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Kosovo Report: August 13, 1999

13 August 1999, Number 21, Volume 1

LARGE FUNERAL IN KRUSHA E MADHE. Thousands of ethnic Albanians from all over Kosovo came to Krusha e Madhe on 12 August to attend the funeral of 79 Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbian forces in March of this year. John Bunn, head of Scotland Yard's forensic team that was in Kosovo last month at the invitation of the International War Crimes Tribunal, said then that the victims in the mass graves at Krusha e Madhe had been shot in the back of the head at close range. Nobody at the ceremony called for vengeance. Human rights activists believe that Yugoslav forces killed around 10,000 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo during the NATO bombing campaign.

MORE PROTESTS AGAINST RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS. About 2,000 ethnic Albanians held a protest rally against Russian peacekeepers in Kamenica on 12 August. The protesters jeered and beat on the vehicles of Russian KFOR soldiers. No further incidents were reported. A Russian soldier told Reuters that "we just try to endure it, turn our head away sometimes. We've got used to this. It happens every day. It's mostly kids, not many adults."

BRITISH KFOR INJURE TWO ALBANIAN CRIMINALS AFTER WILD CHASE. British soldiers arrested four ethnic Albanians and injured two of them in a shootout following a wild car chase near Vernica on 12 August. A fifth escaped. The four are suspected of having intimidated local Serbs. The soldiers said that they had advance warning that ethnic Albanians would launch an attack at local Serbs that day and had been prepared to catch the attackers.

French Defense Minister Alain Richard expressed concern in Paris that conflicts between KFOR soldiers and ethnic Albanians will escalate further. Richard added that there have been efforts by some local Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) leaders to take power in the cities and villages of Kosovo.

Meanwhile on 11 August, a KFOR patrol in Prishtina heard shots and found a Serb who had been beaten. The following morning KFOR arrested two Albanian men, who had kidnapped a 16 year-old Albanian girl.

BULATOVIC DISMISSES GOVERNMENT. Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic announced the dismissal of his deputy and seven other ministers of the Yugoslav government. He then announced the appointment of two new deputy Prime Ministers and another 11 ministers. Five of the new ministers belong to the ultra-nationalist Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, while the others are members of the Socialist Party of Serbia and the United Yugoslav Left, which is led by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's wife Mirjana Markovic. No members of the party of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic or representatives of the opposition were included in this government.

Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told "Die Presse" that a popular protest meeting organized by the opposition and calling for the resignation of Milosevic will be held on 19 August, and that this will be the last message for the Yugoslav President. Djindjic added that it would be better, if Milosevic stepped down from the post of Yugoslav President of his own accord.

Socialist Party of Serbia spokeswoman Ivica Dacic, however, ruled out the formation of a transitional government at a press conference on 12 August. Dacic said that the Socialists are not afraid of new elections, and added that the party would not be against holding elections even tomorrow. But when she was asked, if early election will be an option, she added that there is more important work to be done first, including the reconstruction of the country.

Dacic then leveled a bevy of accusations against the Serbian Orthodox Church, saying that the Church has no right to talk about reforms in Serbia, as it has not undertaken any reforms itself during the last 1,000 years. Apart from the rhetoric of government officials, however, dissatisfaction with the regime is on the rise. A new challenge to the regime has been the forming of the Movement for a Democratic Serbia by former Chief of the General Staff Momcilo Perisic. He told a press conference today that the current government has led Serbia into a dead-end street. He added that the aim of his movement is to fight against totalitarianism, isolation and chaos. Perisic concluded that the removal of Milosevic from his position is a precondition for democracy in Serbia.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington: "The Serbian Orthodox Church is calling on Milosevic to resign. The formation of a new political movement by former Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Perisic provides further evidence that more and more citizens of Serbian realize that Milosevic's regime and his ruinous policies must be consigned to the past in order for Serbia to move towards a future of democracy, prosperity and integration into Europe."

UNHCR PAYS MACEDONIA $4.4 MILLION FOR REFUGEE ACCOMMODATION. UNHCR and Macedonian government officials signed an agreement in Skopje on 12 August, according to which the UNHCR will pay $4.4 million to Macedonia for expenses the country incurred during this year's refugee crisis. A UNHCR spokesman stressed that the UNHCR usually does not compensate host countries, but that it makes exceptions in some cases. Macedonia took in a total of 360,000 refugees from Kosova.

FRENCH SPOKESMAN SAYS RELATIONS TO ALBANIANS IN MITROVICA ARE "GOOD." A French KFOR official dismissed charges by ethnic Albanians in Mitrovica that relations are deteriorating between KFOR and ethnic Albanians. He said that relations are "good" and that the only exception may be what he called a "minority" who try to cross the city's main bridge by force. He confirmed that French troops have information that there are members of Serbian paramilitary units in the northern part of the city, who participated in atrocities against ethnic Albanians during the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. But he added that there is no official confirmation of these reports. The official said that KFOR is investigating the allegations.

He also said the he supports Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci's demands that those ethnic Albanians, who have houses and apartments in the blocked northern part of Mitrovica, must be allowed to return to their homes immediately. The spokesman said that the only difference between Thaci and KFOR is that KFOR uses different methods and he added that KFOR executes the orders of UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Chief Bernard Kouchner. He said that KFOR needs more time to solve that problem and added that the return of all people to their homes is a responsibility of KFOR.

ALBANIA'S MILO URGES BETTER COOPERATION OF KOSOVARS WITH UNMIK. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo--during a visit to Turkey on 12 August--urged the international authorities in Kosovo to allow ethnic Albanian parties and institutions to play a leading role in the rebuilding of a civilian administration. At the same time he demanded from the ethnic Albanians that they respect the authority of the UN.