FYROM President Vetoes Albanian Language Legislation

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev (left) meets with President Gjorge Ivanov on February 27. - Photo: MIA

FYROM (Macedonian) President Gjorge Ivanov has vetoed legislation extending the official use of the Albanian language to the entire country, saying it could endanger Macedonia’s unity and sovereignty.

Ivanov said on January 17 that the proposed law would introduce a “very expensive redundancy” in state institutions and make state administration dysfunctional.

He said that it would also threaten the “unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity” of Macedonia, “instead of building a multiethnic society through a spirit of dialogue and coexistence.”

The draft law makes Albanian the country’s second official language along with Macedonian.

The government regretted Ivanov’s decision, saying that the bill was “in line with the constitution” and motivated by the “care for all citizens of Macedonia.”

The proposed law passed in parliament on January 11 with the backing of 69 lawmakers in the 120-member parliament, with the main opposition party boycotting the vote.

It will now be sent back to lawmakers for a second vote. If it is approved again, the president is obliged to sign it.

The legislation has sparked much criticism from members of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party and others who described it as unconstitutional and against Macedonia’s national interests.

The bill is meant in part to make it easier for members of Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority to communicate with institutions such as municipalities, hospitals, and courts.

The current law on languages defines Albanian as an official language, but it has that status only in areas where ethnic Albanians make up at least 20 percent of the population.

Ethnic Albanians — who make up around one-quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population — live mostly in the northwest near the borders with Kosovo and Albania.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia promised to bring in the new law when he struck a coalition deal with Albanian parties last year.

The coalition agreement ousted the VMRO-DPMNE party, in power since 2006.

Oliver Ivanovic Buried In Belgrade

Vecernje Novosti

Hundreds of mourners including Serbia’s prime minister crowded a cemetery for the funeral of Kosovar Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, who was buried in Belgrade two days after he was gunned down in northern Kosovo.

Prime Minister Ada Brnabic led the Serbian government delegation at the funeral, which was conducted by the Serbian Orthodox Church.

President Aleksandar Vucic stayed away, saying he will pay his respects over the weekend at the spot where Ivanovic was killed — outside his office in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. Vucic has called the killing of Ivanovic, who was seen as a moderate in Serb politics in Kosovo but whose Citizens’ Initiative Party was not backed by the Serbian government in Belgrade, as a “terrorist act.”

Ivanovic’s brother, Miroslav, said the family accepted a proposal to bury him in Belgrade after Serbia’s government offered to have him interred at Novo Groblje’s Alley of Meritorious Citizens, where some of the most important people in Serbian history are buried.

The slain politician’s brother also said that his family has decided to move from Mitrovica to the home of relatives in Belgrade.

Family of Oliver Ivanovic leave Kosovo

Photo: Novosti

The family of killed Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovic is leaving Kosovska Mitrovica and moving house to relatives’ in Belgrade, the late politician’s brother, Miroslav Ivanovic told Serbian daily Telegraf on Wednesday.

The decision to bury Ivanovic in Belgrade was taken within the family, he said.

“Our parents are buried in Podgorica after their wish. On this occasion, after the murder of Oliver, we sat down and we talked within our family. Since our family will be in Belgrade, and some already live there, it is easy to see where the desire came from, to keep him close to us, so we can visit his grave,” the late politician’s brother was quoted by Telegraf.

According to Miroslav Ivanovic, Belgrade offered to bury Kosovo Serbs’ leader in the Alley of Meritorious Citizens and the proposal has weighed on the family’s decision.

Earlier, Serbian Trade, Tourism and Communications Minister Rasim Ljajic, a friend of the murdered politician, said that Ivanovic had been extremely devoted to the city of Kosovska Mitrovica and had opposed an idea of leaving it.

In one of the documentaries, Ivanovic explained his affection for Kosovska Mitrovica, “Why do Albanians want to take Mitrovica away from us? Simply because Mitrovica is the only one serious industrial city in Kosovo. It is the only chance of industrialization for them. Therefore, it is so important to stay and live here, no matter what.”

Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of Kosovan Serbs and the head of the ‘Freedom, Democracy, Truth’ party, was gunned down on Tuesday morning while entering his party headquarters in Kosovska Mitrovica. Ivanovic was rushed to hospital with six gunshot wounds in the chest, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Representatives of international missions to Kosovo condemned Ivanovic’s murder and demanded bringing those responsible to justice as soon as possible. Russia said that the situation could bring about the atmosphere of terror and give rise to inter-ethnic conflicts in the region.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Ivanovic’s murder as a terror attack against the entire people of Serbia. Director of Serbia’s government office for Kosovo Marko Juric said that the Serbian delegation was breaking off technical dialogue with Pristina in Brussels and returning to Belgrade.

Oliver Ivanovic will be buried at Belgrade’s Novo Groblje (New Cemetery) on Thursday, January 18. A coffin with Ivanovic’s body was delivered to Serbia’s capital a few hours ago and reposed in the cemetery church. Ivanovic was survived by his four underage sons.

Kustendorf Festival opens

Italian film director Paolo Sorrentino on Tuesday opened the 11th Kustendorf International Film and Music Festival.

The event, founded by Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, is held each year in the village of Mokra Gora, on Mt. Zlatibor, in the west of the country.

Sorrentino declared the festival open after he received the Tree of Life Award for Future Films.
Kusturica presented the award and said that Sorrentino was “currently the best film director in the world who has developed his own poetics and language from Italian neorealism and poetic French realism” – which Kusturica described as the two most significant directions in European cinema, Tanjug reported.

Sorrentino said he was grateful and happy to receive the accolade.

“I am very happy to be here and I’m glad that I arrived by helicopter. I hope the child in me will find joy here,” said the Italian director, who on Wednesday held a workshop for students and young authors.

Kusturica previously said that this time in Drvengrad (Mecavnik) – the venue of the festival – he was trying to bring together “the greats, and those who will become that” and that this year’s edition stands out thanks to the idea of “fiction turning into reality with the help of fiction.”

Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic spoke at the opening ceremony last night, noting that “the light from Mecavnik illuminates Serbian culture.”
The opening was also attended by last year’s winner of the main prize at the Cannes Festival, Swedish director Ruben Estlund.

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Bujanovac Mayor Jonuz Musliu dies

President of the Municipal Assembly of Bujanovac and National Council of Albanians in Serbia Jonuz Musliu has died.

He died a hospital in Turkey, where he was receiving treatment, RTS is reporting on Thursday, citing FoNet.

Musliu was the former “political commander” of the ethnic Albanian “Liberation Army of the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac” who later founded the Movement for Democratic Progress (PDP), the report said.

It added that he was born on in 1959 in the village of Konculj, and had spent spent several years as a political prisoner.

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Russia calls out Albanian PM on “Greater Albania ambitions”

Recent by Albanian Prime Minister Albania Edi Rama are “fully in accord with the widespread Greater Albania ambitions.”

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this in a comment by the Information and Press Department “regarding statements by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on the Macedonian parliament passing the Law on the Use of Languages.”

“We have taken note of a statement made on January 14 by Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama regarding the involvement of the ruling Socialist Party of Albania (SPA) in the creation of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and in the battle for Kosovo in the neighboring Serbia, as well as the SPA’s decisive contribution to the adoption of the Law on the Use of Languages by the Assembly (parliament) of the Republic of Macedonia. This law makes Albanian the country’s second official language along with Macedonian,” the press release said, adding:

“These statements confirm Mr. Rama’s intention to continue to promote the notorious Tirana Platform, which he helped to draft. The implementation of this document would erode the constitutional foundations of the Macedonian state and the Ohrid Framework Agreement and would consequently provoke new ethnic clashes in the Balkans. These new developments are fully in accord with the widespread Greater Albania ambitions, which endanger the territorial integrity of several countries in the region.”

“We attach much significance to the issue of languages and believe that such decisions must only be taken on the basis of agreement between all branches of power in any country and a broad consensus in its society,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

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Kosovo ready to receive any help in probe

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke with Hashim Thaci on the phone about the murder of GI SDP leader Oliver Ivanovic.

“Two interlocutors agreed that the dialogue between Serbs and Albanians, as well as joint work on calming and stabilizing the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, is crucial for both sides,” the statement said.

Vucic and Thaci spoke about the murder of Oliver Ivanovic and shared their regret, agreeing that the detection and apprehension of the perpetrators of this terrible criminal act is crucial to preserving peace and trust among people.

