ЗАШТО? WHY? Stories of bombed Yugoslavia
Fifteen years after NATO’s 78-day bombardment of Yugoslavia, memories of the bombing still haunt present-day Serbia. NATO killed over 2,000 people, hundreds were civilians, 88 were children. Serbs ask ‘why?’ above all. Why did NATO smash their cities, kill their children, bomb hospitals and schools?
When the NATO bomb campaign began (on March 24th 1999) Jelena Milincic was a student at the University of Belgrade, and just 18 years old.
When the first bombs shook Belgrade she cowered under a table with her mother, sister, and best friend. Remembering this 15 years later, they laugh nervously.
Jelena takes Anissa Naouai on a road trip, to remember the victims, and hear the survivors of NATO’s strike terror.
RT presents 'Zashto?' (Why?) on the trauma of terror in Serbia.
Voice of Russia - March 24, 2014
Yugoslavia bombings 15 years later: US, NATO aggression in Europe
Fifteen years ago a hot spot appeared on the map of Europe – on March 24, 1999 the air forces of the United States and NATO started bombing Yugoslavia, which lasted for over two months. The aggression of the West took the lives of two thousand peaceful civilians.
The North Atlantic Treaty's aggression against Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century was one of the final acts of the long-term campaign of the West against that powerful Balkan state. The bombs and missiles that fell from the night sky on Belgrade, Pristina and other Serbian cities completed the formation of the new map of East Europe, said Alexander Bovdunov, an expert at the Center for Conservative Studies of the Sociology Department of the Moscow State University, in his interview to the Voice of Russia:
“A seat of tension was created in Europe, which prevented it from standing up as an independent geopolitical center. And secondly, the forces that could have become an ally of the Russian world were suppressed and destroyed. Primarily, it concerned Serbia and the Serbs. It was no accident that in that conflict the US and Europe it controlled first supported the Croatians, and then made a decision to destroy the Serbian state, to reduce its influence in the Balkans by unleashing the conflict around Kosovo.”
One of the main goals of the United States back then was to demonstrate to the world that it was capable of imposing its will and had the right to use the territory in any place in Europe. Thus, with Washington's efforts a quasi-state appeared called the Republic of Kosovo, the role of which was reduced to one thing – to become yet another military base of the US, thinks Vasily Kashirin, a senior researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies:
“It is a dependable and loyal satellite of the West. The largest military base on the entire European continent is located there. The Americans built a real military fortress there. They came there to stay for decades and have no plans of leaving. From the point of view of the triumph of the rough American military power, of the American imperialism it is a true success.”
After splitting the Yugoslavian state into several small republics and enclaves the West did not stop at that. By its “ballistic democracy” it created devastation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. It was about to get rid of the unruly Syria, when the mechanism of unipolar influence failed – Russia stood up in the way of the Euro Atlantic policy, says Vasily Kashirin:
“The global distribution of power in the world has changed. Russia is no longer as weak as in 1999. And Russia clearly showed that last year in the course of the Syrian crisis, when Moscow with its rational diplomacy and position of principles prevented the West from starting military aggression against Syria.”
Crimea became the next failure of the Euro Atlantic strategy. The Western community portrays Moscow's desire to protect the Russian-speaking population of the peninsula from ultranationalists as a military aggression against Ukraine. Europe considers the results of the expression of the free will of Crimea’s residents regarding joining Russia to be violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. According to Vasily Kashirin, such a reaction coming from Western Europe and the US is a reflex continuation of their policy of double standards. But times have changed and that policy will never be as effective as it was in the past. It has become too obvious for the entire world.
15-year anniversary of NATO aggression on Yugoslavia
In March 1999, at the direction of the United States of America, NATO engaged in its first act of illegal aggressive war, beginning what can only be called the “dark age of intervention” in which we are living today. The fact that NATO was allowed to get away with the aggression on Serbia and Montenegro emboldened US/NATO and the US military industrial intelligence banking complex and since that day, under a doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, Humanitarian Interventionism, Preventive War and then the all encompassing “War on Terror”, US/NATO have proceeded to destroy country after country and do away with leaders that they have not found to be submissive enough to their will.
