Clashes at Serb Nationalist Anti-NATO Rally

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Clashes at Serb Nationalist Anti-NATO Rally

Post  AuLoNa on Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:11 am

Two police officers and five members of the public were injured in clashes last night between a group of some 150 youths and police, during a protest marking ten years since NATO’s bombing of Serbia.

28 people were arrested in the violence, Serbia’s B92 network has learnt from police sources.

Groups of young men clashed with the police in various locations around the city.

The most violent was at Zeleni Venac, where the McDonalds fast food restaurant had its windows smashed in. Hooligans also damaged two another McDonalds restaurants.

They also attacked a camera crew from TV Studio B. An assistant and a cameraman, who did not wish to comment on the incident, sustained minor injuries and parts of their equipment were destroyed.

The crowd carried banners from movements such as Obraz, 1389, the Nasi (‘Ours’) Association, the Ravnogorski Movement, the Serbian Radical Party, while pictures of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic were also on full display.

The crowd yelled “Give us weapons!“, "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" and waving banners hailing Milosevic as the "hero of the Serbian nation."


Earlier, air-raid sirens wailed and church bells tolled on Tuesday as Serbia marked the 10th anniversary of NATO's air war to halt a violent crackdown on Kosovo by the then president Slobodan Milosevic.

People gathered at ceremonies by monuments to children and journalists killed in the NATO sorties as the sirens were sounded across the ex-Yugoslav republic for 60 seconds from midday (1100 GMT).

Bells of Orthodox churches tolled for the victims at 7:45 pm (1845 GMT), the moment NATO's first attacks were launched 10 years ago.

"The attack on our country was illegal, contrary to international law, without a decision by the United Nations" Security Council, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic told a special commemorative sitting of his cabinet.

"The air strikes have not solved problems in Kosovo, and did not help to bring peace and the rule of law," he said, after schools held a minute's silence before class.

NATO launched the strikes on March 24, 1999 after Milosevic refused to agree to a peace deal to end his forces' crackdown on the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and the ethnic Albanian majority in the southern territory.

It set out to destroy military targets, and went on to strike infrastructure and the Milosevic propaganda machine. But some strikes hit civilian sites and even the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

After 78 days, Milosevic eventually conceded, paving the way for NATO to enter Kosovo, where some 15,000 NATO-led peacekeepers remain to this day.

At the later nationalist rally, protestors, many of them shaven-headed youths dressed in football strips, shouted anti-NATO slogans, waving Serbian and Russian flags.

"Serbia-Russia, we do not need the Union (European Union)," one of the placards said.

A strong police presence was deployed in a bid to prevent riots by hardline nationalists, who had smashed Western-owned shops and McDonald's restaurants during protests against Kosovo's declaration of independence in February 2008.


Obraz – an informal association – neither registered as a non-governmental organisation or a political one, had a key presence in Tuesday’s demonstration.

The organisation was banned by the assembly in Serbia’s northern autonomous, and ethnically-diverse province of Vojvodina in 2004 when it’s activities were described as neo-fascist.

Since then Obraz has not been active there, though is believed to carry out its activities under a variety of different guises.

Meanwhile there have been protests at Obraz’s presence at a book fair in Serbia’s northern city of Novi Sad.

Their stand features books such as “AIDS – Faggot Brigade” and “Einstein and Freud – Two Fake Jew Greats,” as well as a book written by wartime Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, who faces charges of war crimes at The Hague Tribunal.

“The presence at the Novi Sad Book Fair of this organisation and its publication raises its profile, and promotes religious, national and all other types of hatred in breach of the Serbian Constitution,” a group of non-governmental organisations wrote in an open letter to Novi Sad Mayor Igor Pavlicic and members of the City Council.
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Ten Years After NATO Bombing Over Kosovo, Finger-Pointing Continues

Post  AuLoNa on Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:21 am

Kosovar refugees cross the border between Yugoslavia and Albania in April 1999.
Last updated: 24.03.2009 22:02
By Ron Synovitz
Ten years after the start of NATO's air campaign over the Kosovo conflict, Serb and ethnic Albanian officials continue to point fingers at each other over who was responsible.

