Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Col. Vlatko Vukovic, the commander of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the 549th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army, resumed his testimony at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on Thursday.

The witness exhibited several documents including his unit’s logbook, daily reports, combat reports, and his unit’s war diary. These documents are contemporaneous, and show what orders the unit was given, and what the unit did from hour to hour during the entire duration of the Kosovo war.

The documents show that the unit followed the orders it was given and that did not engage in any of the crimes alleged against it in the indictment.

Several interesting facts were revealed by the documents presented by Col. Vukovic. The documents exposed the fact that NATO abused the Kosovo Verification Mission in order to carryout espionage in Kosovo prior to the war. Several KVM verifiers were caught drawing maps and plotting the coordinates of what would later become NATO bombing targets. A number of verifiers were also caught trying to illegally enter the border-belt with Albania.

Col. Vukovic’s combat reports spoke of close cooperation between the KLA and NATO. On several occasions KLA terrorists were transported into the battlefield by NATO helicopters. It also emerged that the KLA had an active role in NATO’s target selection. The KLA had special reflecting beacons that they placed near whatever they wanted to have bombed, these special beacons enabled NATO warplanes to zero in on ground targets.

KLA radio communications intercepted by the Yugoslav Army also revealed that NATO instructors were training as many as 10,000 KLA terrorists at camps in Albania and Turkey.

The combat reports revealed the cowardly battle tactics of the KLA. For example, in the village of Donji Retimlje, near Prizren, the KLA used the local mosque as a firing position and an arms depot. Once the KLA had been defeated, VJ troops entered and found ammunition hidden in the mosque’s minaret.

According to the documents, the KLA used civilian houses as firing positions. They would break holes in the walls, fortify the wall with sand bags, and then fire at the army from inside the house.

In addition to using civilian homes and places of worship as firing positions, the KLA’s members would often remove their uniforms and intermingle themselves among real civilians. On April 27, 1999, near the village of Meja, terrorists opened fire on the army from a group of civilians that included women and children. Following that incident an anti-terrorist operation was carried out against the KLA in Meja.

The prosecution claims that the people killed in Meja were innocent civilians, but the defense contends that they were terrorists engaged in armed combat against the army. The contemporaneous documents presented by Col. Vukovic on Thursday strongly refute the prosecution’s version of events.

As it turns out, NATO and the KLA were not the only forces attacking Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999. Col. Vukovic’s combat reports revealed that the Army of Albania was involved too. On two occasions Albanian soldiers made incursions into Yugoslav territory, and on several occasions the Albanian Army fired into Yugoslavia from the territory of Albania.

Col. Vukovic’s journal contains information about what caused the refugees to leave Kosovo. On March 30 1999 he wrote, “There is nothing sadder than watch poor people leaving their homes on somebody’s orders.”

Under questioning from Milosevic, the witness explained that the KLA was ordering refugees to leave Kosovo. He learned this information from conversations that he had with the refugees themselves.

He said that he tried to convince the refugees to go back home, but they were usually too afraid of the NATO bombing and the KLA to go back. Col. Vukovic said that his men did their best to help the refugees. He denied that they ever forced people to leave Kosovo. The only time people were advised to leave their homes was when combat was taking place and there was a fear that civilians could be caught in the crossfire.

Taking into account his conversations with the refugees, and his knowledge of the targets that NATO bombed, Col. Vukovic drew the conclusion that NATO and the KLA were intentionally creating a humanitarian disaster aimed at emptying Kosovo of its population.

To corroborate his thesis, Col. Vukovic recalled incidents where NATO bombed a refugee convoys as they were attempting to return to their homes during the war. The most notorious example of this was the killing of nearly 50 refugees on the Djakovica-Prizren road on April 14, 1999 when NATO bombed them as they were returning to their homes in the village of Korisa.

Col. Vukovic will continue his testimony when the trial resumes on Monday.

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