President Vucic once again asked from Thaci to accept the involvement of Serbian state authorities in conducting an investigation into the Ivanovic murder in order to solve this gruesome crime in the shortest possible time, the statement concluded.

Thaci wrote on Facebook that during his telephone conversation with Vucic, he “expressed readiness of the Kosovo institutions to cooperate with the Serbian ones, in keeping with the current laws,” in the investigation into the murder of the Serb politician, who was gunned down in northern Kosovska Mitrovica on Tuesday.

Thaci stated that the relevant bodies of Kosovo are ready to cooperate, in keeping with the laws of Kosovo, and receive “any help that could lead to solving the murder.”

“The two presidents underscored the need for enough time to be given to the relevant bodies to finish their job with expertise and independently. The presidents stressed that the discovery of the perpetrators is the most important thing,” stated the Kosovo president.
Thaci added that, during the conversation, he provided assurances that the relevant bodies, the prosecution and the Police of Kosovo were conducting an intensive investigation in order to discover and bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

“During the telephone conversation, the two presidents also considered many issues of joint interest, focusing on the need to continue the dialogue about the normalization of relations between the two countries, strengthening peace in the region and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Thaci wrote.

On Tuesday, Vucic told a news conference that the Ivanovic murder was treated as an act of terrorism, and that Belgrade wanted to investigate it in Kosovo and Metohija.

Vucic is to spend the coming weekend with the Serbs in Kosovo, a visit that Pristina on Wednesday announced it had “approved.”

Vucic and Thaci agree to continue Kosovo dialogue

Vucic and Thaci have agreed to continue dialogue on the normalization of relations, says European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic.

Responding to a journalist’s question as to whether EULEX had already joined the investigation into the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, she did not give a concrete answer, but only said that the EC said immediately after the murder that “EULEX will support the authorities within its mandate.”

After that, Kocijancic took the opportunity to say that “Serbian and Kosovo President Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci spoke on the phone yesterday (Wednesday) evening and agreed to continue with the dialogue under the auspices of the EU.”

“They then talked about the murder and the importance of investigating the assassination, bringing the perpetrators to justice without delay, as well as the fact that the cooperation of the authorities of both sides in this case is important for the Kosovo police and the prosecution,” she said.

Tanjug said it was told in Brussels that the European Union welcomed the agreement reached by Vucic and Thaci to continue the dialogue.

Earlier in the week, Serbian officials said the dialogue would be put on hold “until it was discovered who killed Ivanovic.”

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US Warns Kosovo Again Against Scrapping War Crimes Court

The U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, has warned the country’s politicians that they will bear “specific and harsh consequences” should their efforts to abolish a new war crimes court succeed.

“Let me be clear: MPs who support this initiative — and the politicians who lead it, despite their denials — will be subject to specific and harsh consequences should the initiative succeed. They know this; we’ve told them,” Delawie told reporters in Pristina on January 17.

Meanwhile, parliament put off decision on whether to put forward a vote to scrap legislation on setting up the Special Court, which would try ethnic Albanian guerrillas (KLA/UCK) accused of committing war crimes as they battled Serbian forces in 1998-99 war.

In December, dozens of Kosovar lawmakers made a failed bid to revoke the law, after war veterans handed in a petition saying the court was “biased.”

Relations between Kosovo and the United States, its traditionally close ally, have cooled over the initiative.

And on January 12, the European Union warned Kosovo, which aspires to closer links with the bloc, that bilateral relations will suffer if it scrapped the law establishing it.

Delawie told journalists on January 17 that the initiative to scrap the court was “a terrible example” of self-centered interests prevailing “over the common good and Kosovo’s interests as a state.”

He said that Kosovo needs an outside mechanism as its justice system “has not yet demonstrated itself capable of administering justice in high-profile cases and witnesses “continue to be subject to intimidation, threats, and violence.”

“Certain individuals who fought for the just cause of Kosovo’s freedom committed egregious crimes against others, for which they must be held accountable,” he also said.

President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli are all former KLA commanders and could potentially be indicted by the court or called as witnesses, local media reported.

Brnabic: Atmosphere of threats preceding murder

Photo: O. Bunic

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says her government will provide every possible type assistance in investigating the murder of Oliver Ivanovic.

In an interview for Radio Free Europe in the wake of the killing of the Serb politician in Kosovo, Brnabic pointed out that if Serbia was not allowed to participate in the investigation, it would launch one of its own.

“This is an extremely difficult day for the Republic of Serbia. We also held a session of the Council for National Security. The situation is tough, I hope it will remain calm, but this is definitely a huge blow to both Serbia and to regional stability and security,” Brnabic said late on Tuesday.

She reiterated that the government officially demanded Serbia’s participation in the investigation of this crime, and was awaiting the response from competent institutions.

“What is also important is that if we are not allowed to participate in the investigation, we will certainly launch our own,” said Brnabic, adding that she continues to hope for reason and cooperation, and for Serbia being able to participate in the probe.

“During a session of the Council for National Security, we consulted the Security Information Agency and the Military Security Agency, and they will work together on this. The only thing that is important at this moment is to find the killers, bring them to justice and make those responsible answer for it,” the prime minister said.

Asked whether “a separate investigation, considering that the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation (preliminary investigative proceedings) into Ivanovic’s murder – could be counterproductive for cooperation with Kosovo,” Brnabic replied that finding the criminals was the only important thing.

“Does Serbia have a lot of confidence in the institutions in Kosovo and Metohija, that the perpetrators will be found? To be honest, I cannot say that Serbia has full confidence. So many crimes in Kosovo have never been solved. I also regret that nobody’s responded to the so many things that happened over the last ten days,” Brnabic said.

Asked what she had in mind, the prime minister said, “we heard only heard the deafening silence from Brussels” – and explained that she was referring to the threat of Albanians “reaching Nis” and an earlier one about reactivating the KLA.

“I am thinking about, unfortunately, the government of the Republic of Serbia being unable to, due to all the events of the past, effectively protect its citizens in Kosovo and Metohija. But it is obvious that those who today have control in Kosovo and Metohija cannot protect them, either,” she said.

Brnabic added that she was particularly hurt as the Serbian PM – and that this was something she would discuss with Brussels – by “this deafening silence and the threats that the KLA could be reactivated simply because Pristina should fulfill something that was their international contract – establish the court for war crimes (special court for KLA crimes).”

“But also, ‘we will come to Nis’ and the direct threats to all citizens of the Republic of Serbia. And today it culminated in this murder. This murder is of course felt the hardest by the family of Oliver Ivanovic, but this murder is a most terrible blow to Serbia, to everything Serbia has done in recent years to normalize relations with Pristina,” Brnabic stressed.

She added that this was also a blow to the signing of the Brussels Agreement and its full implementation, as well as the final consolidation of forces through the Serb List in Kosovo, and the ten local self-governments in Kosovo led by the Serb List, as well as the participation in the government Kosovo.

“To everything Serbia has done in recent years, to show and finally be established as a stable, predictable, tolerant partner. All of this was shot at,” the prime minister said.

Asked why she linked the threats (coming from Pristina) with Ivanovic’s murder – “since the investigation has not yet shown much” – she said she did not have this information and did not wish to insinuate who the perpetrator was.

“But I would like to say that in the whole atmosphere that we have, only in the last few weeks, to say nothing of the past years, this is just one of the terrible things. This is the most terrible of all the terrible things.”

Asked by Radio Free Europe “if it might be too early to put such a burden on the Albanian side,” Brnabic said that she was not doing that, but was instead pointing out to the overall atmosphere, and a lack of reaction, “from one day to the next.”

“From one threat to another threat. And I am not putting an equal sign between them, I’m just saying that somebody needs to react at some point. That Serbia cannot do this alone. And that Serbia has been doing this absolutely by itself, trying to normalize relations with Pristina already for many years, let’s say at least since the signing of the Brussels Agreement (in 2011).”

The Radio Free Europe journalist then recalled “the atmosphere before the local elections in Kosovo in June, which was not favorable for opposition forces to which Oliver Ivanovic belonged” – and asked “whether the atmosphere of a political struggle where all means are used influences such a thing happening. Brnabic replied by saying that this was “a terrible thing to say.”

“It is one thing to be political opponents, and (another) wanting to kill someone or wanting to see them dead. It is terrible to put an equal sign between such things. It’s terrible to me that such things are done in Serbia today. Such accusations are completely clearly, absolutely unequivocally made against the president of the Republic and the government of the Republic of Serbia. We and Oliver Ivanovic were not enemies. We did not think alike politically,” said Brnabic.

