Serbia Marks the 10th Anniversary of the Nato-Led Bombing Campaign
March 24 marks the 10th anniversary of the Nato bombing campaign that left the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in ruins. The bombing was part of the conflict in Serbia's now renegade province of Kosovo and lasted 79 days and nights between March 24 and June 11 1999. When Nato planes started striking targets in Yugoslavia, it marked the first military assault over a sovereign European nation since World War II.
The campaign aimed to force Milošević to withdraw his troops and mechanised units from Kosovo. Air strikes occurred in conjunction with continued skirmishes between Albanian guerrillas and Yugoslav forces, resulting in a further massive displacement of population in Kosovo. During the conflict, roughly a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven from the province.
Numerous government buildings and military buildings and installations, including the Yugoslavian Army Headquarters, as well as several key infrastructure bridges in major cities - Novi Sad in particular - were heavily hit. The country's radio and telecommunication installations across Serbia and Kosovo were bombed into obliteration. During the bombing many civilian buildings and areas were hit including apartment blocks, a maternity hospital, a passenger train, an Albanian refugee convoy. Most notoriously, a smart bomb levelled the Chinese Embassy, which caused international uproar and embarrassment for Nato, and the US in particular.
The aftermath for Serbia was grim as the war left the country with little or no infrastructure. Novi Sad had no bridges left and water purification and waste treatment plants and electricity supplies were severely disrupted. The Balkan peninsula also suffered an ecological disaster as missiles struck oil refineries which subsequently released carcinogenic and toxic gases into the air and water supplies were polluted.
More importantly, however, as a result of the conflict, Europe witnessed the birth of another republic. Kosovo declared independence and, as of October 9 2008, all of Kosovo's immediate neighbour states, except Serbia, have recognised the country's status.
Macedonia and Montenegro recognised Kosovo on October 9, with Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary also following suit subsequently.
On March 24 2009, air raid sirens will sound and church bells will ring across Serbia as the country marks 10 years since Nato's bombing campaign. According to Balkanfile.com, Serbs will gather at sites where people were killed and government ministers will lay wreaths for the dead.
Serbian defence minister Dragan Sutanovac said he had not changed his mind about the bombing, which he considered unnecessary.
"Then and now I think it was a great mistake of Nato and that the bombing shouldn't have happened," he told Reuters news agency. "I think that Nato's goals could have been achieved in other ways and that citizens could have been spared the consequences."