BELGRADE – NATO’s bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999 were an aggression and the first attack in Europe on a sovereign state since 1945 that inflicted damage to numerous civilian objects, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“The attack on Yugoslavia was, of course, an aggression. By the way, this was the first armed assault in Europe on a sovereign state since 1945… Looking at what is happening around Syria, our western partners, mainly the US and the UK ones, go in their hysterics to the point of using public insults, including using such words as ‘barbarism,’ ‘war crime.’ I remind you that the aggression against… Yugoslavia was associated with a huge number of attacks on civilian objects, including Serbia’s television broadcasting facilities, bridges, which were used by civilian passenger trains and many other things,” Lavrov told Russia’s channel Rossiya 1 in an interview on Sunday.

In 1999, NATO led by the United States engaged in a 78-day military campaign against what was then Yugoslavia, which consisted of Serbia and Montenegro, over alleged repressions of Albanians in Kosovo. Previously, Albanians were engaged in killing Serbian police and civilians in a push for independence from the historically-Serbian province.

Human Rights Watch estimates that between 489 and 528 civilians were killed in the NATO operation, but Serbian human rights groups say the death toll is much higher, with more than 2,000 civilians and 1,000 security personnel killed and thousands more wounded. According to the Serbian government, most main bridges, 190 schools, 16 hospitals and the main RTS media outlet were damaged or destroyed during the NATO campaign.