March 24 marked three years since the beginning of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia. A meeting took place on the Central Republican Square in Belgrade devoted to the tragic events of the spring of 1999. The press-service of the Socialist Party of Serbia informed that over ten thousand citizens participated in the meeting, although other sources said that there were around five thousand people.
The motto of the meeting was “This Cannot Be Forgotten.” “We cannot forget any of the crimes that NATO committed against our country and any of the innocent people murdered as a result of the barbarian aggression,” the message from the Socialist Party of Serbia reads. “People of various political and religious views gathered here today: all those for whom the fatherland comes first in the system of life values,” – Secretary-General of the Party, Zoran Andzelkovic, said. Another party member said that the bombing “was a criminal action against Yugoslavia and one must remember and commemorate this day, whoever is in power.”
Twenty-one thousand bombs were dropped on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 1002 men from the Yugoslavian army and Serbian police were killed, 2 thousand civilians were murdered, and thousands of civilians were wounded during NATO's 78 days of aggression. Two hundred industrial enterprises, energy sites, 82 railways, and bridges were either destroyed, or seriously damaged. The total financial damage is not known, although it is reported to exceed $100 billion. Every year, on March 24, Serbian churches hold memorials for the victims of NATO’s bombing. March 24 is officially the "Day of Honor in Yugoslavia"; from now on, this day is going to be a day off. Yugoslavian President Voislav Kostunica said in an interview to the newspaper Politika: “We are in need of cooperation with the whole world, including NATO countries. We are also in need of the reconciliation, the realization of the real truth about the things that happened and about the crimes committed, no matter who committed them.
As far as cooperation with the Hague Tribunal is concerned, Kostunica said that the citizens of his country who are suspected of committing war crimes are not going to be delivered to the tribunal until Yugoslavian parliamentarians pass an adequate law. The Serbian government and the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, Goran Svilanovic, have another opinion on the subject, as they think that delivering their own citizens to the Hague tribunal is possible even if there is no law on cooperation with the Hague. Kostunica believes that extradition without the necessary law will cause not only political but even more dangerous shocks within the state.
Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
On the photo: March 24, 2002, the meeting on the Central Republican Square in Belgrade.