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Balkan Report: May 27, 1999

27 May 1999, Volume 3, Number 20

UN Details Serbian Rape Practices. French psychologist Dominique Serrano-Fitamant has completed a report for the UN Population Fund on the "extensive rapes" of Kosovar women from at least three villages at the hands of Serbian forces, Reuters reported from New York on May 24. She noted that many of the women were beaten and that the rapes lasted "even for days." The Serbs systematically killed many of their victims, Serrano-Fitamant noted, adding that "any resistance is met with threats of being burned alive." She said that some women told her that they could identify their torturers as followers of "a certain well-known leader." She did not elaborate. Serrano-Fitamant wrote that some of the torturers cut off the ears and noses of young boys before slitting their throats. She also noted: "The torturers sharpened their knives in front of the women. They then cut open the stomachs of many pregnant women and skewed the fetus on their blades."

The Serbian forces are clearly repeating a policy that they honed in Bosnia, namely the deliberate and systematic use of rape to undercut the foundations of a conservative Balkan society. Many press reports suggest that many of the individuals involved in the current rape gangs are also veterans of conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia. (Patrick Moore)

Report from Gllogovc. On 23 May, RFE/RL interviewed Skender Karaqica, a journalist with the daily "Koha Ditore," who arrived in Macedonia from Gllogovc the previous day and describes the situation in Drenica:

During the six weeks that I was in Gllogovc, we were surrounded on all sides. We remained without drinking water, electricity or telephone lines. We hid in Albanian houses and did not move. Serbian forces came to the houses and killed people.

How was the food situation in Gllogovc?

All the shops and restaurants are abandoned. We had no possibility to buy even a kilogram of salt or other basic foodstuffs. The situation of the people in the mountains was even worse--they are facing imminent starvation. We left Gllogovc by bus and had to pay 50 German marks for the trip to Blace. Families had to pay 200 to 500 marks to get out. Along the road to Ferizaj, we saw roadblocks every 200 meters. All the abandoned Albanian houses were filled with Serbian military equipment, which was hidden from NATO air strikes.

What did you see in Drenica?

The UCK is primarily in the Berisha Mountains and also in nearby villages, where there were also clashes [with Serbian forces]. The 7,000 civilians there lack food and are in an extraordinarily difficult position. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

Some Views from the U.S. ... President Bill Clinton wrote in "The New York Times" of May 23 that "the problem [in the Balkans] is not simply ethnic hatred or even ethnic conflict. The former Yugoslavia's people have lived together for centuries with greater and lesser degrees of conflict but not constant 'cleansing' of peoples from their land. Had they experienced nothing but that, their nations would be homogeneous today, not endlessly diverse. The intolerable conditions that the region finds itself in today are the result of a decade-long campaign by [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic to build a greater Serbia by singling out whole peoples for destruction because of their ethnicity and faith...

We cannot respond to such tragedies everywhere, but when ethnic conflict turns into ethnic cleansing where we can make a difference, we must try." Clinton stressed that "Milosevic has failed... [in his] strategy to outlast [NATO] by dividing the alliance... Instead of disunity in Brussels, there are growing signs of disaffection in Belgrade: Serbian soldiers abandoning their posts, Serbian civilians protesting [Milosevic's] policies."

Clinton added that he will continue pursuing NATO's present strategy but does "not rule out other military options."

The previous week, former General Colin Powell said that NATO should send ground troops to Kosova and expect to have casualties in the resulting conflict. "The danger [of relying on air strikes alone is] that it is up to Mr. Milosevic to decide when he is going to blink. The initiative is in his hands to decide when he has had enough... In [Operation] Desert Storm, we took that decision away from [Iraqi President] Saddam Husseyn when we launched a ground attack." Powell stressed: "Let's not be confused about this. In due course, ground troops are going in." And he noted: "You have to accept casualties as a way of conducting war and achieving your objectives." (Patrick Moore)

...And from Croatia. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told the ambassadors to Croatia from the G-8 countries in Zagreb on May 22 that Serbian forces should withdraw to the northern part of Kosova, where foreign troops, including units from Russia, should also be stationed. Tudjman added that NATO troops should go to southern Kosova to help refugees return to their homes there. On May 24, the independent daily "Novi List" charged that Tudjman's proposal amounts to "a Yalta agreement" -- or partition -- for Kosova. The remarks to the ambassadors constituted Tudjman's first public statement on the current conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers note that Tudjman has long favored a partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia.

