Tenth anniversary of NATO attack

BELGRADE -- Today is the tenth anniversary of the NATO air strikes on Serbia and then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ).

A file 1999 photo of houses in Ćuprija destroyed by NATO bombs (Beta)
A file 1999 photo of houses in Ćuprija destroyed by NATO bombs (Beta)

At midday, air raid sirens sounded throughout the country in a mark of remembrance for the victims.

The government, which has decided to build a memorial center dedicated to the victims of the air strikes, called on all citizens to suspend their activities and respect the minute’s silence for the victims.

Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković said that the air strikes had been an illegal act that could have been avoided.

"Could the bombing have been avoided? We know the answer. Only reason can prevail over evil," he told a special cabinet meeting today.

Cvetković said that 1,002 soldiers and police officers had perished during the bombing, as well as around 2,500 civilians, including 89 children, while 12,500 people had been injured.

He underlined that the air strikes had not solved the problems in Kosovo, nor had they established the rule of law or peace in the province.

He said that Serbia had elected to resolve the problem using peaceful and democratic means, but that it would never recognize Kosovo's unilateral independence.

"The bombing led to long-term detrimental repercussions for Serbia. For the future of our children, we must not let this happen again," the prime minister stressed.

Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said that the bombing had been carried out without the UN’s authorization and that its result had been Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

"Whatever the cause was, that campaign should not have been carried out in a democratic, civilized world. That was a crime against our people,“ said Dačić.

He added that in the same way as the air strikes had been launched against Serbia, certain countries had recognized Kosovo’s independence in contravention of the principles of international law.

The anniversary of the bombing was also marked at the Russian House in a ceremony attended by representatives of the government, the Russian Duma, businessmen and politicians.

Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin said that now, instead of military bombs, bombs of a political nature were falling on Serbia.

“No-one had any illusion as to the intention of taking Kosovo from Serbia, while even now there are no illusions that the wish of the European presence in Kosovo, which is squeezing out the UN, is to implement the Ahtisaari plan. But even that’s not the last political bomb. From The Hague they’re bombing you with harsh condemnations of Serbs,” Konuzin stressed.

During the 78 days of the air strikes, in a campaign titled Operation Allied Force, over 3,000 people perished, while civilian and military infrastructure suffered severe damage. Economists have estimated the vale of the damage at USD 29.6bn.