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Balkan Report: June 24, 1998

24 June 1998, Volume 2, Number 25

We Are All UCK." It is far from clear exactly what prompted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to launch his crackdown in Kosova in February. Some observers say it was an attempt to unite Serbs and Montenegrins behind him at a time when Montenegrins had defied him by electing Milo Djukanovic president. Others believe that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) had become so bold in its use of violence against Serbs and against ethnic Albanians close to the Serbian authorities that Milosevic had no choice but to reply in kind. Still others, such as Orthodox Bishop Artemije, find the roots of the crackdown in Milosevic's complex personality, which the bishop calls "suicidal."

Nor is it absolutely clear what Milosevic wants to achieve. One observer in Tirana suggested recently to "Bosnia Report" that the Yugoslav leader is using the same tactics that the Turkish authorities have long used in relation to the Kurds. According to this interpretation, Milosevic is seeking to weaken the political and military power of the Kosovars by depopulating rural areas, clearing the border regions of ethnic Albanians entirely, forcing some Kosovars to flee the country, prompting others to move to urban areas within Yugoslavia, and killing still others. All the while, Belgrade is careful to stress at home and abroad that its polices are a response to "terrorist" UCK violence, much as Ankara blames its repression of the Kurds on the presence of the PKK.

What is certain about the current crisis, however, is that Milosevic's policies have radicalized the Kosovars and prompted much of the population to identify with the UCK, which until the end of 1997 probably consisted of no more than a few hundred individuals. In recent weeks, peaceful protest marches in Prishtina presented increasingly bold displays of support for the UCK: "We are all UCK" became a familiar chant. Parliamentary Party leader Adem Demaci has offered to make his party the UCK's political wing. Even moderate leaders like shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi, who for months either ignored the UCK or claimed that it was a fabrication of Serbian security forces to discredit the non-violent Kosovar leadership, have come to recognize the UCK as "a reality" and urge it to submit to control by the elected political representatives.

The UCK, however, is unlikely to accept the authority of Rugova, whom it regards as defeatist. The guerrillas have become more confident and no longer try to hide their identity before television cameras. Some estimates say that the UCK has several tens of thousands of men under arms, and could put multiples of that figure into the field if it truly wanted to do so. The exact truth of such claims, is, of course difficult to determine. But it is clear that nobody would have dared to credit the UCK with such numbers before Milosevic launched his crackdown.

Bosnian Network Launches Broadcasts, Integrating RFE/RL and Local Stations. Under a partnership agreement between RFE/RL's South Slavic Broadcast Service and independent local radio stations, a new Bosnian Radio Network was created on June 10 to provide a balanced and unbiased public affairs program in multi-ethnic and democratic Bosnia. The name of the new program is Radio 27 and it is broadcast in the mornings from 7:00 to 9:00 in local time.

The new Bosnian Network two-hour morning show is prepared in Prague with contributions by correspondents of RFE/RL affiliated local radio stations. The ever-growing network now consists of 29 radio stations in the following Bosnian cities: Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Bratunac, Cazin, Doboj, Gracanica, Ilidza, Lusci Palanka, Mostar, Mrkonjic Grad, Nova Topola, Novi Travnik, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Sarajevo, Skelani, Teslic, Travnik, Trebinje, Tuzla, Vitez, Zavidovici, Zenica, and Zivinice.