Human rights organizations have estimated that 500 civilians were killed by the 11 weeks of NATO air strikes that came in response to a violent crackdown by Serb forces against Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population. The air campaign also destroyed infrastructure across what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- including Serbia, its province of Kosovo, and Montenegro.

Officials in Belgrade, who are marking the anniversary by setting off memorial air-raid sirens, still claim civilian casualties there were much higher -- as many as 3,000.

Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac told Reuters he looks back on NATO's air strikes as a great mistake.

"I must say that, my opinion, then and now hasn't changed. Then and now, I think it was a great mistake by the NATO alliance and that the bombing shouldn't have happened," Sutanovac said. "I believe that at the crossroads of two millenniums and two centuries, it was absolutely unnatural that one nation -- and when I say nation I think about all the citizens of the then Yugoslavia -- to be bombed. And I think that the goals which NATO wanted to achieve could have been done with less energy, and citizens could have been spared from what happened."

But in Pristina, capital of what is now a newly independent Kosovo, opinion is different.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci recalls the violent crackdown by Serb forces against ethnic Albanian Kosovars in the months before the NATO strikes began -- and after then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refused to sign an internationally brokered peace deal at Rambouillet, France that had been signed by leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian independence movement.

"[NATO's intervention] was a necessary decision of the international community after we signed the Rambouillet agreement. Kosovo was in flames, and Serbia's deportations of civilians were under way. So our fight was a just one, and it won the support of the international community," Thaci says. "It was a justified intervention done at the right time, so that Kosovo could win its freedom. Therefore, that decision was key in creating a new reality for Kosovo as an independent state."

Mounting Violence

Kosovo was a province of Serbia when members of the majority ethnic Albanian population there held renegade elections in 1992 and pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova was voted as president of their self-declared republic.

But Kosovo's attempted secession was largely ignored by international media amid the wider Balkan wars in Bosnia and Croatia. That is, until the late 1990s, when the wars in Bosnia and Croatia were over and ethnic Albanian fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army launched an armed rebellion.

Yugoslav police and Serb paramilitary forces retaliated in 1998 with a series of attacks that forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes. Altogether, some 800,000 ethnic Albanians fled or were expelled to Macedonia and Albania before Milosevic's campaign was stopped by the NATO attacks.

In an exclusive interview this month with RFE/RL, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talked about the international mood ahead of the NATO campaign in Kosovo and its legitimacy:



Features
Ten Years After NATO Bombing Over Kosovo, Finger-Pointing Continues

Kosovar refugees cross the border between Yugoslavia and Albania in April 1999.
Last updated: 24.03.2009 22:02
By Ron Synovitz
Ten years after the start of NATO's air campaign over the Kosovo conflict, Serb and ethnic Albanian officials continue to point fingers at each other over who was responsible.

Human rights organizations have estimated that 500 civilians were killed by the 11 weeks of NATO air strikes that came in response to a violent crackdown by Serb forces against Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population. The air campaign also destroyed infrastructure across what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- including Serbia, its province of Kosovo, and Montenegro.

Officials in Belgrade, who are marking the anniversary by setting off memorial air-raid sirens, still claim civilian casualties there were much higher -- as many as 3,000.

Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac told Reuters he looks back on NATO's air strikes as a great mistake.

Tracer fire from air defenses light up the sky over Belgrade early on April 30, 1999.
"I must say that, my opinion, then and now hasn't changed. Then and now, I think it was a great mistake by the NATO alliance and that the bombing shouldn't have happened," Sutanovac said. "I believe that at the crossroads of two millenniums and two centuries, it was absolutely unnatural that one nation -- and when I say nation I think about all the citizens of the then Yugoslavia -- to be bombed. And I think that the goals which NATO wanted to achieve could have been done with less energy, and citizens could have been spared from what happened."

