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78 days, 11 weeks, 2300 air strikes. Went through Yugoslavia 20 years ago
Material posted: Publication date: 28-03-2019
Military-air operation of NATO against Yugoslavia, who received the cynical name of "Merciful angel", began on 24 March 1999 at 19:45 local time. For the first time in the postwar history of Europe the object of the bombing was the capital of one of the independent States.

I remember those days 20 years ago when the bombing began. I was 13 years old, but I still can't forget the feeling that gripped me during the evening news broadcast footage of the nighttime bombing of Belgrade. It was a terrible feeling of powerlessness mixed with anger. I watched, clenching his teeth, and tried not to show tears. But they didn't notice — the crowd just sat, clinging to random objects and glaring look at the screen.

It is with these news releases, a new era began in Russia, the era of the revaluation of the prospects of "friendship" with the West and a new search of his place in history.

The bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the first year has become a global impact on the world order that emerged following the Second world war. Just after the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia without a UN sanction, it became very clear that the United States seek global hegemony, not paying attention to international law and morality. After Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, attempting to overthrow the regime in Syria, repeatedly confirmed this view.

Kosovo as a pretext

Serbs believe their country "little Russia in the Balkans". In this regard, the impact of the West on Yugoslavia, according to them, was a rehearsal for a future attack on Russia. The most suitable point for such an attack was Kosovo. First, it is the cradle of Serbian culture, faith and national identity. Second, historically, that there are intertwined interests of the Serbs and many of the second Balkan people, Albanians. That is the centuries-old Kosovo question became the pretext for the destruction of Yugoslavia.

After the war, the first President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito, a Croat by nationality, began a policy of weakening the Serbs as the most numerous people. One way was the Albanian opposition. Only in the first years after the war in Kosovo was visited by about 400 thousand Albanians. To weaken the influence of Belgrade in the Pristina 1963 Constitution granted Kosovo the status of an Autonomous Serbian province. After that in Kosovo and Metohija EN masse rushed the Albanians are Muslims. From the time of the Turkish occupation a significant proportion of Albanians professed Islam. Soon due to the natural increase of the Albanians-Muslims were to constitute a significant percentage of the population of Albania and started to move to neighbouring countries.

In the 60-ies of the 20th century Kosovo and Metohija was flooded by a wave of violence against Serbs, and against Christians in General. Buying real estate and small tactics of terror Serbs were forced to leave their homes. Soon the Albanians made up 80 percent of the total population (1981), and then 90% (1990). Attempts by the Yugoslav authorities in the 90-ies to restore order met armed resistance of the Albanian extremists. When the police failed to cope with an extensive network of terrorist organizations in Kosovo and Metohija, the troops were introduced.

At this point, the West is connected to "salvation of the Albanians from the Serbian destruction". Began negotiations on Kosovo in Rambouillet (France). The Serbs were required to sign a "peace plan", one of which was the stationing in Kosovo of foreign troops, that is, de facto military occupation of the region. Belgrade refused to sign such an agreement.

The military operation was a decided issue, only lacked reason. And the pretext for aggression, which under the leadership of the United States was attended by 18 member States of NATO, was rigged with the help of Western intelligence agencies "incident" in the Kosovo village of Racak, which was allegedly discovered mass casualties shot by the Serbian military representatives of the Albanian civilian population. It was subsequently shown that the vast majority of the victims were dressed in civilian clothes militants "Kosovo Liberation army", but "the incident in Racak" already declared "genocide" that requires immediate attention.

Вид на здание Государственного телевидения и радио Сербии, разрушенное во время военной операции НАТО против Югославии, 1999 год Александр Данилюшин/ТАСС
View of the building of the State radio and television of Serbia, destroyed during the military operation of NATO against Yugoslavia, 1999 © Alexander Danilishin/TASS


The first strikes on Yugoslavia began on 24 March and lasted until 4 a.m. on March 25. The main goals of NATO bombers and cruise missiles launched from ships in the Mediterranean sea, became the Serbian air force and air defense, and military-industrial enterprises in the area of Belgrade, Pristina, Podgorica, Batajnica, Uzice, Kuršumlija, Novi Sad, Pancevo, Kragujevac. Consequently, NATO began to methodically destroy infrastructure — bridges, factories, transport hubs, power plants and transmission lines.

Continuous air strikes lasted 78 days. During the 11-week operation of the NATO air force, according to Serbian sources, caused a total of 2,300 air strikes on 995 facilities. It comprised 1150 combat aircraft. Fell to earth 420 thousand ammunition with a total weight of 22 thousand tons, including 20 thousand heavy bombs, 1300 cruise missiles, 37 thousand of cluster bombs, shells with depleted uranium.

Victims of the bombing began about 2 million civilians and 1 thousand, 5 thousand people were injured, missing more than 1 thousand people. Was almost completely destroyed by the military-industrial infrastructure of Serbia, destroyed more than 1,5 thousand settlements, 60 bridges, 30% of all schools, about 100 of the monuments. The material damage from the bombing is estimated at $30 billion to $100 billion.

