January 13, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 16
The Corridor of Death
Kadijevic Shot Down Too
by Roksanda Nincic
The Army planes have shot down the helicopter of the EC monitoring mission, general Veljko Kadijevic, the federal defence minister, has resigned, Milosevic has asked of the people of Krajina to overthrow Milan Babic and Babic has replied that Milosevic "has overstepped his authority". What actually happened?
An agreement concerning the positioning of "blue helmets" in Yugoslavia was reached on January 3. It was signed in the presence of Mr. Cyrus Vance, a special envoy of the UN Secretary General, lieutenant-general Andrija Raseta in the name of the Army and Gojko Susak in the name of the Croatian armed forces. Lord Carrington says that "Vance has, in all likelihood, managed to obtain a cease-fire and the arrival of the 'blue helmets' and the EC will try to find a political solution to the Yugoslav crisis". A few days later, Vance and Boutros Ghali, the UN Secretary General, said that they are "greatly encouraged" by the reports concerning the observance of cease-fire. The monitoring team attributes this favourable turn-about to, among other things, the fact that general Kadijevic, according to what Vance told Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo, has promised that he will get rid of the "hard liners" who would rather see the continuation of the war rather than the arrival of peace. At first it seemed that the report of the Defence Ministry, which was also issued on January 3, concerning the personnel changes in the Army, verifies somewhat that optimism: lieutenant-general Nikola Uzelac, who is known in Bosnia as an army hard liner, has become a commander of the Third Army District (Skoplje, Macedonia), but at least he is not in charge of the sensitive Banja Luka Corps any more; lieutenant-general Andrija Raseta, who has earned the reputation of a patient negotiator with the Croatian side and the EC representatives, has become the deputy of the Supreme Command Chief of Staff Blagoje Adzic, with the authority to continue with the negotiations; the until recently commander of the Knin Corps major-general Vladimir Vukovic, whom certain military circles see as being responsible for securing peace in Knin, and whom the Croatian side respected, replaced Uzelac as the commander of the Banja Luka Corps...
Then, on January 7, a helicopter of the EC monitoring mission was shot down and the optimism of the ones who wish to see the end of this war was swiftly replaced with pessimism. It seemed that such a move of the Army has definitely put an end to the peace process, that the "blue helmets" will not come and that the war will only gather momentum. For the first time since they seized power, the organs of the incomplete Presidency reacted quickly and wisely. Everyone expressed sorrow at the incident, a swift investigation was promised, where the representatives of the EC will participate. The commander of the Air Force and Anti-aircraft Defence general Zvonko Jurjevic was suspended. After the initial understandable protest by the UN and the EC, both organizations gave assurances that the efforts of the international community to secure peace in Yugoslavia will continue and that the "blue helmets" are coming.
Just as the citizens hoped that not all has been lost, a short letter of general Kadijevic, which he addressed to the Yugoslav presidency and to the president of the Yugoslav parliament, was published. He informs of his resignation "due to ill health". And that was all. He did not even wish them success in their future work. The military circles have immediately stated that "his resignation and the shooting down of the helicopter are not as closely connected as it seems at first sight". What then does the resignation of the general who was regarded as the leader of the mild wing in the Army mean?
An attempt was first made to stress in the report of the Defence Ministry that Kadijevic in fact gave a verbal resignation as early as December 31, 1991 at the session of the Presidency and has only confirmed it in writing on January 8, 1992. That was supposed to convince the public that his resignation and the helicopter incident were not linked. If, as it is claimed, Kadijevic gave his resignation at the end of last year, why was it published a week later?
If at the critical time of signing the agreement with Vance he had not been the supreme commander, does that mean that he was even then replaced by Blagoje Adzic, who is known as the leader of the hard liners in the Army? If Adzic was in charge, why did Kadijevic speak with Vance on January 3? Why did Kadijevic express his regret at the helicopter incident and then promised a swift investigation? If, however, Kadijevic was the supreme commander even then, why was the resignation published immediately after the helicopter incident when it was clear that it would be seen as linked to it? And if the resignation is connected with the death of the five-member EC monitoring mission, why did he resign when it was known even then that the incident would not mean the end to the peace efforts of the world community in which Kadijevic took part from the beginning? It would not be illogical to assume that Kadijevic's departure in favour of Adzic means the victory of the Army hard liners, all the more because general Marko Negovanovic, another Army hard liner, was appointed Serbian defence minister. However, this is not entirely logical. What does the victory of the hard liners mean if the peace process is still going ahead and the continuation of war rather than the establishment of peace is in the interests of this wing? True, until this Friday, general Adzic has not said whether he accepts the peace agreement which Kadijevic has signed, although a few international agents have expressed hope in this respect. He, however, has not shown his disregard for them - a cease-fire is mostly enforced and the investigation on the helicopter incident is, as far as we know, under way. Finally, if the Army wing which is not interested in peace has shot down the EC helicopter with the aim of undermining the arrival of the "blue helmets", who are still set on coming, while the Defence Ministry is unofficially saying that they are in no way giving up on the UN peace-keeping troops, which the
so-called Yugoslav Presidency is constantly repeating, what kind of victory of the hard liners are we talking about?. If, however, they had not won, why did Kadijevic resign (unless, of course, it is really do to his ill health, which no one really believes)?
