The following statement was issued by the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals and is reproduced here with thanks.
Twenty-three years since the beginning of Nato’s aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals is marking 24 March, remembering this day back in 1999 when the Nato alliance launched its illegal and criminal aggression against the fallen defenders of our motherland and its murdered civilians.
This aggression was the first war on European soil waged since the end of World War 2. As the bombs and cruise missiles thrown by the most powerful military machinery in the history of civilization were busy destroying a small European country, they also destroyed the European and global security system based on the United Nations charter, the OSCE final act and the Paris charter. To this day, Europe and the world still suffer the severe consequences of that destruction.
In the process, Nato allied with the so-called KLA (‘Kosovo Liberation Army’), a separatist-terrorist formation, as its infantry wing, thus boosting separatism and terrorism.
Hypocrisy of the imperialist aggressors
At present, we are witnessing cynical calls by the USA, Britain, Germany and Nato for the observance of international law, condemning other countries for violating it. This from the countries and bodies which themselves illegally attacked the FRY without a UN security council resolution; the ones who intentionally used missiles filled with depleted uranium and other banned weapons to deliberately and indiscriminately bomb our country’s infrastructure and civilians; who killed children, women, hospital patients and civilians, and who openly conducted smear campaigns against the Serbian people in the global media.
The marking of the beginning of the 1999 Nato aggression against our country is another opportunity to recall all these crimes and atrocities and to remind our public, especially the youth, of the horrors and damage the aggression caused, as well as of the many consequences that are yet to be remedied.
The precedent of aggression carried out without UN security council approval was reused in the subsequent aggressions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Nato’s aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 was a stepping stone in bringing to life the strategy of military expansion to the east, closer to the Russian borders, which is the root cause of the Ukrainian crisis.
A genocidal attack aimed at maximum destruction
During 79 days of unrelenting attacks on the FRY, from 24 March to 10 June 1999, the mass-scale assaults of Nato warplanes and missile systems sent weapons flying from the air, the waterways and the land, with the collaboration of the KLA terrorists, the regular army of Albania, the mercenaries recruited and financed by western states, and the instructors and special operation units of the leading western countries, indiscriminately killing members of the Yugoslav armed forces and the law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Serbia, alongside civilians including children.
The onslaught destroyed cultural monuments, churches and monasteries; it devastated military, economic, strategic and traffic infrastructure, business facilities, civilian facilities and institutions, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and even the public broadcaster – the Radio Television of Serbia, killing 16 employees there.
Over the course of its aggression, Nato carried out 2,300 airstrikes on 995 facilities across the country. Its 1,150 fighter planes launched some 420,000 projectiles with a total mass of 22,000 tons, including depleted uranium weapons.
About 4,000 casualties were estimated, of whom some 3,000 were civilians and 1,031 were members of the army and the police. Eighty-nine children were killed. In total, more than 12,000 people were wounded, of whom about 6,000 were civilians, including 2,700 children, and 5,173 were soldiers and police officers. Twenty-five persons are still listed as missing.
Since the precise list of civilian casualties has not yet been established, the Belgrade Forum reiterates its appeal to the state authorities to finally complete this sad task.
In their attacks on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Nato’s forces employed approximately a thousand aircrafts (fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers, spy planes, etc). The largest share in these air attacks was taken by forces from the USA, the UK and Germany, with significant roles in the aggression also played by other members.
The air assaults destroyed and damaged 25,000 residential buildings, disabling 470km of roads and 595km of railways. They also inflicted damage on 14 airports, 19 hospitals, 20 health centres, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges, while leaving another 38 totally destroyed.
Among the latter, of special significance are the destruction of two oil refineries (in Pančevo and Novi Sad), the Avala broadcasting tower, the Petrochemistry complex in Pančevo, bridges in Novi Sad, the Zastava automobile factory in Kragujevac, the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Belgrade, and many other civilian targets.
Estimates are that some 38 percent of targeted facilities were purely civilian in nature, and that some $100bn of war damage was inflicted by the bombardment.
During the bombing of the territory of the Republic of Serbia, ammunition banned under the Geneva Convention was routinely used. In total, 15 tons of uranium were dumped on Serbia. As a direct consequence of these depleted uranium missiles, Serbia was announced in 2015 to be the top-ranking country in Europe in terms of mortality from malignant tumours.
In addition, about 1,000 cluster bombs were dropped on 219 locations on an area of 23,000km2, killing a large number of civilians. From the end of the aggression until 2006, six more people died by setting off unexploded cluster bombs in Serbia and Montenegro, and another 12 were wounded.
In all likelihood, the full extent of those who fell victim to the delayed effects of depleted uranium, unexploded cluster bombs and other toxic weaponry will never be precisely known. The Belgrade Forum invites the competent state authorities to ensure that work continues to be done that can determine the consequences of the use of depleted uranium weapons and other toxic weapons employed during the Nato aggression.
The aggression ended on 10 June 1999, upon the signing of the military-technical agreement in Kumanovo and the subsequent adoption of UN security council resolution 1244, which established the truce and temporarily transferred the administering of Kosovo and Metohija to the United Nations. Pursuant to this agreement, Yugoslavia’s army, police and administration withdrew on an interim basis to the territory of central Serbia.
Along with the withdrawal of the army and police, about 250,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija fled to central parts of Serbia. This made Serbia the country hosting the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Europe, after this and other wars that marked the violent and forcible breakup of Yugoslavia.
It is cynical to the extreme for Nato to be accusing other countries of crimes that its own leading states have continuously committed themselves. It would serve them well if, even now, as they stand accusing others, they were to halt for a moment to remember their own misdeeds, to repent and remedy all the injustices they have done to our country as well as to others – most notably, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and others.