She recalled that the Serbian government paid for Ivanovic’s defense (when he was accused in Kosovo of committing war crimes) and that it was an obligation of the government.

“We did that, and it shows that there are some things that are not in the domain of political fighting. You can think differently politically, but that does not mean you are enemies. Moreover, this is certainly something that suits Serbia the least. Despite everything, Serbia always insisted on the dialogue, stayed at the table despite numerous threats and insults,” Brnabic said.

She added that Serbia has shown that it is a tolerant, flexible and stable partner.

“And then something like this happens, and after that the accusations at the expense of the president and the government of the Republic of Serbia, ranging from being a traitor, to being a killer. And being a traitor and a killer are diametrically opposite things,” says Brnabic.

Asked if there were indications when the technical dialogue in Brussels could be continued, she said that she had just met with Marko Djuric, to learn about the atmosphere in Brussels after Ivanovic was killed, which happened half an hour before the start of the planned dialogue round.

“At this moment, I sincerely cannot talk about the continuation of the dialogue. It is too early and I am too much under the impression (of Tuesday’s events) to talk about the continuation of the dialogue,” said Brnabic.

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Oliver Ivanovic to be buried in Belgrade

Photo: Novosti

A large number of citizens gathered on Wednesday in Kosovska Mitrovica to say goodbye to Oliver Ivanovic.

The leader of the Civic Initiative (GI) SDP was shot six times in front of the party premises in northern Kosovska Mitrovica on Tuesday morning, and died of his injuries in the hospital.

The casket with Ivanovic’s remains was on Wednesday transported under police escort from this northern Kosovo town to Belgrade, where the Serb politician will be buried on Thursday.
The citizens who lined the streets through which the procession passed in silence today placed flowers on the vehicle transporting the casket.

Tanjug is reporting that there was no visible increase in police presence in the streets, closed to traffic for the convoy to pass, while a KFOR helicopter at one point flew over the town.

A Serbian Orthodox memorial service for Ivanovic was held earlier in the day in Kosovska Mitrovica, led by Bishop Teodosije.

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Bitcoin loses nearly half its value in crypto-market bloodbath

The cryptocurrency market has extended its losses, as major digital assets are trading 13 to 25 percent below previous day’s prices. Digital-currency locomotive bitcoin has now slid close to $10,000.

The $10,000 milestone is 50 percent below the $20,000 peak that bitcoin touched just one month ago. Ethereum also plunged below the psychological $1,000 mark, and is on track to lose all its gains in 2018, which reached 100 percent just four days ago.

Ripple was down over 20 percent, trading at $1.15. This is a three-fold collapse from the $3.65 peak it hit on January 4. Bitcoin cash, cardano, litecoin, neo and other top cryptocurrencies have also slipped by up to 25 percent from the previous trading session.

Cryptocurrencies are falling on reports that authorities in China are planning to widen their crackdown on trading in the country. A Chinese state-run newspaper Securities Times reported on Tuesday that Beijing will target over-the-counter trading, offshore sites used for centralized trading, and peer-to-peer trading of large transactions.

Bloomberg also reported that China will bar access to local and offshore platforms that provide centralized trading, and target traders who provide bids and offers for big-scale trading.

Another BRICS country, Brazil, has joined China and India in taking action against cryptocurrencies. The South American country has prohibited local investment funds from buying digital cash.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency bitcoin was trading at $10,065 as of 11:04am GMT on Wednesday.

RT

US State Dept: Exercise increased caution in Kosovo due to terrorism

Photo: AP

In their travel advisory published on January 10, US State Department warned citizens that Kosovo is a “High-Risk Area”.

“Exercise increased caution in Kosovo due to terrorism. Some areas have increased risk,” reads travel advisory published on travel.state.gov website.

“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in the Balkans region, including Kosovo. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas. In addition, politically motivated violence occurs throughout Kosovo,” travel advisory reads, adding that “U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.”

The real ‘Butcher of the Balkans’

More than 20 years after the Srebrenica massacre, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić was found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia this past November.

Along with Mladić, the ICTY convicted the other so-called “Butcher of Bosnia”, the Bosnian Serb and former Republika Sprska leader Radovan Karadžić in 2016. Meanwhile, it fully exonerated the Bosnian Muslim army commander Naser Orić of similar charges which outraged the people of Serbia. Yet, it was the same court that posthumously exonerated former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević in 2016. If you weren’t aware of the latter, it’s because it was not widely reported in Western media. Milošević is still generally viewed to be the central villain of the entire conflict even though the charges against him didn’t hold up, but not until a decade after he died of heart failure while on trial in the Hague.

The ICTY in its ruling stated “there was no sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan to create territories ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs.” The ICTY, established in violation of the UN charter, is itself viewed to be an arm of NATO and biased against the Serbs but even it seems to have determined that any alleged war crimes and ethnic cleansing by the Bosnian Serbs was strictly a Karadžić-Mladić affair and not part of a chain of command leading to Milošević.

This is not what was presented by NATO and its media surrogates at the time which was that the Bosnian Serbs were acting under direct orders from Belgrade. The narrative was that Milošević’s policies and the Serbian government shared as much of the blame, while the reality is that an extremely complex conflict was simplified into a heroes and villains story in order to sell military intervention to the public. Not only were atrocities committed on all sides in the Yugoslav wars, but the NATO powers sided with right-wing nationalists in Bosnia and Croatia and extremist separatists in Kosovo against the Serbs in order to ensure their own geopolitical interests in the breakup of Yugoslavia. In fact, the entire foreign policy of the west toward Yugoslavia facilitated the very problems it used military intervention to ‘solve.’

During the Bosnian war (1992–1995), war crimes by the Bosnian Serbs were given widespread attention while those committed by the Bosnian Muslims were given little to none. The Bosnian Muslim army was provided CIA arms and training that is well documented. The hidden connection between Bosnian Muslim militants and international terrorism is revealed in the documentary Sarajevo Ricochet, where an investigation discovers that Bosnian Muslim militias, composed of mujahideen rebranded as freedom fighters, received smuggled arms through phony relief agencies connected to Saudi Arabia and the members of al Qaeda who participated in both the 1993 WTC bombing and Osama bin Laden himself. Also linked financially to the front humanitarian organization (known as Third World Relief Agency) was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Defense Minister, Hasan Čengić. Bosnia became a training ground for global jihad and the army enjoyed support from foreign volunteers from various Muslim countries in mujahideen fighters that committed executions, beheadings and torture of captured Serbs.

Illustration

It was the infamous massacre of Bosnian Muslims in the village of Srebrenica in 1995 which thrust NATO’s military involvement into the conflict. Undoubtedly a war crime, what was disputed was whether it constituted an act of genocide since the victims were almost exclusively several thousand Muslim men and boys at the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. Women and children were specifically separated and evacuated out of the town under Mladić’s orders just prior to the killings. The possibility that the carnage in Srebrenica could have been the result of revenge executions in retaliation for the widespread terrorism committed against dozens of Bosnian Serb towns by the Bosnian Muslim army for years under the warlord Naser Orić was never explored. Some of the well documented acts by Orić’s forces included executions, beheadings, eye gouging and even disembowling Serbs and the victims included many women and children.

What took place in Srebrenica was certainly a horrific crime, but it could only be seen as unprovoked and not the result of grudge killings if removed from the context of the dozens of raids of Serb villages neighboring Srebrenica. Orić and his militias had been carrying them out for two years up until that point but this was widely suppressed. Srebrenica was stage managed as an unprovoked atrocity committed by evil villains against pure victims in order to sell the case for military intervention against one side. It has even been since portrayed as an act of genocide when it was one instance of many throughout the entire Yugoslav wars of summary executions. Executions, rapes and torture were committed by all sides. To call it genocide is an insult to the victims of the holocaust in the former Yugoslavia of which the majority were Serbs. There is no doubt Serbs did their share of war crimes and ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav wars, but NATO and its media stenographers only told part of the story that was fundamentally a civil war and not genocide.

