SAT, 13 NOV 1999 15:13:07 GMT

Background of the attempt on Trajkovic's life in Kosovo

SERBS BETWEEN THREE FIRES

An attempt on the life of Momcilo Trajkovic, President of the Executive
Board of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, has shown
that tolerance and reason cannot exist on the soil where peace is more
uncertain than war


AIM, PODGORICA, November 6, 1999
(From AIM correspondent from Belgrade)

In his last report Jirzy Dinstbir, the UN human rights rapporteur,
confirmed all that Belgrade has been only guessing. He said that the
most frequent graffito on houses all over Kosovo was "Death to Serbs"
and that "the ethnic cleansing of Albanians was replaced by ethnic
cleansing of Serbs, but this time in the presence of the UN and NATO.
The Kosovo Liberation Army has proclaimed its government, appointed
mayors and continued implementing ethnic cleansing in employment policy
and supporting the confiscation of property of the non-Albanian
population, and even of some Albanians...

Judging by the daily terror and reports on the number of killed and
abducted, as well as more and more frequent warnings of the UN officials
and humanitarian organisations, the destiny of some hundred thousand
remaining Serbs in Kosovo and other non-Albanians, could be most
accurately compared with the position of chased game: if they managed to
avoid being killed, injured or caught today that, in no way, means that
they will live to see and survive the next day.

In Kosovo, which has become a hell for all minority people and
insufficiently zealous Albanians, and all that in the presence of the UN
forces, news about somebody having died, being abducted, beaten or
having his house burned down are so frequent that people have grown
accustomed to them.

There is nothing easier, and according to some even natural, but to die
or disappear in Kosovo! Nevertheless, the news about the attempt on
Momcilo Trajkovic's life has disturbed, albeit for a short while, the
indifference with which bad news coming from the south of Serbia are
received. It seems, that more than Albanians themselves, the Belgrade
regime was disappointed by the poor results of the assassins who have on
the last day of October attempted to kill Trajkovic for the fourth time.
Had the hit men been better in taking aim, although subtlety and
reverence are not their strong point, it is possible that the
authorities would have not taken advantage of that opportunity to show
how much unforgiving and unforgetful they are when it comes to people
who have dared willingly part company with Milosevic and the Socialist
Party of Serbia.

And Momcilo Trajkovic, at the time of his resignation even the man of
President's trust and "Governor" for Kosovo, had committed precisely
that sin - he had abandoned "the party and comrades" - which was
something the communists could never forgive. Besides, he renewed the
Serbian Resistance Movement which, in contrast to the first one -
established with a view to opposing the Albanian secession, majorization
and tyranny over Serbs and to supporting the Serbian leader on the rise
- was set up with the objective of fighting the Serbian regime precisely
at the time it claimed all credit for resolving the "Kosovo problem".
That was something the authorities here could never forgive Trajkovic,
same as they never forgot that it was Trajkovic who accused Slobodan
Milosevic that the "so called Kosovo Liberation Army got armed to its
teeth under his rule" and that he held Milosevic personally responsible
for gambling with the last chance for reaching the solution in a
peaceful, democratic way. The Serbian authorities also could not
disregard dimlomatic success Trajkovic and Bishop Artemije scored all
over Europe and America. All doors that remained closed to the official
Yugoslav diplomacy have opened before the two Kosovo Serbs.

Proportionate to the growth to the cordiality with which they were
welcomed in the world grew the denial of their authenticity at home.
These are just some reasons for which the attempt at Trajkovic's life
was used as a pretext for such effusion of wrath and accusations against
the renegade which the Belgrade regime thought would be enough to bury
even the very truth of the assassination attempt!

A day after the assassination attempt two versions of that event were
revealed. According to one, given in the independent media, the
Albanians have tried to kill the President of the Serbian Resistance
Movement and President of the Executive Board of the recently
established Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija. According
to the other, presented in the state media (the "Politika" and the
Radio-Television of Serbia), "Thaci's good friend" made a publicity
trick so as to impose himself as "the authentic representative of Serbs
in Kosovo". This version was formulated by one Bozidar Mitrovic, (and
broadcast by RTS), member of the Gnjilane SPS Executive Board and
President of the commune in that place until five months ago when, like
most of his party comrades, he fled Kosovo running head over heels.

