BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Truck and taxi drivers blockaded roads and bridges, students stayed home and factories closed throughout Yugoslavia on Monday to start a protest blitz by opposition forces that could test their resolve to drive President Slobodan Milosevic from office.
Milosevic's foes have vowed to bring the country to a standstill with general strikes and road blockades. But the buildup to the campaign has been slow and cautious, raising questions about whether they possess the momentum and stamina to carry out their threats.
Less than a week remains before Sunday's scheduled run-off elections. Milosevic says challenger Vojislav Kostunica failed to achieve an outright victory in Sept. 24 elections and a second round is needed. The opposition, backed by the West, insists Milosevic rigged the voting.
Kostunica branded Monday's protest actions as a "quiet and smart democratic revolution."
"People are ready to start building a new country," Kostunica said. "Milosevic has been ousted in the elections, but someone has to tell him that."
Meanwhile, Russia on Monday resisted Western pressure to call on Milosevic to concede electoral defeat, but President Vladimir Putin said he was willing to mediate between the Yugoslav president and his challenger.
Putin said he was willing to receive both Milosevic and Kostunica in Moscow to "discuss ways of resolving the situation." Putin left Monday for a four-day visit to India, suggesting no meeting on the Yugoslav situation was imminent.
In Yugoslavia, road blockades snarled traffic on one bridge in the capital, Belgrade, for about three hours, while city transit workers staged a two-hour walkout. The blockade appeared stronger in cities and towns outside Belgrade, bringing life to a virtual standstill in the central and southern industrial heartland towns like Nis, Cacak, Pancevo and Uzice.
The opposition Democratic Opposition of Serbia said the blocking of traffic in Belgrade was over for Monday, but would continue Tuesday for five hours and the whole day on Wednesday if Milosevic doesn't recognize his electoral defeat by then.
Cedomir Jovanovic, the coalition's spokesman, reported several incidents caused by police at the blockades in the capital. Four people were injured in a clash with police in Surcin, about 12 miles west of the capital at a road junction.
Dozens of trams and buses lined up in Slavija square and the surrounding streets in Belgrade. Hundreds of cars also lined up around Autokomanda, a major intersection, as people struggled to move. Most taxis also refused to operate.
Traffic and special police were present, trying to break the blockade by impounding license plates from private cars and driving away parked buses or trucks.
Another road blockade effectively sealed off the opposition-run town of Cacak in central Yugoslavia early Monday. By 5 a.m., some 70 truck drivers completely jammed the road outside the industrial town of 80,000 people.
In Nis, the third largest Yugoslav city, about 10,000 workers walked out from their jobs.
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