The number of dead in Srebrenica also may have been inflated to 8,000 when its actual number is significantly lower, according to scholars such as Edward S. Herman, Diana Johnstone, John Pilger, Michael Parenti, and former Attorney General and human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark who defended Milošević in the Hague tribunal. Many of the dead could have been those killed in the battle for the town, considering that the victims were virtually all male and Mladić’s forces had evacuated Muslim women and children out of the town. This would not have been the only occasion of inflated numbers of victims for sensationalism during the wars as the media had routinely repeated ad nauseam wildly erroneous statistics such as 100,000 Bosnian Muslim women having been raped by Serbs, an impossible number when the Bosnian Serb army was only 30,000 strong.

Srebrenica also may have been strategically sacrificed to be deliberately defenseless by Bosnian Muslim forces so as to provoke NATO military intervention against the Serbs by crossing U.S. President Bill Clinton’s ‘red line.’ The town of Srebrenica had been a safe zone under the UN peacekeepers which Orić and his forces used to shield themselves in between their attacks on Serb towns and it was not protected in this instance.

In the stunning documentary Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed, a police chief of the town shockingly claims that in a meeting with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s President Alija Izetbegović, Clinton suggested his ‘red line’ was that at least 5,000 Muslim lives would need to be lost in order to justify any NATO air strikes against Serb forces. It would not have been the first time ‘false flags’ may have been used by the Bosnian Muslims. There had been two bombings of markets in Sarajevo, known as the ‘Markale massacres’, that were immediately pinned on the Serbs when much of the evidence gathered and eyewitness accounts suggested they were staged attacks that came from areas held by Bosnian Muslim army forces.

Even accepting the stated number of victims, this amount did not exceed the amount of Serbs killed by the Bosnian Muslims in the villages surrounding Srebrenica which was never demilitarized despite being under Dutch UN peacekeeping forces which Orić took full advantage of. NATO, an organization that was designed as a strictly defensive military alliance during the Cold War, needed a new purpose and was given one in its illegal offensive attack in Operation Deliberate Force against the Bosnian Serbs.

It is impossible to comprehend such a complex conflict without first understanding the history of the Balkans during WW2 and which of the republics had collaborated with the Axis powers during their occupation. In 1939, Mussolini invaded the Kingdom of Albania and annexed it as an Italian protectorate. The axis powers collectively invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia two years later, with Serbia under the military occupation of the Wehrmacht while much of the rest of Yugoslavia was absorbed into a puppet regime known as the Independent State of Croatia under the dictator Ante Pavelić.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s President Alija Izetbegović had himself been a Nazi collaborator during WW2 in his youth when modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina territory was under the Independent State of Croatia. His Islamist organization, the Young Muslims, sided with the 13th Waffen SS Handzar Division against the Yugoslav partisans. The first non-Germanic SS division came under the Independent State of Croatia and among its ranks were more than 18,000 Bosnian Muslims who slaughtered both Serbs, Roma and Jews.

Izetbegović served several years in jail for his support of the Nazi occupation of Croatia after the end of the war under Tito. As a politician, he advocated an Islamic state with strict Sharia law and the Bosnian Muslims fostered a revival of the legacy of the SS Handzar Division he had supported in his youth in order to revive nationalist fervor against the Serbs. An example of this propaganda is the cover of the October 1991 Sarajevo magazine Novi Vox depicting a Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS officer stepping on the severed head of Bosnian Serb/Republika Sprska leader Radovan Karadžić (Republika Sprska was the Serb-majority republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina).

NATO and the pliant western media overlooked entirely the neo-fascism of the Tuđjman government in Croatia as well. Croatian leader Franjo Tuđjman had himself fought for the partisans during WW2 (though some claim he was undercover Ustaše), but under Tito he was jailed for supporting Croatian nationalism. As a politician, he expressed fervent anti-Semitism (“the establishment of Hitler’s new European order can be justified by the need to be rid of the Jews”) and holocaust denial in his autobiography (claiming only 900,000 Jews, not six million were killed).

Tuđjman expressed affinity for the Independent State of Croatia and its Ustaše terrorist organization which committed genocide against Jews, Gypsys and above all Serbs. His political party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), resurrected the fascist symbols and iconography of the Ustaše era such as the checkered Croatian flag. Many monuments erected honoring the partisans in Croatia were defaced and destroyed. The HDZ generally promotes a whitewashed revisionist history of the Independent State of Croatia and denial of the crimes committed by the Ustaše which were infamously amongst the most cruel and inhumane in all of WW2. The relationship between the Catholic Church under Pope Pius and Nazi Germany is no secret and this manifested significantly in the predominantly Catholic Croatia where the clergy worked intimately with the Ustaše. Many within the clergy hoped the communist-led partisans would be defeated and the Orthodox Christian majority Serbs would be forcibly converted back to Catholicism. It was after Ante Pavelić was given his papal blessing that the Ustaše began their horrific crimes against Roma Gypsys, Jews and especially Serbs.

In the Yugoslav Wars, the Croatian War (1991–1995) resulted when Serbs within Croatia formed a secessionist republic of their own, the Republic of Serbian Krajina, that wished to merge with Republika Sprska (the Serb majority republic within Bosnia-Herzegovina) and the Federal of Republic of Yugoslavia which was jointly formed by Serbia and Montenegro after Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded. Considering the history of Yugoslavia and that more than a third of Croatia is Serbian, their desire for autonomy from a Croatian nationalist regime is understandable. Tuđjman openly spoke of plans for a ‘Greater Croatia’ and Serbs did not have a short memory of their suffering at the hands of intolerant Croatian nationalists during the holocaust. Tuđjman made ethnic cleansing of Serbs an official policy and oversaw the expulsion of more than a quarter of a million Serbs from Krajina with many raped and executed but the media only covered any such crimes when they were done by Serbs.

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, greeting members of the 13th SS Division with a Nazi salute in November 1943.[2] The division included an estimated 1,000 Albanians from Kosovo and the Sandžak who later formed the nucleus of Skanderbeg.
In the later conflict, the Kosovo Liberation Army, also armed and trained by the CIA, was similarly rebranded to serve the anti-Serb storyline. The KLA’s publicly declared aim of an ethnically pure Albanian state through secession from Serbia was also traceable back to the Axis powers in WWII with the Italian fascist occupation of Albania and its annexation of the Kosovo province. The KLA’s stated desire to establish a ‘Greater Albania’ was a resurrection and territorial replica of the Greater Albania promised to the Kosovar Albanians by Mussolini which included part of Greece and Macedonia.

Photo: Tanjug

The same 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handzar in the Independent State of Croatia also included nearly 1,000 Albanians. Its central membership later formed the 21st Waffen division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian). The KLA’s logo of Albania’s traditional double-eagle emblem originates from the version used first in the flag of the Kingdom of Albania (1928–1939) which was a client state of fascist Italy prior to their invasion and was subsequently used by Greater Albania (1939–1943) and every republic since. The KLA separation movement was in its character a Nazi movement and they were followers of an inherently fascist project.

Like the Bosnian Muslims, the vast majority of Kosovar Albanians are Sunni Muslim. The KLA received support from volunteers from Western Europe that were members of radical Sunni groups allied to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. In fact, some members of the KLA were even trained in bin Laden’s camps but the organization was removed as a listed terrorist group despite these ties. The KLA committed many grisly beheadings of Serbs just as the Bosnian Muslims had done. Both may have gotten inspiration for this practice from the Ustaše which had been known for beheadings during WW2. The KLA not only received its funding from foreign backers but from well documented mafia criminal enterprise which included drug smuggling (especially the heroin trade) and even the selling of the organs of Serb victims on the black market.

The Council of Europe published a report in 2016 that detailed accusations of human organ trafficking against the KLA leader and now current President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, who has in years since donated to the Clinton Foundation and a statue honoring Bill Clinton has also since been erected in Kosovo. The brutality of the KLA’s terrorism and ethnic cleansing of Serbs can be seen in the documentary Stolen Kosovo. There were certainly terrible acts committed against Kosovar Albanians by the Serbs, but many more committed by the KLA against them as well as the significant amount of ethnic Albanians who did not support them. Under Tito, Kosovo had been overwhelming popular for ethnic Albanians and many from neighboring Albania under Enver Hoxha crossed the border into Yugoslavia to live there.