Two days after the attempt on Trajkovic's life a columnist of the daily
"Struggle" (Borba), whom even those getting it free of charge do not
like to read and which has readership of less than 1,000, took a step
further. The integral text of his column was read on the RTS prime time
News.

Among other things, he called Trajkovic a "quisling", a man who got rich
from the misfortune of his compatriots in Kosovo (he has a booth in
Pristina!), naturally a traitor, the KLA collaborator, Thaci's friend.
The "Borba" accused Trajkovic for staging his own assassination attempt
and for betraying the Serbs in Kosovo by cooperating with the United
Nations and Albanian representatives. Calling his a "constant juggler"
and "trader in Serbian interests" in Kosovo, the paper concluded that
"together with his spiritual father Artemije, Trajkovic has been caught
in a camouflaged treason".

Momcilo Trajkovic, with a bullet still in his right thigh and leaning on
crutches, replied briefly to all this: "This shows the relation of the
regime towards victims in Kosovo. By attacking us who have stayed
behind, the regime wants to provide legitimacy for its officials who
have run away from Kosovo, betrayed the people and know nothing of
sufferings. I am ashamed that there are men among the Serbs without any
brains..."

This is how Trajkovic described the attempt on his life: "A day earlier
(October 30), someone broke into my flat. Since they only pulled the
phone-fax machine from the wall and took a fountain pen and a good
flashlight from my desk, I concluded that they were actually looking for
me. It also crossed my mind that they were probably well organized
professionals who would not give up their intention to finally kill me.
On the day of the assassination attempt they demolished my car. Barely
an hour before the attempt I spent half an hour with two Russians from
the UNMIK (from 9 - 9,30 p.m.). Before going to bed, as I was standing
by the window I noticed two KFOR officers entering my building. That
tricked me into opening the front door when I heard the bell at 10,45
p.m. I looked through peephole the and saw the light coming from the
apartment opposite mine which some Albanians have recently bought from
my Serbian neighbours..."

Only when he opened the door did Trajkovic hear his attackers speaking
Albanian. They were yelling while firing. He said they they aimed at his
chest. Thanks to the thick door glass the bullet changed direction and
hit him in the thigh. Trajkovic admitted that he fell and loudly
shrieked with pain. Thinking that they have killed him they ran away,
while he managed to lock the door, drag himself back into the room, take
his gun and call KFOR. Soldiers came in five minutes, examined his leg
and took him by ambulance car to the Russian hospital. Trajkovic's
"publicity trick" before TV cameras happened a day later when the news
about the attempt on his life was already known and TV reporters filmed
his arrival to the hospital. Incidentally, Momcilo Trajkovic was not
under KFOR's protection from that September day when he left the Kosovo
Transitional Council. He was told that there was no longer any reason
why he should be protected and that it was not their duty to protect
"flats". The trick Trajkovic really used - keeping on the light in all
rooms even when he was away, and sleeping in the dark with living room
lights on - did not help.

Before the start of these troubled times in Kosovo, some ten thousand
Serbs lived in the Pristina suburb of Dardanija, where family Trajkovic
has a flat. Now there is barely a hundred left. Thirty Serbian families
lived in Trajkovic's building. Only two are left - both incomplete and
terribly lonely. Trajkovic's wife, two daughters, a son and
daughter-in-law and grandchild no longer live there. They are all over
Kosovo and all of them are ready to stay on what is theirs. Before the
war, there were some 50 thousand Serbs in Pristina. According to the
latest reports of Dane Everts, Chief of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo,
there are now some 400 to 500 Serbs. This is what Everts said about
them: "They live in isolation, in house detention, their movement is
restricted and they depend on humanitarian aid".

