2018-04-02T13:04:27+03:00

Will the U.S. economic crisis spark a war in the Balkans? Part Two

A new repartitioning of borders is brewing in Europe... KP correspondent Dmitriy Stepshin headed to the Republic of Serbia to visit the country as the people prepare for independence
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Will the U.S. economic crisis spark a war in the Balkans? Part One

Was there actually a Srebrenitsa?

Trying to pinpoint the guilty party in a civil war is truly a mug's game. But it's certainly doable. In the civil war in Bosnia, the Serbs were ultimately labelled as the perpetrators. A new term was even born as a result describing the "hateful Serbs," which translates directly into Russian as the "genocide nation." The basis for this horrid accusation were the acts that allegedly took place in Srebrenitsa — an inhabited area whose name occupies a place after Khatyn, Oradour-sur-Glane and Son My in the public consciousness of the West.

Western nations assert that in the spring of 1995, Serbian armed forces annihilated 8,000 people in the demilitarized zone of Srebrenitsa. Today, though, even UN experts are skeptical about this figure. Too many blank spots were left on the exhumation charts, they say, empty spaces where the specialists simply didn't want to lie.

As a rule, these blank spots were connected to the cause of death. Back in the 1990s, though, no one paid much attention to the inconsistencies in the exhumation charts. Their double standards worked well for them in the Balkans, and helped the West to control the conflict to their own gain. As a result, in recent years, pressure increased on the Republic of Serbia, a small autonomous nation that only "arose thanks to ethnic cleansing" and is despised in the West for its independent and, frankly speaking, pro-Russian behavior. But the Serbs turned out to be quick learners, and the old adage "it's impossible to fool to everyone all the time" proved very true.

The Serbs began their fight for freedom by dispelling media myths. Soon after the war, a non-commercial organization was established under the name "Srebrenitsa — A Historical Project." Experts and journalists were invited from around the world to participate. These individuals, to put it lightly, had a broader view of new European history.

Ilya Goryachev, a Russian participant in the project, who is a historian and Balkan studies specialist, said that the West needed a weighty accusation to hold against the Serbs at the end of the war to help their diplomats control the situation. The only thing capable of somehow unnerving mankind today, he added, is genocide.

"You can double-check everything that I'm saying at any European library," Goryachev said. "The French Foreign Ministry was behind the first media-rigging on the issue of 'ethnic cleansing' back in 1993. Their information hit the press, but didn't go far as it wasn't marketed. The second rigging took place in autumn that year. Aliya Izetbegovich told his close allies that [then-U.S. President] Bill Clinton advised him to 'sacrifice Srebrenitsa,' so NATO would have a reason to interfere in the conflict. But full-scale media rigging only began two years later at the end of the war. This was the first time the number '8,000 dead' sounded. The world was shaken, and didn't catch on to the ruse. Among the deceased were 914 people, for example, who lived abroad and somehow voted in the 1996 elections. Soldiers of the opposing forces were also victims of the genocide, and even Serbs who were killed by the Bosnian army on the outskirts of Srebrenitsa. Over 3,000 innocent, ethnic Serbian civilians were killed there... But this isn't considered a genocide for some reason."

Lyubishe Simich, who worked with the reports of the Hague experts, repeated what I had learned from Goryachev. According to the documents, he said, individual fragments of bodies, such as a little finger, were counted as an entire corpse in 1,125 cases.

"Around 500 of the examined bodies didn't have shrapnel or gunshot wounds," Simich said. "I can only assert with confidence about 584 bodies that those people were killed."

It's a shame no one was interested in the postmortem arithmetic when the world decided the fate of the Serbs in those years. The West had reached their goal. Yugoslavia was divided into parts once and for all, and the small, European, pro-Russian "center of strength" ceased to exist. What was left, though, was a brand on all Bosnian Serbs. But who should that worry besides those who were deemed "war criminals?"

Friendly gestures of the "genocide nation"

The Bosnian Serbs counted on Russia's support to gain independence. And they have made numerous, more than evident gestures of friendship. There is no visa regime with Russia, and Russian businesses feel at home in the republic. The Russian peacekeepers and residents of Tskhinvali can also thank the Republic of Serbia for Orkan missiles not being fired on South Ossetia in August.