The memories of witnesses

For the past two years, TASS collects the testimonies of eyewitnesses, survivors of the bombing. Representatives of various sectors of society — politicians, doctors, teachers, soldiers, journalists and scientists talk about deeply personal experiences that they have learned from the 78 days of bombing. Perhaps these memories will be released soon, but for now we will give only excerpts from them.

The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic: "a Symbol of the bombing, which all of us were shocked was that they [NATO members] called collateral damage. Many children were killed, over 90, but we all remember little Alex from Varvarin, which was the best in mathematics, and especially the little Milica Rakic — year-old child from Batajnica, who died in the bombing. Innocent child, innocent. And it became a symbol of a terrible crime committed over Serbia and our people."

Разрушения в городе Алексинац после нанесения авиаударов НАТО, 1999 год Сергей Величкин/ТАСС
The destruction in the town of Aleksinac after NATO air strikes in 1999
© Sergei Velichkin/TASS

Metropolitan of Montenegro and the littoral Amfilohije: "In 1999 I was in Kosovo all the time was in the Patriarchate of peć, remember where I buried those killed by NATO troops and Kosovo rebels. Still very deep in the memory I have stuck one case. It was June 12, when it was decided that Serbia had to withdraw from Kosovo. I went to Pristina, and remember the people who fled from their villages (after the army — approx. The TASS) on carts, wagons, on horseback, these runaway orphans, retreating soldiers. And then I saw a white horse, which long ran in front of us. And when I returned, I found that horse killed on the road. I remember this along with the terrible things I saw there — raped women, whom I buried. One girl Marica Miric, raped her four militants. Came to me with Italian soldiers and said that there lies stabbed your woman. We got there. Her mother was lying in the hallway, and she was in the room. She was raped, then stabbed. It was the eve Vidovdan 1999. The Italians wrapped her in a blanket so we have it in this quilt were taken to the Patriarchate of PEC, and there was buried behind the altar."

Radical party leader Vojislav Seselj: "I hid the children in Belgrade, expecting that my house, in Batajnica, near the airfield can be bombed. I transported the children to the parents of his wife, then to the district Mirijevo. My youngest son was then less than 1 year, he was just a baby. The first night, when the bombing began, the mother hid him in the basement and kept it in the freezer. But the child and this is irresponsible age was so scared that the next few years, when heard the sound of aircraft ran away, hiding under the table or somewhere else. He was born June 28, 1998, he was less than a year when it all started. I every second or third night, when I was not on duty in the government, spent the night at his home in Batajnica one, and the children hid in Belgrade".

In the period of the bombing of his duty in Belgrade was carried out by our colleagues — journalists of the Agency TASS Tamara Zamyatina and Nikolai Kalintsev. Tamara received for the work in Belgrade the Order of Courage (the second woman to receive this award after another journalist of TASS Galina Gridneva), described in detail the events of those days in his book "don't shoot: I'm a journalist!" (2000). Specially for the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the colleague and spouse Tamara Nikolayevna — Nikolai of Kalintsev told TASS about the events of that period.

"The first day of the bombing, we went to the scene, and when returning back, the bridge had already been closed, burned the Ministry of internal Affairs. Well, we had to be on the scene. When I found out that we are Russian journalists — we missed. So we went to every bombing, once they almost got hit by bombs, because these bastards NATO members have waited, when there will come the ambulance and the police, and struck the second blow. We were only saved by the fact that on the way bombed the water supply, and we stopped to talk with the population that remained without water. NATO flew the high altitude, about 10 thousand meters, where they lacked air defense and MiG-29, which was adopted in Yugoslavia. And the Serbs always shaking his fist at the sky: "Just go down, we'll show you!" But still the plane-"invisible" they knocked, and we were the first who reported it. All this is told in the book Tamara zamyatinoy, which included all our tassovskimi messages during the war."

 Мост через Дунай, разрушенный в результате бомбардировок натовской авиации, 1999 год Сергей Величкин/ТАСС
The bridge over the Danube, destroyed in the bombing of NATO aircraft, 1999
© Sergei Velichkin/TASS

"When evacuated school (the Russian school at the Russian Embassy in Belgrade — approx. TASS) our daughter also went for a day or two later. She went through Budapest, there was our correspondent — Alex Kuzmin, he was sent to Moscow. Here in Moscow, it is also not one to leave. Helped TASS employees, Deputy head of the financial management of Lidiya Arbuzova, daughter three days she lived, and then went to grandma and grandpa in Kaliningrad," recalls Kalintsev.

As for the high state awards, according to Nikolai Alexandrovich "they were given not for the fact that it was hard, and that worked." "TASS was one of the few who objectively covered the event. We did not sing the praises of [Slobodan] Milosevic, but said everything is as it was, called a spade a spade. And for that, we respected the Serbs" — said the journalist.