He also added that "the international community has intervened in order
to protect human rights and not to pave the way for a new wave of ethnic
cleansing". Stating that the Serbian communities in Obilic, Lipljane and
Urosevac were growing smaller by the day, that some two to three
thousand Serbs from Orahovac were living in a ghetto and that the
situation in Kosovska Mitrovica was getting more complicated, Everts
stated that it was "no longer enough to condemn ethnic cleansing, but
that it is necessary to take action". For the time being there has been
no action which the Chief of OSCE Mission had in mind. Kouchner and
Reinhardt, as well as Wollebeck and Serbian opposition leaders all
condemned the attempt made on Trajkovic's life. However, that only
harmed rather than helped Trajkovic.

This will not make the life of Trajkovic nor of any other victim of
violence in Kosovo any safer. Fighters against extremism have failed in
places where that extremism is fashionable, and no matter how much KFOR
boasted of the success of its mission, that fashion is still "in" in
Kosovo. In that respect, instructive is the example of Veton Suroi and
Skeljzen Malici, who accused their compatriots of fascism because of the
violence against the Serbs and thereby exposed themselves to a great
risk of being at the aim of every trigger-happy nervous Albanian.

Reason and tolerance are common to Trajkovic and the two mentioned
Albanians. But neither their authorities or Trajkovic's consider them
the authentic representative of their ethnic groups. Asked who could be
considered authentic representatives of the Serbs today when
representatives of the authorities have been the first to leave the
scene, Trajkovic replied that that could be only those who stayed behind
and are living together with the remaining Serbs in Kosovo. In regime's
opinion, authentic representatives will be only those it can control. It
will label all others as self-proclaimed representatives and their
enemies.

"The Serbian National Council, Bishop Artemije, Marko Jaksic, Vuko
Antonijevic, Randel Nojkic, I and several other Serbs represent an
alternative, and the authorities cannot stand any alternative. We are
both potentially and actually dangerous witnesses of mistaken policy and
huge responsibility of the Serbian regime for victims that have fell in
Kosovo and Metohija. Slobodan Milosevic's regime is behaving as any
other political vampire: it thrives on victims and blood of the Serbian
people", said Trajkovic, according to whose opinion the international
community is trying to create a new kind of Serbs in Kosovo.

According to Trajkovic, the example of Kosovska Mitrovica, where a man
from the Yugoslav Left has taken the lead, only confirms that Kouchner
and Milosevic have the same secret task of "making a new kind of Serbs".
It would suit both of them to push to the background Bishop Artemije and
Momcilo Trajkovic as authentic Serbian representatives with whom the
international community can cooperate and negotiate.

According to official calculations of the Belgrade regime, since the
establishment of peace in Kosovo, i.e. the arrival of KFOR, at least
four hundred Serbs were killed and one thousand abducted. On the other
hand, the Kosovo Serbs claim that in this case, as in many other, the
Belgrade regime is cheating: it did not count all the victims since a
greater number of dead and missing Serbs could undermine their story
like one of the officially opened pontoon bridges, about "glorious
victory" and "just peace" which the Belgrade authorities have
constructed for domestic use and which is permeating all the state media
like thick autumn fog. The Belgrade weekly "Today" (Danas) recently
published that in the last five months at least one thousand Serbs were
killed and about two thousand abducted in Kosovo. The Kosovo Serbs think
that in this case too the number of victims was underestimated.

To be a Serb in Kosovo today is to agree to life between three fires.
The fist fire symbolizes physical absence of one's own state and even
more the way in which its almost invisible officials, which the world
refuses to recognize, undermine every Serb who thinks that multi-ethnic
Kosovo is possible, even with cantons, and the talk with the
representative of the Albanians and the international community
inevitable. The second fire is the violence with which the extremist
Albanians are endeavouring to establish their own state on common ground
and the third fire is the presence of international forces which have
allegedly come to enforce peace, but have only allowed the
implementation of ethnic cleansing under their watchful eye.

Each of these three fires Momcilo Trajkovic, who was not ready to leave
Kosovo even when all the Serbs were on the run, as well as now after the
last attempt on his life, has felt it on his own skin.

Biserka Matic