The extradition and trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic continues to inflame sentiments throughout the Balkans and around the world.
While some express unrestrained glee, others regard the trial of Milosevic as a means of justifying NATO air attacks against Yugoslavia. Those inclined to mistrust – or oppose outright – Western influence in the Balkans are outraged at Milosevic’s trial.
“The condemnation of Slobodan Milosevic is the only opportunity to justify NATO’s war crimes” during the 78-day air war against Yugoslavia, said the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
The Western powers have set “definitive tasks” for the U.N. tribunal investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslav republic, namely, to “justify those who won in the Balkans carnage,” the official broadcast asserted.
The “sponsors” of the recent Balkan wars, according to Moscow, are “those who contributed to the disintegration of Yugoslavia” – the independent states that made up the former Yugoslav federation – and those who dropped what Moscow sardonically describes as “humanitarian bombs” on Yugoslavia.
Prior to the NATO attacks, the Yugoslav army operating in Kosovo was acting merely in reaction to armed ethnic Albanian provocations, according to Moscow. The resulting mass refugee flight was in response to the fighting – and not from terror and massacre – the Moscow broadcast added.
Among the allegations leveled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Milosevic and four other named defendants conducted operations “with the objective of removing a substantial portion of the Kosovo Albanian population from Kosovo in an effort to ensure continued Serbian control over the province,” according to the indictment carried on the BBC website.
Yugoslav and Serb forces “forcibly expelled … hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians,” which was accomplished through “an atmosphere of fear and oppression … threats … and acts of violence,” the indictment claims.
Moscow resolutely denies the allegations made against its long-time ally and states, “The Hague tribunal has nothing to prove this [assertion].”
Moscow quotes Milosevic as stating that the war crimes tribunal is, in reality, an “instrument of genocide against the Serbs.”
Observers have also noted that, following NATO’s victory, much of the Serb minority in Kosovo was forced to flee from attacks from ethnic Albanians. NATO’s incapacity – or unwillingness – to restrict ethnic Albanian violence has also been noted by observers.
The trial of Milosevic has widened the rift between the West – particularly the United States – and many in Serbia, as well as the Balkans as a whole, who fear the expansion of ethnic Albanian influence and the establishment of a “Greater Albania.”
The hero of the movement that overthrew Milosevic in October 2000, Vojislav Kostunica, has recently condemned both the United States and the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Citing an interview in the July 5, 2000, issue of the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, the VOR reported that Kostunica said the war crimes tribunal is “biased,” and, “soon will become a U.S., rather than an international organization.”
Kostunica’s remarks reflect the sentiments of many in what remains of Yugoslavia. Future elections will determine if Kostunica still speaks for a majority of the electorate. The statements Kostunica expressed were completely consistent with his stated position prior to defeating Milosevic and becoming president of Yugoslavia.
In an interview in the Sept. 18, 2000, issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Kostunica stated that the NATO war against Yugoslavia “remains an open wound” in his soul, and that the NATO intervention in Kosovo was a “great fiasco.”
In the interview, Kostunica expressed his belief that Yugoslav troops would again return to the nominally Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
Kostunica added that “the Russian presence in Yugoslavia is an important political factor,” while he speculated that U.S. “engagement” in Europe would “quickly decrease.”
For many, the trial of Milosevic increases Moscow’s influence in the region, much to the detriment of the United States.