In October 2006, Georgia secretly held negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina to purchase Orkan missile systems, but the Serbs later broke the agreement. Shortly after, they prohibited the systems from being taken from the republic through the use of firepower and chasing away the Georgian helicopters. Another agreement with the Georgians was recently reported as being broken by the Serbs. Georgia planned to buy optics and 82- and 120-millimeter mortar launchers from the republic, and Bosnian instructors had even visited the country to partake to simulated combat.

I spoke with Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Milorad Dodik about the issue, and he didn't hide his opinion of European politics today.

"I'm the only politician in the region who unilaterally supported Russia's action and called Georgia's conduct 'aggression,'" he said. "The West, as they say in Russian, 'made a distinction without a difference,' and ended up fooling itself. The former UK ambassador to Bosnia best described the whole situation, the situation in Kosovo, our situation, when he said: 'The Albanians and Serbs killed and raped each other in Kosovo. Okay, well, then live apart, independent of one another. In Bosnia, the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats all did the same. Why should they have to live together?'"

"Do you want to secede?" I asked.

"You must understand that Bosnia and Herzegovina can't exist and function in its current form. The hatred hasn't gone anywhere," Dodik said. "Our independence and autonomy are incontestable, and the liquidation of the Republic of Serbia is impossible. Today, they want to place our police under Sarajevo's control for the sake of European integration. But I don't think European integration will solve all our problems, which is why I'm saying that I pick our police! The European Union is creating problems for itself at the drop of a hat." To Dodik's point, politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina aren't blind and understand where the Republic of Serbia is heading. But they can't do anything about this yet. Serbian politicians have picked an aggressive strategy, and are currently winning the race. It's possible the trial of the "genocide nation" will continue in Hague or Brussels. It's no accident that evidence is being collected.

"Attempts have been made to review the fact of genocide that took place in Srebrenitsa and rescind the accusations against the Serbs. Could this happen?" I asked.

"The events in Srebrenitsa were covered one-dimensionally. They 'forgot' about many issues, and these are worthy of being reviewed by the European court. There were no few victims on either side. The West doesn't like to remember that Srebrenitsa was a demilitarized zone under the protection of the UN since 1993. Dutch peacekeepers were stationed there as was the 28th Bosnian Division for some reason. They attacked Serbian villages from that very zone. Go to Kravitsa. On Christmas Eve, the Muslims killed 70 people in that village. Go go any Serbian village near Srebrenitsa..."

Forgotten victims

It's only a four-hour drive from Banja Luka to Srebrenitsa. From a Russian point of view, the scale of things are just child's play.

The district where the horrible events started in the early 1990s bordered "big" Serbia. The country is very close by — right behind the Drina River. Muslims and Orthodox still live together in Srebrenitsa. But even though many years have passed, no one has forgotten or plans to forget their insults.

We picked up a young Serb, Brano Vuchetich, after meeting him at work at the supermarket. Vuchetich doesn't look anything like a "professional victim," who willingly and without pause recounts the horrors of war.

In the village of Belovats, several kilometers from Srebrenitsa, we stood with Vuchetich on a hill covered with grass. This is all that is left of his home, he told us. He spoke quietly and with difficulty.

"It was Sept. 14, 1992," he said. "They came down from the hills. [He pointed to the cornfields behind the road.] They attacked the villages that neighbor the border. They probably liked doing what they did right before Serbia's eyes."

That night, the 28th Bosnian Division killed 109 people.

"We heard gunshots, so I hid in the cellar. My father and brother ran into the courtyard with their guns," he said. "They were killed during the shooting. The soldiers threw a grenade into the cellar, and I lost consciousness and was hit by shrapnel. I was pulled out by people with green arm bands. They held a knife to my throat. They usually cut off their victims' heads. But their commanding officer told them to take everyone who was still alive to Srebrenitsa. I was held hostage there 56 days. We bandaged each other because there was no medical aid. The shrapnel exited my wounds themselves... They were small fragments. I forgot how to read and write during those days..."

"How old were you?" I asked.

"Nine. That's why I was one of the first people traded for the dead Mudzhakheddin soldiers or elder Muslims. I'm sorry..." he said. "I try not to come here anymore... Can we go?"

We still had time before our bus back to Belgrade. I decided to visit the memorial to the Serbs who had died in these areas — two rooms on a central street in the town of Bratunats. There are several thousand portraits there, printed off a computer in neat frames. The ages of the victims were very different. Only their dates of death were the same — 1992 or 1993. In this pleasant, household memorial, it was somehow intolerably cold, even though autumn in the Balkans had only just begun.

Читать русскую версию: Кризис разбудит войну на Балканах?

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