Serbia marks anniversary of NATO air campaign

Wikipedia/Darko Dozet

Serbia marks the anniversary of the start of the 1999 NATO air campaign against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), leading up to the withdrawal of all Serbian and Yugoslav police and military forces from Kosovo almost three months later.

The central commemoration – Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the NATO Aggression – is scheduled to take place in the city of Sombor in the presence of top state officials, military police and religious community representatives with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porfirije leading a memorial service.

Serbian government and Belgrade city officials laid wreaths at a monument in a central Belgrade park to the children who died in the NATO air campaign. Wreaths were also laid by senior police officers and the Russian Ambassador Alexander Bocan Harchenko.

Aircraft from the NATO forces of 19 countries dropped the first bombs on targets in the Pristina area just before 8 pm on March 24, 1999.

The precise number of civilians, military and police killed in the air raids were not released and estimates range from 1,500 to several thousand. The extent of material damage has not been assessed but official estimates are that it went up to 100 billion Dollars.

The Serbian people will never set aside their grief, but I believe they are strong enough to set aside their grievances.,” US Ambassador Christopher Hill said.

The air campaign ended with the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement withe final air raid on June 10, 1999 in the Kosovska Kamenica area. The air campaign targeted military facilities and units as well as civilian facilities such as hospitals, factories, bridges, railways, TV and radio transmitters and energy infrastructure, including the Serbian state TV headquarters in central Belgrade.

The decision to launch the air campaign was taken without the approval of the UN Security Council and the order to start was given to Supreme Allied Commander Europe US General Wesley Clark. The decision was taken after the Rambouillet Talks broke down.