The events of 9-11-2001 were a watershed moment for the geopolitical architects and served as a catalyst to allow them to expand their military machine to every corner of the world and invade countries at will and conduct operations with complete disregard for international law and accepted international norms.
In light of the 15th Anniversary of the NATO aggression the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals and other independent Civic associations in Serbia will hold an international conference from the 21st to the 24th of March 2014. The conference will gather 100 prominent intellectuals from all over the world, in addition to those from Serbia, Montenegro, the Republica Srpska and 10 to 15 guests from Russia, including Academician and retired Russian Army General Leonid Ivashov. The conference will also include the participation of the Veterans Alliance of Serbia and the Club of Generals and Admirals of Serbia.
The President of the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals and the last Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Zivadin Jovanovic wrote the following summary of the events in light of the 15 year anniversary of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. (John Robles)
Do Not Forget, by Zivadin Jovanovic
Fifteen years have passed since the beginning of NATO aggression against Serbia and Montenegro (24 March 1999). This aggression resulted in the loss of 4,000 human lives, including 88 children, and 10,000 people were severely wounded. Over two third of these victims were civilians. How many human lives have been lost in the meantime due to the consequences of weapons with depleted uranium, as well as of remaining cluster bombs, will hardly ever be established.
Breaching the basic norms of international law, its own founding act as well as constitutions of member countries, NATO was bombing Serbia and Montenegro during 78 days continuously destroying the economy, infrastructure, public services, radio and TV centers and transmitters, cultural and historical monuments. NATO bears responsibility for polluting the environment and endangering the health of present and future generations. Economic damage caused by the aggression is estimated at over USD 120 billion. War damage compensation has not yet been claimed, and judgments ruled by our court, by which the leaders of aggressor countries were convicted for the crimes against peace and humanity, were annulled after the coup d’état in 2000.
Governments of aggressor countries seized and occupied the Province of Kosovo and Metohija, and then formally delivered it to former terrorists, separatists and international organized crime bosses. An American military base was established in the Province – “Bondstill”, one of the largest beyond the U.S. territory.
After the aggression, over 250,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have been forced out the Province of Kosovo and Metohija; even today, 15 years later they are not allowed to return freely and safely to their homes. Ethnic cleansing and even drastic change of ethnic population structure are tolerated by so called international community if only to the detriment of Serbs. The remaining Serbian population in the Province of about 120.000 continues to live in fear and uncertainty. Attacks upon Serbs, detentions and killings, including liquidations of their political leaders, have been continuing up to these days, and nobody is held responsible.
NATO aggression against Serbia and Montenegro (FRY) in 1999 is a crime against peace and humanity. It is a precedent and a turning point towards global interventionism, arbitrary violation of the international legal order and the negation of the role of the UN. The “Bondstill” military base is the first and crucial ring in the chain of new American military bases reflecting strategy of expansion towards East, Caspian Basin, Middle East, towards Russia and its Siberia natural resources. Europe has thus got overall militarization and the new edition of the strategy “Drang nach Osten” (“Thrust to the East”). Destabilization and the tragic developments in Ukraine are just the most recent consequence of that strategy.
15 years after objectives of US/NATO military aggression continue to be pursued by other means. Serbia has been blackmailed to de facto recognize illegal secession of its Province of Kosovo and Metohija through so called Brussels negotiations. The most of the puppet states of the former Yugoslavia are much dependant on and indebted to the leading NATO/EU countries, their financial institutions and corporations so that they could hardly be considered independent states but rather neo-colonies. There is no stability in the Balkans, redrawing of borders has not ended, overall situation is dominated by devastated economy, unemployment, social tensions and misery. Europe, particularly its south-east regions, are experiencing profound economic, social and moral crisis.
Preparations for NATO military aggression against Serbia and Montenegro (FRY) and 1999 aggression itself have been used in the meantime as a blueprint for many other NATO aggressions and occupations - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali and so on. Wherever NATO undertook “humanitarian intervention”, like in former Yugoslavia, it left thousands of dead and mutilated, millions of refugees and displaced persons, ethnic and religious divisions, terrorism and separatism, economic disaster and social misery. NATO expansionist strategy made Europe militarized. There are more US/NATO military bases in Europe today than at the peak of the Cold War era. What for? NATO imperial expansionist strategy has provoked new arms race with unforeseen consequences. Who really needs an organization threatening global peace and stability?
