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Yugoslavia: Rugova Says Milosevic 'Decided To Destroy' Kosovo

The Hague, 3 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Kosovo's President Ibrahim Rugova testified in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic today, blaming the former Yugoslav president for oppressing ethnic Albanians and triggering war in the province. Rugova told the UN war crimes tribunal that Belgrade "clearly decided to destroy Kosovo through violence and war." He said Milosevic, at a meeting in 1998, justified a crackdown in the province by branding a separatist campaign there as "terrorism."

"We said that the situation in Kosovo was bad and that there was lots of violence and repression, and he (Milosevic) of course justified it by saying that the state must respond because there were groups of terrorists. I also mentioned the issue of independence," Rugova said.

Rugova led a campaign of passive resistance by Kosovo's Albanian majority against Serb rule in the 1990s and was elected president of Kosovo by the province's parliament in March. Rugova is expected to be cross-examined by Milosevic, who is representing himself in the trial that began in February.

Milosevic is accused of responsibility in the killings and mass expulsions of Kosovar Albanians. He has also been indicted for genocide in the Bosnian war and crimes against humanity in the Croatian conflict.