On a visit to Washington on May 21, Deputy Prime Minister Jure Radic said that "this is the moment to crush the Milosevic regime, which has done so much evil in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even in Serbia itself. But this will be hard to do without the use of ground forces." He stressed that the worst outcome would be for NATO to reach a peaceful settlement half-way, without putting an end to the source of the recent Balkan conflicts, AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

In Case You Missed It... Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, signed a peace initiative in Beijing on resolving the Kosova conflict, Czech media reported on May 24. The initiative calls for a 48-hour halt to the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia as well as the withdrawal of most--but not all--Yugoslav forces from Kosova. Chinese Deputy Premier Qian Qichen expressed "understanding" for the initiative, CTK reported on May 22. Meanwhile, Czech Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus told a Greek newspaper that the NATO campaign has failed and that NATO is now simply trying to "save face," "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. (Victor Gomez)

UCK Kills Russian Soldier. Naim Maloku of the UCK's General Staff told Albanian public television in Tirana on May 22 that the UCK killed a Russian army officer in battle in northwestern Kosova, Reuters reported. He did not identify the man, but said that his documents show that he has the rank of captain and had previously fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Thaci said that the UCK has sent a letter of protest to the Russian authorities, saying that Russian soldiers are participating in "ethnic cleansing" in Kosova. (Fabian Schmidt)

More Adygeis From Kosova Arrive In North Caucasus. The final group of 53 ethnic Adygeis whose ancestors were forcibly resettled first to Ottoman Turkey and then in Kosova in the late 19th century arrived in Maikop on 23 May, Russian agencies reported. A contingent of Adygeis evacuated earlier told "Die Presse" on 17 May that they are being subjected to discrimination in their ancestral homeland, that housing built especially for them has been occupied by others, and that they are unable to find work. They also expressed alarm at being unable to make telephone contact with other Adygeis who had remained in Kosova in the village of Donji Stanovci. (Liz Fuller)

The Case of the Ukrainian Salami. Islam Cani, who heads Albania's Consumers' Association and is also a medical doctor, told Radio 21 on May 23 in Tirana that about 200 refugees at a camp in Librazhd were hospitalized with food poisoning after eating Ukrainian salami, Reuters reported. The salami was past its expiry date--by 11 years. The doctor added that contaminated canned food has also posed a particular hazard and that his association has set up six offices to gather information about the problem of contaminated humanitarian aid. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations of the Week. "I highly appreciate your noble feeling and solidarity with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in facing the enemy who is launching aggression against our country. I am confident that relations of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and Yugoslavia will grow further." -- Milosevic in a letter to Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn, May 24.

"The United States' integrity and moral fortitude internationally is at stake ... As a friend of the United States, I think you have to be aware that the whole world is looking to see your commitment on this ... [And air power alone will not suffice] if you are going to get the Kosovars back into their homes." -- Jordan's King Abdullah to "The Washington Post" of May 18.

"We really have a chance for a glorious victory against the greatest world power. We really have an historic chance to win." -- Yugoslav Major General Vladimir Lazarevic on Serbian television (RTS), May 23.

"Day-by-day, hour-by-hour, we are fighting with those who want to jeopardize statehood and democracy in Montenegro ... Milosevic's regime has mastered the technology of ruling through the constant generation of armed conflicts." -- Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, May 23.

"He's a Balkan strongman and not a good guy, but he's not a monster, either." Yugoslav sociologist Aleksa Djilas, on Milosevic, in the "International Herald Tribune" of May 18.

"What are they [NATO] doing to us? We are not Milosevic, we are just ordinary, powerless people. He has electricity and water, so do the army and police." -- 63-year-old Belgrade pensioner Zivka Jovanovic, quoted by Reuters on May 24.

"Bastards! Liars! [NATO] says they are after the regime, but as they did with economic sanctions before, they are now hitting ordinary people, not leaders. People will never turn against the regime this way, not even those who have been against it from the beginning. [Does NATO] really think ethnic Albanians will benefit from dying Serbs? And do they think dying Serbs can confront the regime? Or do they really want to kill us all, but just don't have guts to say so openly? I really don't know what to think any more." -- 34-year-old engineer Bojan Nikolic, in the same interview.

"NATO is doing the job. This is the responsibility it has towards the civilized world against Milosevic's regime." -- UCK leader Hashim Thaci, among refugees in Kukes, on May 24.

"It is pretty revolting." The UN's Sergio Vieira de Mello, in Podgorica on May 24, after a fact-finding mission to Kosova.

"One of the great lessons of Bosnia ... is that lightly armed troops are not the answer to the problems of the Balkans." -- British Defense Secretary George Robertson, May 24.