During and after the aggression, 150 Serb monasteries and churches built in the Middle Ages were destroyed. Killed or abducted were some 3,500 Serbs and other non-Albanians, and fates of many of them have not been established until today. Not even one of the thousands of crimes against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija got a court clarification. Even such terrorist crimes as was blowing up the “Nis-express” bus on 16 February 2001, when 12 people were killed and 43 wounded, neither the murder of 14 Serb farmers reaping in the field in Staro Gracko, on 23 July 2009 remained without thorough investigation, be it by UNMIK, be it by EULEX, or by any other of so many structures of the so called international community.
The Swiss senator, Dick Marty, revealed documented report on trafficking in human organs of Serbs abducted in Kosovo and Metohija. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the oldest European democratic institution, adopted his Report as the official CE document. Although all factors stand verbally for an efficient investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice, for many years now there have been no results whatsoever. The documentation on human organ trafficking submitted to The Hague Tribunal had been – destroyed!
The Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, with support of other non-partisan and independent associations from Serbia, from the region and from the Serb Diaspora throughout the world, are organizing a number of activities under the common title “NOT TO FORGET”, with the aim to remind domestic and international public of human loss, destructions and other consequences of NATO aggression.
On Friday, 21 March 2014 at 6 p.m., in Sava Conference Centre, Belgrade (Milentija Popovica No. 1) an opening ceremony will launch a photographic exhibition presenting consequences of NATO aggression.
On Saturday, March 22 and on Sunday, March 23rd, 2014, International conference “Global Peace vs. Global Interventionism and Imperialism” will be held (Sava Conference Centre. Conference starts at 10 a.m. Some 100 prominent personalities from all over the world have confirmed their participation.
On Monday, March 24th, 2014, at 09.30 a.m., the International Memorial Marathon Belgrade-Hilandar will start in front of Saint Sava Church.
The same day, at 11 am, civic associations, representatives of Serb Diaspora, guests from abroad and individuals will lay flowers at the monument to children - victims of the aggression, in the Tašmajdan park, and the same day at 12 a.m. flowers will be laid at the Monument to all victims of the aggression, Friendship park, Ušće, New Belgrade.
Sad Anniversary: 15 years since NATO began bombing Yugoslavia
On March 24, Serbia and Montenegro are observing the sad anniversary of NATO air strikes against former Yugoslavia. On that day 15 years ago, NATO launched a US-led massive bombing campaign in an operation codenamed Allied Force, which lasted 78 days.
The collapse of the Rambouillet talks on Kosovo and Serbia’s rejection of an external peacekeeping force as it actually meant foreign invasion served as the formal pretext for the bombings. For over two months, NATO aircraft and warships were pouring tons of air bombs and cruise missiles almost daily on industrial, infrastructure and other facilities throughout Serbia and Montenegro.
Nineteen NATO member states took part in the operation which went ahead without the approval of the UN Security Council after a mass grave was found in the village of Racak in Kosovo, where the bodies of dozens of Albanian civilians allegedly killed by Serbian troops were said to have been dumped. Later it turned out that it was a “hoax” cooked up by Western secret services. Most of the bodies in the Racak grave were militants of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, who had died in clashes with Yugoslav police in various parts of Kosovo.
NATO delivered a total of 2,300 air strikes on 995 targets during its 11-week bombing campaign, according to Serbian sources. Some 1,150 NATO warplanes were involved in the operation. More than 420,000 shells weighing a total of 22,000 tones hit former Yugoslavia, including 20,000 heavy aviation bombs, 1,300 cruise missiles and 37,000 pellet bombs, most of them stuffed with depleted uranium.
More than 2,000 civilians and 1,000 servicemen were killed in the bombings and over 5,000 others were wounded. Serbia’s defense industry was completely destroyed along with 1,500 villages, 60 bridges, one-third of schools and about 100 historical and cultural monuments.
Serbian experts estimated the damage from NATO’s Allie Force operation at between $60 billion and $100 billion.
