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“Many Western leaders are in for surprises within the next few months” during the war-crime trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, according to official Russian sources.
Moscow also blames the United States for the war the Serbs waged in Kosovo in the late ’90s and accuses the West in general of being behind the wars fought since 1991, which led to the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The statements were reported by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
Attacking the war-crimes tribunal directly, the official broadcast asserted “it’s common knowledge” that several of the nations supporting the U.N. war-crimes tribunal in The Hague were also “active supporters of Croatia and the Bosnian Moslems.”
In other words, the West, Moscow claims, has made “every effort to break up the single Yugoslav state.”
The United States – not Milosevic – is to blame for the war in Kosovo, according to the official government broadcast, which said “it’s no secret anymore” that the U.S. helped the Albanian fighters in Kosovo “even before NATO launched its aggression” in 1999 against Yugoslavia.
Moscow compared the actions taken by Milosevic against ethnic Albanians with the current fighting in Macedonia. Should the present truce in Macedonia fail and fighting resume, “the Macedonian leaders” would also face “the very real prospect” of finding themselves in the dock of The Hague-based international tribunal.”
The case against Milosevic must be considered within the context of Western intervention in the region, Moscow explains. “… If criminal orders were given by the former president,” the entire political and military situation should be taken into account, it said.
A Serbian trial would have taken the claims of Western intervention into account, and would be the only legal forum open to Milosevic “in keeping with the (Yugoslav) constitution,” Moscow added.
Indict Western leaders?
Referring sarcastically to the “lofty ideals of justice” of the war-crimes court, Moscow challenged the tribunal to indict Western leaders who had directed NATO’s war against Yugoslavia.
The tribunal should “make a legal assessment” of NATO’s “bombing of Yugoslavia’s peaceful towns and villages,” Moscow stated.
Not included in Moscow’s recounting of the recent history of the Balkan region were the documentation by Serb authorities of mass graves traced back to the wars of the last decade, Milosevic’s ambition for a “Greater Serbia,” centuries-old strivings for national identity of various ethnic groups, and dissatisfaction with national boundaries set by the great European powers both before and after WWI.
On June 20, Radio Yugoslavia, the official broadcasting service of the Yugoslav government, reported that the Serbian Interior Minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, announced the finding of some 1,000 bodies buried in mass graves, and that one of these sites was “in the vicinity of Belgrade.”
Milosevic’s plan for a “Greater Serbia” was the direct counterpart of the ethnic Albanian desire for a “Greater Albania,” which Moscow has frequently cited in its analyses of the region.
The struggle for a “Greater Serbia” in the early and mid-1990s put Milosevic in alliance with a number of figures later accused of war crimes. Most notable among them were Radovan Karadzic, then-Bosnian Serb president, and Gen. Ratko Mladic, then-commander of the Bosnian Serb army.
Both Karadzic and Mladic were indicted six years ago on genocide charges in connection with the killing of some 6,000 Moslems in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica, in July 1995. Though the two men remain at large, both are hunted by the same tribunal currently trying Milosevic.
And Milosevic himself may also be “in for surprises” during his trial. A report from Radio Yugoslavia indicates that Karadzic may be preparing to surrender to international authorities and testify against Milosevic.
According to the report, Karadzic has been “collecting evidence” linking Milosevic “exclusively” to the war crimes and genocide committed in Bosnia. Karadzic is seeking to obtain a lighter sentence from the war-crimes tribunal, Radio Yugoslavia reports.
The conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, as well as those still continuing, have their roots deep within the history of the region.
The present borders of the Balkans reflect attempts by the great powers, both before and after WWI, to reconcile conflicting claims of the nations that emerged in the region following various successful rebellions against the fast-declining Ottoman Empire.
Despite the intervention of the great European powers of the early 20th century, mutual hostility and disputes regarding national boundaries remained.
Ethnic Albanians and Serbs felt aggrieved that their territory did not reflect the distribution of their populations, and these frustrations helped fuel today’s conflicts.
The national aspirations of the Croatians and Slovenians had to wait until the break-up of most of the federation of Yugoslavia. The previous independent Croatian state ended in 1097. Slovenia was never previously an independent nation.