The magnitude of the effect of depleted uranium

In addition to the immediate damage, the country received a delayed impact. First of all, it concerns the bombing with depleted uranium shells. In addition, the bombing of refineries and petrochemical plants led to the contamination of the water system of the country toxic substances.

Experts in the field of radioactive contamination is estimated that in Serbian territory over the three months of aggression was dumped 15 tons of depleted uranium. This has led to epidemic of cancer among the local population, and Serbia ranked first in the number of oncological diseases in Europe. According to Serbian doctors for the first 10 years since the bombings in the country got cancer about 30 thousand people, of them from 10 to 18 thousand died from cancer.

Serbian scientist with a world name ljubiša Rakic (Serbian academician, Russian, new York, Eurasian, European, and other academies of Sciences) estimated that the volume of depleted uranium that has fallen on the territory of Yugoslavia during the NATO aggression would be enough to create 170 of the atomic bombs that the US dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The most common effects of depleted uranium on the human body — thyroid disease, malignancy, a syndrome of Gulf war and Balkan syndrome, and various mutations of the fetus during pregnancy.

Вблизи разрушенной фабрики электробытовых изделий в городе Чачак, 1999 год Сергей Величкин/ТАСС
Near the destroyed factory of consumer electronic products in čačak, 1999
© Sergei Velichkin/TASS

Moreover, according to the author of a book about the dangers of depleted uranium "Wounds and delayed health effects" Dr. Svetlana Zunic, the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans and in the Persian Gulf has led to global pollution. Due to the atmospheric transport of radioactive particles effects are recorded not only in places bombing, but thousands of miles away from them.

The results of the aggression

The end of the aggression of NATO in Yugoslavia was based on the Kumanovo military technical agreement signed on 9 June 1999. According to this document, Serbian troops and police in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija were replaced by international peacekeepers. The bombing stopped in the afternoon on 10 June, the same day the UN Security Council adopted resolution number 1244 on the status and problems of peaceful settlement in Kosovo. On the basis of the territory of the southern Serbian province was transferred to 37.2 thousand soldiers of the International force for Kosovo under the command of the North Atlantic Alliance (KFOR) from 36 countries.

And even after nine years, the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia started by NATO air strikes ended a unilateral Declaration of independence of Kosovo on 17 February 2008. In 2010 the UN international court recognized the decision of the Kosovo Parliament to proclaim independence in 2008 is legitimate. It seemed that Kosovo and Metohija is the cradle of Serbian history, culture and Orthodox faith, under the guidance and with the support of the Western community was finally stolen alien "kosovare" — the Kosovo Albanians who migrated in the native Serbian land.

Currently the Republic of Kosovo, according to Belgrade, recognized by around 100 countries, while Pristina argues that such States 117. Against the recognition of Kosovo are more than 60 countries, including Russia, Israel, India, China, and five EU countries.

 Вид на город Приштина, Косово, 2008 год Виталий Белоусов/ТАСС
View of the city Pristina, Kosovo, 2008
© Vitaly Belousov/TASS

Unexploded bomb

The current Serbia is trying to formulate its attitude to the events of 20 years ago on the basis given by the President Aleksandar Vucic maxims: "We have forgiven, but not forgotten." How to successfully root this approach to the past, history will tell. Yet the mood of the population suggest otherwise. A year ago, to the 19th anniversary of the bombing in Serbia was carried out a wide survey of the population in relation to the events of 1999. Sociological research has shown that two thirds of Serbian citizens (62%) did not forgive NATO for bombing Yugoslavia in 1999 and would not accept the apology of NATO, while about a third of respondents, mostly young people, ready to forget the past. The vast majority of citizens (84%), as before, oppose Serbia's accession to NATO.

The scars of the bombings were not only on the bodies and souls of the Serbs. Scars covered the entire territory of the country where NATO aircraft destroyed almost all of the once-famous economy. Life goes on, and bombed bridges and build new — in Novi Sad a year ago, inaugurated a new Zhezheliv bridge is bombed the Belgrade TV tower built, twice. But there is one bombed-out building in Belgrade, which is still not touch. Right in front of the government is the dilapidated building of the General staff of Yugoslavia, the airstrike which was done April 30, 1999. Say that the floors of the General staff is still one unexploded bomb, which cannot be safely extracted in a densely populated city center.

This unexploded bomb best symbolizes how NATO's relationship to the current Serbia and the attitude of the Serbian people to the military unit. 20 years after the bombing it is obvious that the main goal of the West is the creation of the territory of Serbia with independent Kosovo — is not fully achieved. After 20 years of pressure, the Kosovo issue is still not resolved. Belgrade has not recognized the independence of the Autonomous region, despite fierce pressure from the West and "carrot" in the form of possible accession to the EU.

The denouement of this tragic knot of history is yet to come. And I'd like to hope that this knot will untie you, finally, so that adolescents in Russia and Serbia will not experience rage and helplessness, watching the news.

Bushuev Pavel


Tags: Russia , war , Yugoslavia

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