The use of depleted uranium shells pushed radiation levels in southern Serbia, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, above the permissible norm and drove cancer rates up.
Voice of Russia
15 years on: Looking back at NATO's ‘humanitarian’ bombing of Yugoslavia
Published time: March 24, 2014
Exactly 15 years ago, on March 24, NATO began its 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. The alliance bypassed the UN under a “humanitarian” pretext, launching aggression that claimed hundreds of civilian lives and caused a much larger catastrophe than it averted.
Years on, Serbia still bears deep scars of the NATO bombings which, as the alliance put it, were aimed at “preventing instability spreading” in Kosovo. Questions remain on the very legality of the offense, which caused casualties and mass destruction in the Balkan republic.
NATO demonstrated in 1999 that it can do whatever it wants under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” “war on terror,” or “preventive war” – something that everyone has witnessed in subsequent years in different parts of the globe.
Nineteen NATO member states participated to some degree in the military campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), which lasted for 11 weeks until June 10, 1999.
More rubble, less trouble
In the course of the campaign, NATO launched 2,300 missiles at 990 targets and dropped 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions (unexploded cluster bombs continued to pose a threat to people long after the campaign was over.) Over 2,000 civilians were killed, including 88 children, and thousands more were injured. Over 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave their homeland in Kosovo.
In what the alliance described as “collateral damage,” its airstrikes destroyed more than 300 schools, libraries, and over 20 hospitals. At least 40,000 homes were either completely eliminated or damaged and about 90 historic and architectural monuments were ruined. That is not to mention the long-term harm caused to the region’s ecology and, therefore, people’s health. Economic damage is estimated at over US$120 billion, according to Serbian media.
“There is a bridge near the city of Nis, which was bombed at the time when a passenger train was passing through it,” Milincic recalls.The tragedy on April 12, 1999 killed 15 people and wounded 44 others, while many passengers were never accounted for.
“We felt the blast and saw flames under the locomotive. The train was blown so powerfully, half a meter from the ground. I don’t know how we stayed on the rails,” recalled witness Boban Kostic.
“Our colleague got off the train when I did,” he said. “He was really scared. But another rocket hit and blew him to pieces,” added another witness, Goran Mikic.
“Why? Why civilians? Why a train?” said Dragan Ciric. “It still torments me, if the first rocket was a mistake, what were the next three for?” he told RT.
The Chinese embassy in the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade was also hit and set on fire by NATO airstrikes on May 7, 1999. Three citizens of the country were killed. The alliance called the attack “a mistake.” China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and, along with Russia, did not support a military solution for the Kosovo crisis.
“Indications are that NATO did not always meet its legal obligations in selecting targets and in choosing means and methods of attack, On the basis of available evidence, including NATO's own statements and accounts of specific incidents, Amnesty International believes that - whatever their intentions - NATO forces did commit serious violations of the laws of war leading in a number of cases to the unlawful killings of civilians,” the rights watchdog said in a report published in June 2000.
The alliance dismissed the accusations, saying that cases involving civilian deaths were due to technological failure or were simply “accidents of conflict.” NATO failed to say that they were due to the alliance's own failure to take all necessary precautions.
“We never said we would avoid casualties. It would be foolhardy to say that, as no military operation in history has been perfect,” said Jamie Shea, NATO’s chief spokesman, the Guardian reported at the time.
Former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered military action against Yugoslavia following a failure in negotiations on the Kosovo crisis in France’s Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999.
NATO's decision was officially announced after talks between international mediators – known as the Contact Group – the Yugoslav government, and the delegation of Kosovo Albanians ended in a deadlock. Belgrade refused to allow foreign military presence on its territory while Albanians accepted the proposal.
However, despite not announcing the link officially, NATO entered the conflict on the side of the KLA, accusing Serbian security forces of atrocities and “ethnic cleansing” against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The main objective of the campaign was to make Milosevic's forces pull out of the province. The fact that there was violence on both sides of the confrontation was ignored both by allied governments and Western media – which stirred up public anger by focusing only on Serbs’ atrocities and being far less vocal regarding abuses by Albanians.
“All efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution to the Kosovo crisis having failed, no alternative is open but to take military action,” Solana said on March 23, 1999. “We must halt the violence and bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Kosovo.”