The Yugoslav wars had its own refugee crisis but it is well documented that the flow of refugees from Kosovo dramatically increased once the 78 days of NATO militarism struck in 1999. NATO attacked a UN member in Yugoslavia, which had not attacked any of its neighbors, in clear violation of the UN charter and its own declared purpose as a collective and mutual defense alliance when any of its agreed parties came under attack. The bombing itself contributed more to the refugee crisis than its stated ‘justification’ and the three months of brutality during Operation Allied Force in 1999 resulted in more than two thousand civilians killed with thousands more injured at the hands of cluster bombs and B52 missiles. The rest of the population suffered the effects of the depleted uranium from bunker-buster bombs guided by satellite leading to a dramatic increase in cancer, leukemia and birth defects. There were fatal strikes on unintended targets such as a Chinese embassy and another of fleeing Kosovar Albanians which the intervention was supposedly intended to protect from alleged ethnic cleansing by the Serb military. Civilian targets included hospitals, schools, factories, and bridges. NATO even targeted Serbia’s state television station in an airstrike, killing 16 people, which was condemned even by some members of the coalition. All of this can be seen in the documentary Zashto (Why) which focuses on the suffering of the Serbian population.

It was the communist-led Yugoslav partisans who emerged victorious from WW2 under the leadership of Josip Broz (Tito). There had been conflicts between Muslims and Serbs throughout the history of the Balkans going all the way back to the crusades and it was under the Croatian-born Tito and the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia which strictly forbid right-wing nationalism that for nearly forty years all the different ethnic nationalities and communities of Yugoslavia were successfully united (Yugoslav meaning “Southern Slav”) — Slovenians, Croatians, Serbians, Bosnians, Macedonians, Montenegrins as well as ethnic Albanians, Roma Gypsies and other ethnic and national communities. Yugoslavia under Tito was for most of its history a success story with its market socialism in terms of economic growth and standard of living. However, during this time many of the previous nationalists and fascist collaborators that remained received support from abroad. German and US intelligence agencies aided them during the Cold War as Yugoslavia became a strategic buffer between the US and the Soviet Union after Tito’s fallout with Stalin and its ‘non-aligned’ status.

During the Cold War, the likes of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo never underwent full de-Nazification. By the time of Tito’s death and the collapse of the USSR, the doors for empire were opened to encourage nationalist secession in order to break the republic up into eventually seven states. In 1991, the Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill cut off loans, trade and aid to any of the republics that did not declare independence. After Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina seceded, Serbia and Montenegro jointly formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The myth that the Serbs desired a ‘greater Serbia” was parroted by the media, when most of what they wished to preserve was the remains of Yugoslavia that was being torn apart. Serbs during WW2 had been the foremost victims of the holocaust in Yugoslavia and in WW2 fought alongside the Allies. Serbs had ironically even saved Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father Josef Korbel, a Czech diplomat who lived in Belgrade during the holocaust. She decided to repay them with 78 days of bombing resulting in the highest rate of oncological diseases in Europe. The Serbian population rallied around Milošević during the bombing before the U.S. poured money into opposition parties that ousted him the following election. Kosovo, despite declaring its “independence”, has since remained a disputed territory and a neo-colony of the west under NATO military occupation. Following the end of the Cold War, NATO’s uncertain role was redefined with its imperialist utilization in Bosnia and Kosovo and secured further expansion on Russia’s border. Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is allegedly so large it is one of the few man-made structures visible from outer space.

According to scholar Michael Parenti in his crucial book To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, Milošević and the Serbian government was targeted for being the sole nation in the splintering peninsula that refused to comply fully with the IMF and World Bank mass privatization and the full dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia. None of this is to say Milošević is blameless and without fault in contributing to the nationalism that tore apart the republic. Far from a committed socialist, Milošević was a former banker and Serb nationalist who had ushered in IMF led economic “reforms” in 1988. Many view him as a figure who rose to power as an opportunist by championing the plight of the Serbian minority in Kosovo which only fueled nationalist tensions, but any nationalist rhetoric he espoused paled in comparison to the demagoguery of Tuđjman, Izetbegović, or the KLA. It was the IMF loans that began following Tito’s death which imposed austerity measures that worsened unemployment, collapsed the Communist Party and fueled the nationalism in the decade that followed.

Unlike the other ethnic nationalists in the former Yugoslavia, the Serbs did favor a centralized government and wished to preserve much of the state industry and infrastructure of the republic prior to its fragmentation. Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had a market economy but even this was not enough of a concession for the forces of globalization which according to Parenti desired “an absolute capitalist restoration of Eastern Europe after the fall of Berlin Wall.”

Yugoslavia is rich in coal and minerals and its neo-colonization has given access to Caspian oil for the likes of Halliburton and the world’s largest oil companies. An enormously complex conflict was reduced to a cowboys and Indians narrative which made it an easy sell for war to a public with little understanding of the intricacies of a far off country. It can only be possibly understood fully with an exhaustive investigation. For excellent overviews of the entire conflict and its history, I highly recommend the documentaries Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War and The Weight of Chains.

BiH to Investigate Suspected “Serb Paramilitary Group”

AP

Bosnia’s security agencies are investigating a Serbian group that the national government said Tuesday was a paramilitary unit formed to create “a problem” for those opposed to Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik.

Members of “Serbian Honor” caused an uproar when they marched in full combat gear in the Republika Srpska capital, Banja Luka, during a January 9 military parade to mark a national holiday in one the country’s two autonomous regions. Bosnia is split into the Federation, shared by the Bosnian Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, and the Serb-dominated Serb Republic.

“Serbian Honor” is registered in neighboring Serbia but has an informal wing in the Bosnian Serb Republic, whose leaders say they are in the process of registering as a charity there.

“For me this is a paramilitary formation,” Security Minister Dragan Mektic told reporters Tuesday. “The way they showed up is dangerous and their claims to be a charity are ridiculous.”

Dodik’s office said the reports were false and dangerous.

Seselj: Ivanovic’s murder start of West’s new aggressive policy

PHOTO: TANJUG / SRDJAN ILIC

The assassination of Kosovan Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic could be a starting point of a new aggressive Western policy in Serbia, Serbian far-right opposition leader Vojislav Seselj told TASS on Tuesday.

“I think that Ivanovic was deliberately selected as a sacrificial lamb. I think that more pressure on Serbia will follow as a result of Western propaganda, I fear that more attacks on Republika Srpska [a constituent entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina] will also take place,” said Seselj, the founder and president of the far-right Serbian Radical Party.

Seselj said the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic was surrounded by strange circumstances.

“Very strange events involving Oliver Ivanovic took place recently. He was a chairman of a minor pro-Western party and was a pro-Western politician,” said Seselj, whose party holds 8.1% of seats in the Serbian parliament.

According to Seselj, Ivanovic failed to achieve any significant political results, but three years ago “they began to arrest him, bring him to trial, release and then arrest again.”

“For quite a while, he was being kept in prison on suspicion of military crimes, although all Serbs, all Albanians and all foreigners knew that he was involved in no crime whatsoever,” the Serbian politician added. “No one could give a more or less credible reason for his prosecution. Then, his car was set ablaze. And now he is dead.”

“I think that this is the start of the new US initiative in the Balkans, which was announced two months ago. As far as possible motives are concerned, the main goal of it – to make the people of Serbia, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, nervous – has already been achieved

He said another aim for the murder could be to subsequently accuse the Serbian side of it.

“It has already given rise to certain speculations, like ‘maybe, he was killed by Serbs?’ But no one can explain why would they need to do this. The Serbian government, which I oppose and which I seek to topple, has no motive for such actions,” the Serbian opposition leader said.

He also noted that pro-Western Serbian opposition has come with an unnaturally quick and unified reaction to the issue.

“I think that pro-Western propaganda in this direction will follow, because the West has already started making statements of this kind in Belgrade. It is also worthy of note that the pro-Western forces in Belgrade were unnaturally quick in their reaction to the murder, as if they were ready to this situation beforehand,” he said.

Seselj said that the murder could be a part of preparations to launch a new propaganda offensive on Serbia and other countries in the region.

“This is an attack on Serbia because of its stance and its contacts with Russia. We are ‘a small Russia’ on the Balkans, this is our destiny,” Seselj added.

Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of Kosovan Serbs and the head of the ‘Freedom, Democracy, Truth’ party was gunned down on Tuesday morning while entering his party’s office. The wounded politician was found by a neighbor who was returning from a shop. Ivanovic was rushed to a hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica with at least five gunshot wounds in the chest, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Representatives of international missions to Kosovo condemned Ivanovic’s murder and demanded bringing those responsible to justice as soon as possible. Russia said that the situation may bring about the atmosphere of terror and give rise to inter-ethnic conflicts in the region.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has already described Ivanovic’s murder as a terror attack against the entire people of Serbia.

