaders who support the Serbs. The walkout, which paralyzed the economy for days, ended Monday.
Official Belgrade Radio said about 1.2 million workers and students joined the rally in Belgrade, one of the largest demonstrations in the capital's history. Independent observers put the figure at 600,000 to 800,000.
The conflict in Kosovo is the latest in continuing unrest plaguing Yugoslavia for more than a year. Deteriorating eonomic conditions have exacerbated the situation, leading for the resignations of party leaders.
No strong leader has emerged since Josef Tito died in 1980.