But in Pristina, capital of what is now a newly independent Kosovo, opinion is different.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci recalls the violent crackdown by Serb forces against ethnic Albanian Kosovars in the months before the NATO strikes began -- and after then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refused to sign an internationally brokered peace deal at Rambouillet, France that had been signed by leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian independence movement.

"[NATO's intervention] was a necessary decision of the international community after we signed the Rambouillet agreement. Kosovo was in flames, and Serbia's deportations of civilians were under way. So our fight was a just one, and it won the support of the international community," Thaci says. "It was a justified intervention done at the right time, so that Kosovo could win its freedom. Therefore, that decision was key in creating a new reality for Kosovo as an independent state."

Mounting Violence

Kosovo was a province of Serbia when members of the majority ethnic Albanian population there held renegade elections in 1992 and pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova was voted as president of their self-declared republic.

But Kosovo's attempted secession was largely ignored by international media amid the wider Balkan wars in Bosnia and Croatia. That is, until the late 1990s, when the wars in Bosnia and Croatia were over and ethnic Albanian fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army launched an armed rebellion.

Yugoslav police and Serb paramilitary forces retaliated in 1998 with a series of attacks that forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes. Altogether, some 800,000 ethnic Albanians fled or were expelled to Macedonia and Albania before Milosevic's campaign was stopped by the NATO attacks.

In an exclusive interview this month with RFE/RL, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talked about the international mood ahead of the NATO campaign in Kosovo and its legitimacy:





In the Czech Republic, which joined NATO just weeks before the alliance's Kosovo campaign began, Michael Zantovsky was serving as chairman of parliament's committee on foreign affairs, defense, and security. Zantovsky now says that it is important to remember the historic context of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Zantovsky notes that European diplomats had failed repeatedly to broker an end to the earlier conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia.

Milosevic's ultranationalist rhetoric already had fanned the flames of ethnic and religious hatred in order to strengthen his hold on power in Belgrade after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"All of a sudden, NATO became the only game in town that could effectively stem the tide of nationalism which threatened to engulf the countries emerging from decades of totalitarian rule -- in particular, in the Balkans," Zantovsky said recently. "And I think that we should never forget that it was NATO that stopped the fighting in the Balkans. We can argue about the way it was done. We can argue about the force that was used. But it is not arguable that it was NATO who stopped it."

Albright also looked back on the lessons of the 1999 crisis:


Beginning Or End?

Riza Greicevci, an ethnic Albanian writer in Pristina, tells Reuters that is the way most ethnic Albanians remember NATO's campaign today -- not as the beginning of a war against Belgrade, but as the start of the end of oppression from Belgrade.

"Albanian people, old and young, are grateful to the most powerful military organization, NATO -- Western countries, America, and their allies -- that took part in punishing the evil, crime, and genocide caused by Serbia against the Albanian people," Greicevci says.

Indeed, killings and forced deportations of ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo by Yugoslav police and Serb paramilitary forces became the basis of war crimes and genocide charges against Milosevic at the UN's war crimes court in The Hague.

Although Milosevic died in custody before a verdict was reached at The Hague, five senior Serb officials eventually were convicted for Kosovo war crimes. They were sentenced last month to prison terms of 15 to 22 years.

The closest the panel of judges ever came to issuing a verdict on Milosevic's charges came when the court acquitted Milan Milutinovic -- the president of Serbia in 1999 and the leader of the Yugoslavian government's negotiation group at the peace talks in Rambouillet.

The judges ruled that, in practice, "it was Milosevic, sometimes termed the supreme commander, who exercised actual command authority" over Serb troops and security police responsible for war crimes in Kosovo during the NATO campaign.

Meanwhile, in the decade since the NATO bombings, most ethnic Serbs from Kosovo have fled their homes south of the Ibar River to escape revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians.

"It is a terrible feeling when you have only a couple of hours to decide what to do and where to go and how to break the so-called barricades -- what you will take from home in a plastic bag, the only things you can take," says Milivoje Mihajlovic, a journalist who is among those exiles. "It is a terrible experience that I wouldn't like anybody to have."

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