Kosovo may turn to FBI for help, sets up special unit – report

The Security Council of the unrecognized Republic of Kosovo said it may turn to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for help in investigating the murder of a Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, Kosovo’s RTK TV reported on Tuesday.

According to the channel, the Kosovo Security Council described the situation in the unrecognized republic as “calm and stable,” adding that the murder will be investigated thoroughly.

Members of the council also said that if in need of help or expertise, they may turn for help to reputed foreign and international bodies, including the FBI.

Kosovo have also set up a special police unit to investigate the murder of Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, Kosovo police chief Shpend Maxhuni said.

“A special unit was formed for the investigation,” the official was quoted as saying by the Tanjug news agency. “Police will do its best to investigate this crime.”

Earlier, the B92 news portal reported that investigators have sufficient information for establishing the owner of an Opel Astra car, presumably used by attackers. The car, with its license plates missing, was found ablaze several blocks away from the crime scene.

“The car has no license plates, but we were able to get enough information about the background and identity of its owner. I’m not authorized to give further details, but the information that we already have is sufficient for finding the owner,” Maxhuni said.

Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of Kosovan Serbs and the head of the ‘Freedom, Democracy, Truth’ party was gunned down on Tuesday morning while entering his party’s office. The wounded politician was found by a neighbor who was returning from a shop. Ivanovic was rushed to a hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica with at least five gunshot wounds in the chest, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Representatives of international missions to Kosovo condemned Ivanovic’s murder and demanded bringing those responsible to justice as soon as possible. Russia said that the situation may bring about the atmosphere of terror and give rise to inter-ethnic conflicts in the region.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has already described Ivanovic’s murder as a terror attack against the entire people of Serbia.

Serbia rules out dialogue with Kosovo until Ivanovic’s killers found

PHOTO: TANJUG/ ZORAN ZESTIC

The EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels will be suspended until Serbia is satisfied with the result of an investigation into the murder of a Kosovan Serb leader, Oliver Ivanovic, a senior Serbian government official said on Tuesday night.

“The Brussels dialogue will not resume until Serbia’s questions regarding the murder are answered. We receive information every minute. We do not request, we demand that Serbian bodies find the murderers immediately,” said Marko Djuric, the director of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

He said the attackers targeted Serbia and its people, adding that Belgrade will demand participation in the ongoing investigation.

Djuric, who headed the Serbian delegation to the talks in Brussels, halted the technical dialogue with Kosovo shortly after the news about Ivanovic’s murder was made public.

Meanwhile, the head of the Kosovo delegation in Brussels, Avni Arifi, called on Belgrade to return to the negotiation table.

“I call on Belgrade to return to the negotiation process, because there is no alternative to dialogue,” the official was quoted as saying by the Tanjug news agency. “An incident like this should not slow down the negotiation process.”

Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of Kosovan Serbs and the head of the ‘Freedom, Democracy, Truth’ party was gunned down on Tuesday morning while entering his party’s office. The wounded politician was found by a neighbor who was returning from a shop. Ivanovic was rushed to a hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica with at least five gunshot wounds to the chest, but later succumbed to his injuries.

Representatives of international missions to Kosovo condemned Ivanovic’s murder and demanded bringing those responsible to justice as soon as possible. Russia said that the situation may bring about the atmosphere of terror and give rise to inter-ethnic conflicts in the region.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has already described Ivanovic’s murder as a terror attack against the entire people of Serbia.

Russian embassy: Ivanovic’s murder is attempt to intimidate Serbs in Kosovo

The murder of Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic is yet another attempt to intimidate Serbs living in Kosovo, the Russian embassy in Serbia said on Tuesday.

“We are deeply shocked by the tragic death in a terror attack of Oliver Ivanovic, a man he has dedicated his life to the advocacy of the rights of Serbs after NATO’s aggression against Serbia and Kosovo’s and Metohija’s forced separation from it and has been persecuted for that. It is yet another attempt to intimidate the Serb population, to undermine prospects for peace and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict. It is a vivid example of lawfulness and violence are plaguing Kosovo,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its website.

The Russian diplomats offered condolences to Ivanovic’ family and stressed they hope the crime “will be thoroughly investigated under the leading role of international structures in Kosovo and with participation of Serbia’s relevant agencies and the murderers will be duly punished.”

Oliver Ivanovic, 64, the leader of the Kosovo Serb party Freedom, Democracy, Justice, was shot dead on Tuesday when he was entering his party’s headquarters in Kosovska Mitrovica. His fellow party member said no one had heard any sounds of shooting and the wounded politician had been found by a neighbor who was returning from a shop. Police later found a burnt car without an identification number, which the killers had allegedly used.

The politician was taken to a hospital with five gunshot wounds to his chest. The doctors tried to save his life, but to no avail.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has described Ivanovic’s assassination as a terrorist attack on the entire Serbian people. Director of Serbia’s government office for Kosovo Marko Juric said that the Serbian delegation was cutting short its technical dialogue with Pristina in Brussels to return to Belgrade.

International missions in Kosovo have condemned Ivanovic’s murder and demanded the local authorities waste no time to find those responsible and punish them. Russia has pointed to the threat of exacerbation of atmosphere of terror and recurrence of the interethnic conflict in the region.

Lungescu: NATO continues to guarantee “safe and secure environment” in Kosovo

Official portrait of NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu

The NATO-led KFOR mission will continue to guarantee a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo following the murder of one of the Kosovo Serb leaders Oliver Ivanovic, NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu told TASS.

When asked if NATO planned to strengthen the KFOR mission, she said that “KFOR continues to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo, under the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244.”

“NATO condemns the murder of Oliver Ivanovic. We urge all parties to exercise restraint to defuse tensions, and allow the judicial authorities to carry out a full investigation,” Lungescu added.

According to her, “NATO fully supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and calls for this dialogue to continue as soon as possible. This is critical for regional peace and security.”

Kosovo: €10,000 reward for information about Oliver Ivanovic’s murder

Kosovo police have offered a €10,000 reward for information that sheds light on the murder of Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, which took place in Kosovska Mitrovica, as the police said in a statement.

Besides, Kosovo police also published phone numbers and an e-mail address that may be used for providing information about the crime. The police promised to protect the privacy and security of all those willing to assist the investigation.

The statement also says that investigators are assessing the circumstances of the murder.

Serbia urges EU, UN to let Belgrade join probe into Oliver Ivanovic’s murder

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has called on the missions of the EU and UN in Kosovo to let Serbian state agencies to join the investigation into the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of Freedom, Democracy and Truth party in northern Kosovo and Metohija.

Vucic made this intention clear on Tuesday in an address to the nation after a meeting with the country’s Security Council.

“The Security Council decided at the meeting to send letters to UNMIK and EULEX where we will demand a role for Serbia’s state agencies in investigating Ivanovic’s murder in Kosovo and Metohija because we are confident that our participation in the investigation will lead to solving the crime,” he stated.

The UN, EU and OSCE missions in Kosovo have resolutely condemned Ivanovic’s assassination and demanded an investigation into the crime as soon as possible.

Ivanovic, one of the leaders of Kosovo Serbs was gunned down on Tuesday morning when he was entering the entrance to a building where his party is located. Police said later no one had heard the shots, but Ivanovic’s neighbor who was returning home after shopping found the wounded politician.

Somewhat later, the police found a burned car without a license plate several neighborhoods away from the scene of the crime. They believe it had to have been used by the killers.

Ivanovic was rushed to a hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica with five gunshot wounds in the upper region of his chest. Doctors there did everything they could to rescue him but to no avail.

Vucic convened an emergency meeting of Serbia’s Security Council in the wake of the assassination, and the head of the government office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric said the Serb delegation was suspending technical dialogue with the Kosovo authorities in Brussels and returning to Belgrade.

Oliver Ivanovic feared for his safety days before getting killed

Civic Initiative (GI) SDP leader Oliver Ivanovic, who was shot dead on Tuesday morning, four days earlier told a news agency that he feared an assassination.

Ivanovic spoke for Srna on January 12, to say that the security situation in northern Kosovska Mitrovica was “very poor.”

