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Balkan Report: April 14, 1999

14 April 1999, Volume 3, Number 14

At Home with the Rugovas. RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters recently conducted a telephone interview with Adnan Merovci. He is Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova's chief of protocol, who has chosen to remain with the Rugova family under house arrest in the presence of Serbian paramilitary police. During the discussion, Merovci was nervous and clearly not permitted to deal with topics outside of carefully set limits. He also was unable to call Rugova to the phone--and would not say why. Nervous voices and even a scream could be heard in the background.

The situation became clearer on April 12, when the Hamburg-based weekly "Der Spiegel" published a hair-raising account of life in the Rugova family household under Serbian police "protection." The magazine's veteran Balkan correspondent Renate Flottau, who is a close friend of the Rugova family, just happened to be visiting them when the police arrived on March 31. The Rugovas knew that she would be in big trouble if the Serbs realized that she was a German journalist, so they told the police she was a relative. She stayed with the family in one room until April 5. On that day, at Rugova's suggestion, she got out by blending into a crowd of journalists, who had arrived at the house for the Russian ambassador's visit. Her tribulations with the Serbian authorities did not end there, but at least she eventually arrived in one piece in Belgrade.

In her account of life in the Rugova household, Flottau notes that the shadow-state president was often confused and depressed. He called himself a "president without a people" after witnessing the devastation in Kosova on the ride back from his forced visit to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. There the Serbian leader railed against U.S. President Bill Clinton, envoys Chris Hill and Richard Holbrooke, and especially German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Milosevic told Rugova that Germany would never have agreed to the bombing if Helmut Kohl were still head of government.

After returning to Prishtina, Rugova was bitter about how Milosevic repeatedly tried to use him for propaganda purposes and would not let the family leave for Macedonia. Moreover, the Kosovar leader "could hardly believe� how all [the foreigners who lionized] him for years� now looked on helplessly while the Serbian dictator humiliated him." Rugova managed to find solace in his hobby--a huge collection of rocks and minerals from all over Kosova.

That same issue of "Spiegel" includes a summary of interviews with "hundreds of refugees" in an article entitled "You'll Never Come Back." A pattern emerges not only of almost unspeakable brutality, but of obviously careful preparations for the massive ethnic cleansing campaign.

Gligorov Warns of Threats to Macedonia. Yet a third "Spiegel" article is an interview with Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov. He stressed that Milosevic poses a danger both for Serbia and for the entire Balkan region. Milosevic's mistakes have been of "strategic proportions" and cost the Serbian nation huge amounts of territory. Gligorov charged that the Serbs were better off in the Yugoslavia created by Josip Broz Tito, where all Serbs enjoyed the same rights and legal status regardless of where they lived. Instead of accepting that arrangement, Milosevic chose to "reopen the Serbian question"--with the result that the Serbs have been the big losers, Gligorov continued.

The Macedonian president stressed that Serbia is the only Balkan country that has not begun a process of democratization and economic reform. It will take Serbia "more than 20 years" to overcome the damage from the NATO air strikes, he continued, but noted that Serbia's fate ultimately depends on how rapidly it democratizes itself.

The Macedonian president further argued that attempts by anyone to set up a "greater" state in the Balkans will lead to chaos and war. For that reason, Macedonia prefers to remain a small state in internationally recognized boundaries. He noted that Macedonia is surrounded by neighbors who have coveted its territory at one time or another.

Gligorov stressed that "Slavic Macedonians" do not feel any strong affinity with either Serbs or Bulgarians. As to the Albanians, he pointed out that Macedonia's internal ethnic balance is delicate, and that the government cannot accept too many Kosovar refugees without endangering domestic stability. Gligorov suggested that "no Albanian who has come to Macedonia has ever left" voluntarily, because they know that it is a much better place to live than either Albania or Kosova.

Fischer Reveals Serbia's "Operation Horseshoe." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Bonn on April 6 that Serbian security forces set into motion on 26 February a plan called "Operation Horseshoe" aimed at the expulsion of the ethnic Albanian population from Kosova, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. Fischer added that he deeply regrets that he did not take Milosevic seriously when the Serbian leader told him in early March that Serbian forces could empty Kosova "within a week." In a play on a hard-to-translate German proverb, Fischer noted: "Wir haben die Rechnung ohne den Metzger gemacht."

The minister stressed that Serbia is likely to emerge from the current conflict as a truncated state and that Milosevic will become known as "Serbia's destroyer." Fischer said that it is an "extremely difficult question" whether the West could accept Milosevic as a negotiating partner in eventual peace talks.

The foreign minister noted that a lasting peace in the Balkans will require security guarantees for all states in the region, at least 20 years of EU economic assistance, and the development of democratic structures. He is developing a long-term peace plan with these issues in mind.

On April 8, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told a press conference that Milosevic took part in the Rambouillet negotiations only to "play for time" until he could set "Operation Horseshoe" in motion.

Reading the Papers. Judge Richard Goldstone, formerly of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, wrote recently in the "Sunday Times" of Johannesburg that U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen refused to help track down and arrest Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, saying that such an effort would be "too risky." Had NATO captured the two, they most likely would have tried to save themselves by implicating Milosevic in their crimes. Had that happened, the judge continued, the Serbian leader "could not have continued as president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" for long. Goldstone added that frustration with the inability of peacekeepers to arrest war criminals was a factor in his resignation from the court in 1997.

Many newspapers have reported on diplomatic initiatives aimed at a political settlement. Prominent names in the accounts have included Pope John Paul II, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Greek Cypriot parliamentary speaker Spyros Kyprianou, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who is particularly interested in bringing Russia back into diplomatic harmony with the rest of the Contact Group.

