Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 3
24 January 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
Serbian News Round-up
News from Serbia since
15 January 2000

Vana Suša

An American peace-keeping troop was accused on 16 January of killing a twelve year old Albanian girl. In a KFOR report, Lieutenant Jay Rongi, was officially accused of: "indecent behavior with a child" (Danas, 17 January). Rongi was accused of the murder and was arrested after the body of the girl was found. Rongi is currently in an American Military base prison close to the of city Uroševac, however, he will soon be transferred to the American Military Prison in Manheim, Germany.

The Associated Press reported that "the girl was raped prior to her killing" (Danas, January 17.2000). American forces within KFOR announced that they will appoint an officer to investigate the case. The KFOR commander, German General Klaus Reinhardt, stated that he is "shocked" by the fact that a member of the force was arrested for the murder. Reinhardt said:" With this criminal act of a single individual, the whole reputation of KFOR is ruined"(Danas, 17 January)

On 19 January 2000, leaders of the trilateral commission, which is comprised of the representatives of the European Union, the United States and the Serbian Opposition, met in Budva, Montenegro. Predrag Simić, an adviser to the President of the Serbian Renewal Party, stated that there were serious talks pertaining to the sanctions. Simić stated that the United States is against easing or removing the sanctions, while the EU is seriously considering removing the sanctions that were imposed on air travel as well as on oil imports. Zoran Đinđić, President of the Democratic Party, said that these sanctions are very close to being lifted and added that the "Energy for Democracy" project got further support. Medical aid was also discussed, whereby the opposition asked for DEM 27 million. Đinđić said that at the meeting two topics were dominant: the general political situation in Yugoslavia and the economic and social situation before and after democratic change in Yugoslavia.

The Serbian government decided to prolong the winter holiday, in order to prevent the spread of the flu. The Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Health proposed to the government that the holiday be extended for one week due to the flu. According to statistics from the Belgrade City Council for Health Protection, the smallest number of infected were among the school-aged population, and this would change if the schools were opened while flue is still widely present. Doctors claim that the flue is declining, and the best indicator for this is that the hospitals have become less crowded.

President of the Serbian Unity Party and comander of the "Tigers" paramilitary force Željko Ražnatović, better known as Arkan, was buried on 20 January. The commemoration was held on Wednesday, 19 January. Several thousand people, including his family and close friends, came to pay their respects to Arkan. Tigers General Borisav Pelević said that from the beginning of the war in Croatia and during the war in Bosnia, "Arkan put himself in the service of the Serbian people". Pelević added that Arkan was the only warrior who took his own son to the front lines, and he stated that, if it were not for Arkan, there would not be a Republika Srpska.

Vice-spokesman of the Ministry of Information, Rade Drobac, said that the government does not have anything to do with the murder of Arkan. Drobac said: "Arkan was not a politician ... we do not have anything to do with this... we are not even interested in it. Let the government do its job in finding the killer" (Glas, 20 January).

The Coordinator of the Alliance for Change (AC), Vladan Batić, stated that Arkan's murder will remain unsolved, because Serbia is a lawless state. "Violent death has become an every day thing here" Batić added. The Serbian Renewal Party reacted by saying that the crime in which these three people died presents a danger to the state in which people are living in. "Such brutal deaths serve as tools for spreading fear and uncertainty," Batić said (Danas, 17 January).

Zoran Đinđić stated that the murder of Arkan just shows how insecure and risky it has become to live in Belgrade. Goran Svilanović, President of the Civic Alliance, said that Arkan was killed because he was a person "who knew a lot and who participated in a lot of things" (Danas, 17 January), while the Serbian Minister of Information, Goran Matić, said that, "Arkan was a criminal who was killed by the Montenegro Mafia that wants to take over Belgrade"

Leaders of the opposition parties continued their talks aimed at a united approach in the coming months. After their meeting on 19 January, the opposition leaders stated that they will take a similar approach to every move the present regime makes. All of the representatives agreed that election conditions will determine whether or not the opposition will participate in it. Opposition leaders agreed that separate elections should not be held for Kosovo. Participants in the meeting also agreed on "clear relations with the media," and stated that those who are elected at any level will not influence the media. Furthermore, opposition leaders requested the full support of NGOs, independent workers' unions, student organizations as well as regular citizens in the fight for early democratic elections.

And finally, Radio B2-92 announced on Saturday, 22 January that the people involved in the murder of Željko Ražnatovović have been found. According to the 200 pieces of evidence from the crime scene, police have come to believe that the killer of Arkan and his two companions is Dobrosav Garić. Garić is currently in Loznica, recuperating from an operation. He had two accomplices, Dejan Pitulić from Belgrade and Vujadin Krstić from Mali Zvornik. All three have confessed to the murder. Garić and Pitulić are former employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Krstić, it has been reported, has a long criminal record.

Vana Suša, 22 January 2000



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