September 30, 1991. Vreme News Digest Agency No 1-2

The "framing" of Dubrovnik

The offensive on Dubrovnik has been cooking up for months and it is a logical continuation of a broader plan which is now showing its face.

The new blockade of the Adriatic ports, announced last Thursday, marked the beginning of the operations for taking over the southern Dalmatia. The news headline on the same day was self-explanatory: "Stradun (the main street in Dubrovnik) is waiting to be liberated" (Politika Ekspres, Belgrade). The news of the siege of Dubrovnik and the preparations for "the decisive battle for liberation" are coming in (Friday morning). The only unresolved issue is: how many cultural sites and tourist facilities will be spared in the "concluding stages of the liberation" and how many citizens of Dubrovnik will live to see it "liberated". If Dubrovnik will be "liberated" in the way the Army is trying to "liberate" Vukovar and Osijek, the world will be deprived of its priceless cultural heritage.

From the military viewpoint, Dubrovnik is undefended from the rear, especially if cut off from the naval allied troups.

Dubrovnik, in any case, has throughout its history kept its "sweet freedom" by diplomatic and financial means, becoming of a trading republic. It is unlikely that President Milosevic, General Torbica (the Uzice Military Corps) and Mr. Vucarevic from Trebinje will exhibit the sense for diplomacy and trade. From the political viewpoint, the fate of Dubrovnik was sealed in June with the armament of eastern Herzegovina and when Mr. Mihalj Kertes (Serbian Parliament Delegate) announced that Dubrovnik is to become "the capital of Serbian Herzegovina". Throughout the summer, the Serbian political extremists were talking about "the 10000 Serbs who are being terrorized in Dubrovnik". There are 4735 Serbs (6,7%) living in Dubrovnik and apart from certain isolated incidents of illegal arms house search the cases of terrorizing" were not recorded.

The operation of taking the Adriatic coast south of the Neretva confluence started two weeks ago with the arrival of the reservists from Montenegro and the eastern Herzegovina.

The feeble excuses concerning "the prevention of international conflict" did not fool anyone. After they have actually caused the international tension to rise, those undisciplined and politically clearly labelled troops were "returned" to Nevesinje, Bileca and Trebinje (towns in Herzegovina). Their aim: to secure the initial positions for the attack on Dubrovnik, since it turned out that the so called Serbian Autonomous Region of Eastern Herzegovina would not break through to the left bank of Neretva without severe bloodshed (this is their next step). From these initial positions the reservists of the Uzice Military Corps launched an attack on Dubrovnik in three files: south from the coast (Trebinje-Grad-Gruda), from the rear (Trebinje-Ivanica-Brgat) and north from the cost (Popovo Polje-Slano).

The defence of Dubrovnik is pitiful. The Dubrovnik under siege is certain to fall and it is only up to the patience and the good will of the attackers not to cause serious damage. Small wonder then that during the summer the Dubrovnik HDZ (Croatian Democatic Union) section witnessed the split between the "hardliners" and "moderates". The "moderates" have begun to consider the diplomatic ways of saving the city, so they came up with the idea of "the independent republic of Dubrovnik on the Croatian territory".

The autonomy of Dubrovnik implies its independence as well. "The hardliners" in HDZ immediately denounced such ideas as "the Serbian muddle" and Mr. Tudjman, during his visit to Dubrovnik, declared: "All the attempts for restoring the Republic of Dubrovnik will be considered illegal". There is only one road left open for diplomacy: the negotiations with the forces from Trebinje. The Lord Mayor of Dubrovnik Mr. Pero Poljanic and the City Council president Mr. Zeljko Siskic have embarked on a difficult and uncertain mission of negotiating with Mr. Vucarevic, the lorry driver from Trebinje and the City Council President.

During the two meeting they had, Mr. Poljanic had a nice talk with the somewhat acquiescent Vucarevic, had a stroll with him through Trebinje and came home to listen during the night to the cannonade of Vucarevic's troops.

In the meantime, the Trebinje garrison Commander Colonel Marinovic, who was against the deployment of the ill prepared reservists in Herzegovina and Ivanica (near Dubrovnik), was fired. Mr. Vucarevic proclaimed the general mobilization of the Territorial Defence units.

The tourism was bringing a handsome income of around 100 million dolars to Dubrovnik. Even if Dubrovnik, as has many times been the case in its history, survives this attack unscathed, it will share the fate of Plitvice, a magnificent resort where no one dares to come or does not want to spend money.