The story concerning the telephone conversation of admiral Stane Brovet, the Defence Minister deputy, with Mr. Vance immediately before the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, remains unsolved. According to some newspapers, Brovet told Vance that the shooting down incident was part of an attempt to initiate a coup in the Army top ranks, that this matter is being seen to and that the Council should not aggravate the already difficult situation. The Council obeyed the order, it gave up the previously announced stringent resolution on Yugoslavia. The day the information was published (Wednesday), VREME
tried to, at least unofficially, check it with the Defence Ministry. We have not received either a confirmation or a denial - we were just warned that the things will "get worse". A day later, the Defence Ministry and the UN representative officially denied that Brovet mentioned a coup attempt. If the shooting down of the helicopter was not premeditated, then it was an error. And Cyrus Vance, who has reason to follow this incident carefully, says that it was not a mistake. Unofficially, we learn from the "soft" military circles that the helicopter should, under no condition, have been shot down; that both sides are to blame, but that the Army obviously carries greater responsibility. It is true that they were flying through the corridor which the Croatian side used for smuggling arms, but even if they were carrying arms it was not reason enough to shoot it down. Besides, how much can a helicopter carry? Fifty guns? We were told that "not even the Army is safe from fools". The fools, however, were not named.
Instead, Slobodan Milosevic named a vain politician - Milan Babic, the president of the Serbian Republic of Krajina, which Serbia did not recognize even before Milosevic wrote to Babic, but he is only now speaking on Serbian Television of "the so-called Krajina Republic". A split between Milosevic and Babic is not a new thing. Babic has been disobeying Milosevic for some time now, and Milosevic does not like that. The arrogance of Babic is becoming legendary. He will in all likelihood not be satisfied with anything less than having his own state where he would have unlimited power. He has also managed to fall out with Milan Martic (Krajina Defence Minister), captain Dragan and, finally, with Milosevic. He is, strange as it may sound, defended by Seselj (extreme right wing party leader), who is even trying to reconcile the two, although it is rather strange that Seselj should try to reconcile anyone. But no one likes to see his friends fall out.
The reason for the split concerns the UN troops. Milosevic consents to their positioning both in Krajina and along the border with Croatia, whereas Babic accepts them only on the border with Croatia. Moreover, Milosevic agrees that, apart from "the blue helmets", the local police should also stay in Krajina. Babic does not want to hear about it. In the interview to the French "Figaro", after Milosevic's letter, he says that his fighters will not put the arms to rest and that he does not believe in the retreat of the Army (which is one of the key points in the agreement concerning the arrival of "the blue helmets"). Babic has also stated in the interview that Milosevic can only represent Serbia (?!) while his ambition to represent Serbs in Croatia as well means "overstepping his authority" (?!). Where did Babic find the courage to address the leader in this way? There are two possible explanations. He either has problems with evaluating his own power and authority, or conversely has powerful armed backing. Who could be his likely protege, bearing in mind that he is in conflict with both Martic and captain Dragan? It could be the right wing within the Army, the one which is possibly responsible for shooting down the helicopter. Babic has, as one of the prominent exponents of the hypocrisy of the political merry-go-round, immediately stated that "the Republic of Serbian Krajina is deeply sorry about the helicopter tragedy", but that "the biggest responsibility does not lie within the hands of the pilots, but rests with the military leadership who ordered it. This especially concerns the defence minister Veljko Kadijevic and the Air Force commander lieutenant-general Zvonko Jurjevic".
Babic is, as far as it is known, the only one who says that these two generals are directly involved in the helicopter incident (we were told by the Defence Ministry that responsibility of Jurjevic was "objective", just like the responsibility of the Soviet Air Force commander when Mathias Rust landed on the Red Square). In any case, both Kadijevic and Jurjevic are gone now, but it is unlikely that Babic is responsible for it. The most important thing could be that Milosevic is now on the other side, voluntarily or otherwise, it does not matter much. The president of Serbia, formerly the biggest communist, then the biggest socialist and lastly the biggest Serb, has now become the biggest peace-maker. He cares about "the blues helmets" as if they were his kin and warns Babic: "Now that an end has been put to the killings with the arrival of the UN peace-keeping troops and that it is certain that no armed man can step on the territory of Krajina, you with your attitude are asking for the war to be prolonged. If you were to continue with such politics, you would push to death many more citizens throughout Yugoslavia".
The unofficial military circles say that the Army has no intention of obeying Babic's orders: "Our supreme commander is the Federal Presidency; it is by no means perfect, but it still is our commander". And Branko Kostic, the vice-president of the so-called Presidency, has also distanced himself from Babic, but has used subtler words than Milosevic. He thinks that Babic cannot claim that he is all for the preservation of Yugoslavia and at the same time not take part in the work of the Presidency, nor attend the Presidency sessions with the representatives of Krajina. He added that the Presidency has learned of the proclamation of the Republic of Serbian Krajina from the papers. The Presidency is, alas, all for peace.
Who then is supporting Babic? Some of them have come into the open. Mirko Jovic (the leader of The Serbian National Renewal Party) has said that the volunteers of the "Dusan the Great" unit will be placed under the command of the Krajina government and that "if it is the wish of the people of Krajina it would give resistance to any occupation army, even 'the blue helmets'". Jovic has also stated that "all those who have grown tired of all this, including the President, should retreat to the second or third line of combat in the battle for Serbia".
Finally, there is the question of whether Milosevic will have the same attitude towards his faithful Karadzic (the leader of Bosnian Serbs), who has just proclaimed the "Serbian Republic in Bosnia", and who has recognized Krajina even before it was officially proclaimed. Or has Milosevic, before the famous January 15, deliberately given up on the Serbian regions in Croatia, which he was embracing until recently, and has satisfied himself with the fact that the UN troops will protect the Western borders of Serbia so that he can be left in peace to deal with the issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina? As if the fact that the war started for the defence of the Serbs living in Croatia is of no importance any more.
Neither the helicopter incident nor Kadijevic's resignation, nor the conflict with Babic present sufficient ground for deciding on the outcome of the Yugoslav crisis. But, the positions of the players in this unfortunate game are slowly becoming apparent. And the end is waited on with anticipation.