"The Independent" wrote on April 13 that the Serbian forces have singled out Kosovar medical doctors for particularly brutal treatment. Earlier media accounts noted that Serbian forces have sought to eliminate the Kosovar intelligentsia, especially teachers.

A debate is going on in NATO circles as to whether the Atlantic alliance should "bomb state-controlled Serbian television (RTS) off the air," the "International Herald Tribune" noted on April 9. Some argue that television facilities are not legitimate military targets, while the opposite point of view holds that RTS foments hatred, plays a key role in promoting war, and hence is a valid target.

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's" Matthias Rueb wrote on April 3 that most ordinary Serbs have ready access to international satellite television and cannot claim not to know what is being done in their name in Kosova, even if RTS does not report on ethnic cleansing in the province. He suggests that this fact should be kept in mind when the international community assess responsibility for what has happened in Kosova.

And turning to Western television, the U.S. station ABC reported on April 12 that unnamed NATO officials are investigating the possibility of a top-level Serbian spy within the alliance. The broadcast said that NATO officials have noted that the Serbian authorities often seemed to have had advance knowledge of which targets would be hit on a given day and taken appropriate precautions.

Montenegro Rejects Army Order to Ban Rebroadcasting. The Montenegrin government on April 10 turned down a demand made by the command of the Yugoslav Second Army the previous day that Podgorica ban the rebroadcasting of foreign radio programs in Serbo-Croatian. The Montenegrin Information Secretariat said in a statement that there is "no reason" to ban the broadcasts, "which have in no way adversely affected national defense," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on April 11. The Serbian authorities banned rebroadcasting of foreign programs, including those of RFE/RL, last October. Elsewhere in Montenegro, Radio Panorama in the Sandzak town of Pljevlja stopped broadcasting after the entire staff was drafted into the army, the South Slavic Service added.

Nebojsa Redzic, editor in chief of the independent "Radio Free Montenegro," told "The Los Angeles Times" of April 11: "We think Radio Free Europe and its information--and other foreign media whose programs we rebroadcast--not only is not enemy propaganda but is extremely professional and necessary for the people of Montenegro to understand the problem and what's caused this war situation."

Masked Gunmen Kill Serbian Journalist. Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Slavko Curuvija on April 11 in Belgrade after a pro-Milosevic paper accused him of supporting NATO air strikes, "The Washington Post" reported. His girlfriend, who was present at the killing, said that the men appeared to be professional assassins. Curuvija was the publisher of the banned daily "Telegraf" and weekly "Evropljanin." The Dutch daily "Handelsblad" wrote that, for Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, Curuvija was too stubborn and knew too much.

U.S. To Expand Broadcasting to Serbia. Marc Nathanson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), announced in Washington this week that U.S. international broadcasting will dramatically increase to Serbia in order to break the media blackout imposed by Milosevic and to ensure that the Serbian people will know the truth about what their government is doing in Kosova.

Nathanson told a BBG press conference that, beginning immediately, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America will join forces to beam 24 hours a day of FM programming into Serbia from a variety of transmitter locations in nearby countries.

Initially, Nathanson said, the broadcasts--on a frequency of 106.5 FM MHz--will reach Belgrade and most of the northern parts of Serbia. He said that other transmitters to be added soon will allow this new service to reach the entire country.

Nathanson stressed that this new initiative augments already expanded VOA and RFE/RL broadcasting to the Balkans and added that the BBG will continue to explore additional ways to reach this important audience.

Quotations of the Week. "Under the present circumstances, the port of Bar does not need the protection of the Yugoslav Navy." -- Port administrator Petrasin Kasalica to the Navy's command, on 12 April, to demand the Navy leave Bar after a gunboat fired on NATO aircraft.

"I did all this because even if all this population is killed, one person will survive. And [others] will see this film and see what the Serbian people did to the [ethnic] Albanians. That's why I did it." -- Refugee who smuggled to Albania a video of the massacre of 26 farmers near Rahovec, Kosova.

"This is unacceptable." -- Knut Vollebaek, Norwegian foreign minister and OSCE chairman-in-office, watching Kosovar refugees trek into Albania at the Morina crossing, April 6.

"There will be no compromise, no fudge, and no partition." -- British secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, April 8.

"Milosevic has been the best recruiting sergeant that the [UCK] could hope for." -- Former OSCE monitoring chief William Walker, on April 11.

"We are practically part of NATO now." - Unidentified UCK member, to London's "The Independent" of April 1.

"NATO is a guarantee for our sovereignty, our territorial integrity." -- Albanian Foreign Minister Pascal Milo, April 12 (Might Enver Hoxha be spinning in his grave?)

"We cannot permit that." -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin, on April 9, on the possibility that NATO would send in ground troops "and turn Yugoslavia into a protectorate." He added that: "History shows that the military machine always malfunctions when trying to resolve the internal problems of other countries."

"There is no real Serb who does not regard Russia as his mother�who will never leave us in need." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, April 12

"The Russians are brave only in words." -- Pensioner Ljubisa Dugic (86), interviewed by "Danas" of April 13 in the Vozdovac Seniors' Home.

"Only politicians who have neither soul nor heart can call for armed assistance to Yugoslavia." -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, April 5.

"It is so much easier to look away from [the events in Kosova]. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work." -- Elie Wiesel, April 12 at the White House "Millennium Evening."

"We cannot be indifferent at home or abroad--that is why we are in Kosovo�We cannot be indifferent to the fact that the Serbian leader has defined destiny as a license to kill." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton, at the White House same gathering.

Milosevic "can end [the air strikes] tomorrow." -- Clinton to U.S. troops earlier that day.