An incident involving the “mass killing” of Albanians in central Kosovo’s village of Racak – a KLA stronghold – became a major excuse and justification for NATO’s decision to start its operation. Serbs were blamed for the deaths of dozens of Albanian “civilians” on January 15, 1999. However, it was alleged that the accusations could have been false and the bodies actually belonged to KLA insurgents whose clothes had been changed.
“[Walker] arrived there having no powers to make conclusions regarding what had happened,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazenta paper in November last year.
Yugoslav authorities accused Walker of going beyond his mission and proclaimed him persona non grata, while Western leaders were infuriated over the Racak incident.
“But parts of the report leaked and were quoted in the media saying that [the victims] were not civilians and that all the bodies found in Racak were in disguise and that bullet holes on clothes and bodies did not match. There was also no one who was killed at short range,” Lavrov said. “Even though I’ve repeatedly raised this issue, the report itself still has not been shown.”
In August 2013, Amnesty International accused the UNMIK of failing to properly investigate the abductions and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 war.
“Years have passed and the fate of the majority of the missing on both sides of the conflict is still unresolved, with their families still waiting for justice,” the organization said.
Moscow’s former envoy to NATO (1997-2002), Viktor Zavarzin, believes the military alliance’s aggression was “a crime against humanity” and a “violation of international laws and norms.” The event that unfolded 15 years ago laid ground to a new era of the development of international relations – the era of “chaosization of international law and its arbitrary manipulation,” Zavarzin, an MP for the United Russia party said at the State Duma plenary session on Friday.
Itar-Tass - March 24, 2014
Serbia remembers victims of the 1999 NATO bombardments
BELGRADE: Serbia commemorated one of the most tragic dates in its history on Monday - the beginning of NATO bombardments of the former Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999. Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic laid a wreath to the memorial of the victims of a NATO missile strike in Varvarin.
“Until now, we have not received any genuine condolences for that senseless missile strike at a bridge during a religious holiday,” the Serbian head of state said.
“I will never forget what happened during the (NATO) aggression against Serbia - in those 78 days and nights from March 24 to June 9, 1999.
Nikolic said it was impossible to forget a NATO air strike at a bridge over Morava River on St. Trinity Day on May 30, 1999 that killed 10 people and wounded 17.
“All these days we have kept remembering the victims of tyrants’ political goals. Alongside the names of the dead, we would like to know the name of at least one person who was punished for the aforesaid crimes,” the Serbian president went on to say.
Those monstrous acts were committed as part of the Merciful Angel operation while the NATO propaganda machine called the suffering and death of innocent civilians as collateral damage. “Our task is never to forget this injustice which led to the death of innocent civilians in Serbia,” Nikolic said.
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic laid a wreath to the Glasnik monument on top of Strazevica Hill in the town of Rakovica.
“A nation that forgets its victims and history is doomed to live through similar hardships again. It is our duty to remember those who defended our homeland,” Dacic said, noting that today Serbia was pursuing a policy of peaceful solution to problems which it had faced then.
“I hope that such tragedies will never recur,” the Serbian prime minister emphasized.
Representatives of Serb local self-government in Kosovska Mitrovica and Zvecan, northern Kosovo, and the Society of Serbian-Russian Friendship laid wreaths to the Monument of Truth near the main bridge over the Ibar River and on the Brother Milic Square in the centre of Kosovska Mitrovica.
According to Serbian sources, more than 1,100 NATO planes delivered a total of 2,300 air strikes at 995 military facilities over the 11- week bombing campaign. About 420,000 bombs with a total weight of 22,000 tonnes, including 20,000 heavy aviation bombs, 1,300 cruise missiles and 37,000 cluster bombs, were dropped on Serbia and exploded on the ground.
More than 2,000 civilians (predominantly in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija) and over a 1,000 servicemen died in the bombardments. More than 5,000 people were wounded. More than a thousand people went missing. Serbia’s military-industrial infrastructure was totally destroyed. More than 1,500 populated localities, 60 bridges, one third of schools and about a hundred monuments were ruined. Serbian experts put the material damage from bombardments at 100 billion dollars.