“I’m afraid that in this unstable situation an innocent person could come to harm, and I must admit I also fear for my own safety,” he told a Srna correspondent, who traveled to Kosovo along with Milorad Arlov, the chair of a Banja Luka-based committee set up to provide assistance to Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

Ivanovic said at the time that his plans to form a political party would “likely bother some individuals,” and added that he on several occasions recently warned both domestic and international officials about the worrying situation in northern Kosovo, especially in northern Kosovska Mitrovica.

“I hope that those responsible will understand our warnings,” he said.

Ivanovic’s wife, Milena Ivanovic, said at the time that she was worried for her husband’s safety. “They’ve done everything to us, the only thing left is to kill us one by one,” she said.

In his last interview for the Belgrade-based weekly Vreme – published in September 2017 – Ivanovic stated that the situation in Kosovo since his arrest changed for the worst, and that there was “an incredible feeling of being under threat and fear among the people.”

“Of the hundred people I spoke with during the first few weeks of freedom, there is not one who in the first few sentences did not raise the issue of security. Let’s understand each other immediately: these people are not afraid of Albanians but of Serbs, of local thugs and criminals riding driving Jeeps without number plates. Drugs are being sold on every corner, every parent fear because of it. It was the same before, but not so much, and these people did not behave as arrogantly as they do now. The police are watching without reacting, so the citizens feel unprotected although in the north it’s all our people in the police, Serbs,” he said, adding:

“Some of them are experienced policemen who previously worked for the Serbian Ministry of Interior, but they are not doing anything, either. In the past few years in Mitrovica, we had over fifty cases of torched cars, throwing of hand grenades and two unexplained killings. All this is happening in q territory of two and a half square kilometers, which is completely covered by security cameras. It is obvious that the police are afraid not to offend the perpetrators, or the perpetrators have links to security structures. Some say that the police are simply incompetent, but it is difficult for me to I believe that. I mean, they are incompetent, but not exactly that much.”

B92

Syrian rebels urge US to turn words into action and resume military aid

The Free Syrian Army is seeking the resumption of a suspended CIA military aid program, urging Donald Trump to “turn words into action” and confront what it claims is Iran’s expanding “hegemony” in the region, Reuters reports.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), an alliance of anti-government insurgent groupings, is trying to persuade the US to revive the defunct CIA program which provided cash, weapons and instructors to “moderate” rebels, a high-ranking rebel official told the news agency.

Mustafa Sejari, a senior FSA official, said President Trump’s decision to suspend the CIA program is only benefiting Iran’s efforts to tighten its grip on the region.

Syrian rebels “endorse President Trump’s statements about the need to confront Iranian hegemony in the region,” but now “it is time to turn words into action,” Sejari said. He claimed that Iranian-backed militias “are expanding without serious resistance.”

The FSA, whose fighters have allegedly been complicit in war crimes and shown an inclination to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) ideology in the past, “asked for the resumption of aid” and “explained the dangers of leaving moderate FSA forces without support.”

Last July, the Trump administration reportedly ended the clandestine CIA program launched back in 2013 during Barack Obama’s presidency. The program, codenamed Timber Sycamore, had served as the backbone of Washington’s strategy to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, but proved a comprehensive failure.

Besides the CIA program, other US train-and-equip strategies to bolster rebel groups in Syria have also been notoriously underwhelming. In 2015, General Lloyd Austin, CENTCOM commander at the time, told Congress that only four or five US-trained fighters had gone to Syria out of the 5,000 the Pentagon had been counting on.

Earlier that year, then Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that less than 1 percent of the 7,000-strong volunteer group had made it through the US military’s vetting process.

“As of July 3, [2015] we are currently training about 60 fighters,” Carter said. “I can look out at your faces and you have the same reaction I do, which is that that’s an awfully small number.”

Moscow has consistently warned against arming the so-called moderate rebel factions in Syria, pointing out that weapons supplied to them often fall into the hands of jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) and IS.

Rights groups allege that some rebel factions might have committed war crimes against civilians. In May 2016, Amnesty International said armed groups surrounding the Sheikh Maqsoud district near Aleppo “have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that have struck civilian homes, streets, markets and mosques, killing and injuring civilians and displaying a shameful disregard for human life.”

RT

Erdogan demands NATO take stand on US-backed Syrian Border Force

Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Ankara expects NATO to take an official stance on the creation of a ‘terrorist army’ along the Turkish border in Syria, President Erdogan said. He was referring to the planned 30,000-strong US-backed mostly Kurdish force.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US-led defense block, of which Turkey has been a part for decades, must clarify its stance on the planned Afrin-based border force as envisioned by Washington. The force would be created from the Kurd-dominated YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization and an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

“I would like to call upon NATO,” Erdogan told on Tuesday members of the ruling party in the Turkish parliament. “You have to take actions against the ones who threaten the border security of your Allies.”

General Hulusi Akar, who is in the Belgian capital to meet NATO top brass, earlier said Ankara will not allow the YPG to receive support from other members of the organization.

“We cannot and will not allow support and arming of the YPG terrorist group under the name of an operational partner. We hope this mistake will be corrected in the shortest time,” the general said as cited by the state-run Anadolu agency.

While Ankara was the most vocal critic of the border force plan, other nations involved in the Syrian conflict expressed their negative attitude to it as well. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the plan indicated that the US was planning to partition Syria.

“In fact, that means separation of a huge territory along the border with Turkey and Iraq,” Lavrov said on Monday. “The actions we currently see indicate that the United States does not want to keep the territorial integrity of Syria.”

Criticism of the plan also came from Iran, with the Foreign Ministry warning that it may incite more violence.

“The US announcement of a new border force in Syria is an obvious interference in the internal affairs of this country,” ministerial spokesman Bahram Qasemi was cited as saying on Tuesday by state news agency IRNA. The official said the US must withdraw its troops from Syria.

The Pentagon currently has an estimated 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria. The American soldiers were involved in the YPG operation to capture the city of Raqqa from the jihadist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) last year. Despite the defeat of the Islamists, the US said it had no intention to withdraw the troops, which were deployed without an invitation from Damascus or mandate from the UN Security Council.

The US claims the military presence in Syria is needed to ensure a political transition in the country, but Moscow says it almost amounts to an illegal occupation of part of a sovereign nation. There are suspicions in the Russian government that the US anti-IS campaign was simply used to establish a military foothold in Syria with regime change as an end-game for Washington.

RT

Dacic: Ivanovic murder threatens region’s stability

PHOTO: TANJUG / MINISTARSTVO SPOLJNIH POSLOVA

The murder of Oliver Ivanovic is a mindless terrorist act that endangers the stability not only of the north of Kosovo, but also the region.

Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said this on Tuesday in Podgorica, where the news of the assassination of the Serb politician reached him.

Montenegro’s Mina agency said this in a report carried by Tanjug.

“We demand that the police react and arrest the perpetrators and those who ordered this abominable act. The most important thing is to preserve peace and stability in the north of Kosovo,” Dacic told a press conference.

In Belgrade, President Aleksandar Vucic said the murder was a terrorist act, and that Serbia’s state organs want to investigate it in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.

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Vucic: Veseli should forget about reaching Nis with an army

PHOTO: TANJUG / ZORAN ZESTIC

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday described the murder of Oliver Ivanovic as an act of terrorism.

And Serbia will treat that act accordingly, Vucic told reporters in Belgrade after an extraordinary session of the Council for National Security, convened in the wake of the killing of the Serb politician in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo.

The president also offered condolences to Ivanovic’s family, on his own behalf and that of the state and the government.

“This is a terrorist act as far as the state of Serbia is concerned, and our stance toward that act will be in line with that,” Vucic said.

“The perpetrators of this act will be caught, and if they don’t do it – we will,” added Vucic.
He said that the Council decided to send a letter to EU and UN missions in Kosovo, EULEX and UNMIK, with the request for the state organs of the Republic of Serbia to participate in the investigation in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.

“Because we are convinced that would also mean discovering the truth about the murder of Oliver Ivanovic. We’ll find the killer or the killers. I am not authorized at the moment to speak about what we have learned. I will not speculate, but there are interesting details that point to the possible perpetrators,” Vucic said.

“A man who was a parent, a husband, has been killed and who certainly wasn’t someone who called for a conflict between Serbs and Albanians,” the president continued, speaking about Ivanovic. “Whoever carried it out – a Serb, an Albanian, a foreigner, carried out an attack on the Ivanovic family, on the Serbs in Kosovo, in the north of Kosovo, on the Serbs as a whole.”

“The person who killed him is not a Serb, even if they had a Serb name, because they did everything against Serbia,” Vucic said, and added that the car believed to have been used by the killers was left near the neighborhood of Brdjani on purpose, “in order to say that the killers went one way or another.”

If the question were asked about whom the murder of Serbs suits, “it will be clear to everyone,” Vucic continued, and added that he did not wish to address speculations, but that the killers “left certain traces.”

A Serbian delegation that was in Brussels for a new round of technical negotiations with Pristina left the talks after the news of Ivanovic’s killing reached them.

Vucic said this was done because it was pointless to talk while there are daily threats, and told Kosovo Assembly President Kadri Veseli, whom he referred to as “the master in Kosovo,” that he would not succeed in reaching the town of Nis, as he has threatened to do.

“We understood these threats, we understood them well, as well as the silence of those who should have reacted the same second,” Vucic said.

The president said Veseli should “forget about reaching Nis with an army” – but was welcome to visit the town as a tourist.

Tanjug reported earlier in the day that Vucic spoke about the murder of Oliver Ivanovic on the phone with EU foreign policy and security chief Federica Mogherini.

“I want to point out to this fact – one country participating in KFOR has the idea to stop the simultaneous control of the administrative line (between Kosovo and central Serbia). I also have official evidence that they are increasingly frequently taking Kosovo forces along for controls,” Vucic said.

This is a warning, continued the president, against trying to, besides causing tensions, use that to introduce the Kosovo Security Forces, that is, the army of Kosovo, and finally grab the Serb property in northern Kosovo.

“They should know that we read well what they are doing. According to them, it is enough to find a certain percentage of Serbs who would work in the Kosovo Security Forces… that’s why they go around blackmailing, coercing…,” said Vucic.

According to him, some Albanian media in Kosovo are saying the same thing as some (opposition) Serbian politicians – that Serbia is behind Ivanovic’s murder, with the goal of taking control of northern Kosovo. But the president said the true intention of those saying that is “for the Albanian boot to come to the north, and that is the only meaning behind what they are doing, and it is all they want.”

“Those who say they care about Ivanovic – they care terribly. They were prosecuting him horribly, like the worst criminal, for four years… once all this is over ask his family how much they helped him. To all those who say that this government is killing its political opponents, I can only say, you miserable people,” Vucic said.

Kosovo, he said, is governed by Albanians and foreigners, and now they should say who the killer is. “If you won’t, then we will,” he said.

“Then we’ll wonder how come they didn’t find the killer, yet we did. Who was hiding whom, and who was protecting whom,” concluded Vucic.

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Serbian delegation leaves Brussels after Kosovo terror act

Marko Djuric said on Tuesday morning that the Belgrade delegation had left technical talks with Pristina in Brussels and was returning to the country.

The head of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija explained that the reason was the murder earlier in the day of Oliver Ivanovic.

“This is a criminal and terrorist act that must be and will be punished,” Djuric told reporters in Brussels.

Ivanovic, the leader of the GI SDP party, was shot four times in the chest in front of his office in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, and later succumbed to his injuries.

Because of the murder, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic scheduled an extraordinary meeting of the Council for National Security for Tuesday at noon.

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Kosovo Assembly speaker threatens Serbia “not to come back”

AFP 2016 / ARMEND NIMANI

Kosovo Assembly President Kadri Veseli on Monday spoke at a gathering to honor the victims of “the Racak massacre,” the website KoSSev has reported.

According to the report, citing the daily Lajmi, Veseli said that there can be “no international justice without justice for Racak,” and that “the Racak massacre is a disgrace of international justice.”

“January is a month of great pains, and the village of Racak suffered for Kosovo’s freedom. Years go by, but the memory and the greatness of that day will never be forgotten. The battle for justice for Racak is not over,” he said, according to the website.

Referring to Nis, a town in the southern part of central Serbia, Veseli said:

“Serbia should not try to come back, because we will not stop until Nis. This country will remain free, independent, and sovereign. Any kind of endangering will receive a deserved response from all Albanians wherever they live.”

The Racak operation was used to launch NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia. President Aleksandar Vucic last year described the “Racak case” as “a fabrication used as the reason to start a big conflict.”

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Kosovo: Oliver Ivanovic shot dead

Photo: Novosti

The leder of the GI SDP party, Oliver Ivanovic, died of his injuries on Tuesday, after he was shot in front of his office in Kosovska Mitrovica.

His lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic confirmed this for the website KoSSev.

According to the doctors, the Serb politician was shot five times in the chest before he was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

“Apparently, he died on the spot. We know now that he received five gunshot wounds. He was immediately sent to hospital and doctors tried to save him, but this was to no avail,” his lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic said.

The police found three shell casings in front of the office, Ksenija Bozovic, an official of the SDP party, told RSE.

A prosecutor said later in the day that the killer fired at Ivanovic, a former Serbian government official, from a moving car.

Kosovo police official Zeljko Bojic said the police suspect that the car in question was an Opel Astra that was found burned down in a nearby street.

Ivanovic’s killing has been condemned by the Kosovo government and the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX. And although his government issued a statement, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj did not address the incident as he spoke during an event in a school in the town of Djakovica.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, on the other hand, strongly condemned the murder and urged security forces to “shed light on the circumstances in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

In the wake of the murder, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called an extraordinary meeting of the Council for National Security.

Marko Duric, who heads the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, said the Serb delegation was suspending its technical dialogue with Pristina in Brussels and returning to Belgrade.

The Kosovo police were out in force and keeping the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica under blockade as they were looking for the shooter.

In July, Ivanovic’s private car was torched in Kosovska Mitrovica, while four members of his party left during an election campaign because of “intimidation.”

In 2005, an explosive device was attached under Ivanovic’s official car.

“The murder of Oliver Ivanovic is an act of terror aimed at destabilizing the situation in Kosovo and Metohijan and an attack over all Serbian people. We are terminating the negotiations and immediately returning to Belgrade due to the murder of Oliver Ivanovic,” the agency cited Djuric’s statement made in Brussels.

Oliver Ivanovic is one of the Kosovo Serb leaders and former State Secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija in the Serbian government. In January 2014, Ivanovic and four more Serbs were imprisoned on charges of military crimes against the Albanian civil population in Kosovo and Metohija committed in 1999 and 2000. In August 2015 Ivanovic went on a hunger strike and was transferred from prison to hospital due to deterioration of health. Still, on January 21, 2016, Oliver Ivanovic was sentenced to a nine-year imprisonment for military crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

In February 2017, the sentence made by the court of first instance was overturned and a new trial started. Ivanovic has been under house arrest since then. In April 2017 he was allowed to protect himself in court while staying at liberty.

 

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FYROM Parliament Ratifies Friendship Pact With Bulgaria

MIA

The FYROM (Macedonian) parliament has ratified a friendship treaty with neighboring Bulgaria aimed at ending years of feuding and boosting Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union.

Sixty-one lawmakers in the 120-member parliament backed the pact on January 15, with the main opposition party boycotting the session.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE party opposed the ratification, saying the pact contained “serious faults” and failed to recognize the existence of a Macedonian ethnic minority in Bulgaria.

Lawmakers in Bulgaria, already a NATO and EU member, had already ratified the pact, which was signed in August.

The treaty recognizes both countries’ territorial integrity and calls for an “objective” reexamination of the common history of Bulgaria and Macedonia, a process that could lead to a review of school textbooks.

Under the accord, Bulgaria, a NATO and EU member, pledges to support Macedonia’s efforts to join both blocs.

Macedonia’s rocky relations with its bigger eastern neighbor have hampered its efforts to join NATO and the EU, although the two countries share close religious, historic, and linguistic ties.

Bulgaria still does not recognize the Macedonian language, which it views as a dialect of Bulgarian.

Both Skopje and Sofia hope the new treaty will help them set aside such differences.

The two countries said they would also improve economic ties, renounce territorial claims, and improve human and minority rights.

The friendship treaty is a “joint contribution to political stabilization between the two countries and in the region,” Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in Skopje after co-signing the pact with visiting Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov.

“For the first time, without mediators or somebody telling us what to do, the two states came to a solution,” Borisov said. The treaty “shows the EU that the turbulent Balkans, which have passed through a lot of troubles, can solve problems by agreements without mediators,” he said.

“If you look back, you will stumble and fall,” Borisov said. “So we decided to look ahead. I am convinced that in 10 years the results will be visible.”

EU officials warmly greeted the agreement, which they described as “an inspiration for the whole region.”

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