IND: Kostunica purges Yugoslav army of Milosevic loyalists
- THE INDEPENDENT (London)
1 January 2001
Kostunica purges Yugoslav army of Milosevic loyalistsBy Vesna Peric Zimonjic
The Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica, has purged the army of Slobodan Milosevic's loyalists with the sudden retirement of 14 generals, including Dragoljub Ojdanic, the former defence minister wanted by the Hague tribunal for war crimes in Kosovo.International war crimes prosecutors indicted General Ojdanic, as well as Mr Milosevic, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, the Serbian Interior Minister, Nikola Sainovic, a senior official in the Socialist Party, and the Serbian President, Milan Milutinovic, in May 1999, for atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The forced retirement of General Ojdanic does not mean that he will be extradited for trial for the time being. The new, reform-minded Yugoslav government is still reluctant to go that far.The presidential decree reshuffling the military top brass was issued over the weekend as Serbs prepared for their first new year in more than a decade without Mr Milosevic in charge.The list of retired generals includes Geza Farkas, head of the army intelligence service (KOS) under Milosevic, and one of his closest aides, General Aleksandar Vasiljevic. But Mr Kostunica stopped short of retiring the chief of staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic. It is believed that keeping General Pavkovic at the post would deepen the rift between Mr Kostunica and the Serbian prime minister-designate, Zoran Djindjic. Mr Djindjic has called for the sacking of all Milosevic-era officials at all levels, while Mr Kostunica prefers smoother ways, citing legality as the main reason.The list of retired and reshuffled military top ranks seems to be an effort by President Kostunica to ease tensions withindependence-minded Montenegro. Among the retired officers is Admiral Milan Zec, commander of the Yugoslav Navy, based in Montenegro. General Milorad Obradovic, the commander of the Second Army responsible for Montenegro, was transferred to Belgrade and replaced.Mr Kostunica's move came amid demands for a Europe-wide health inquiry into the use of depleted uranium ammunition by Nato forces after the death, from cancer, of a fifth Italian peace-keeper who had served in Bosnia. On Friday, the Belgian Defence Minister, André Flahaut, called for EU defence ministers to examine the problem. Spain is doing medical tests on all 32,000 of its troops who served in Kosovo. France is testing its soldiers and Portugal has said it will send scientists to Kosovo to check radiation levels on spent rounds. The Dutch government is considering an inquiry into the possible effects of depleted uranium. Italy's military prosecutor is examining five deaths among 20 cases, which the Italian media is linking to "Balkans syndrome".Depleted uranium is a heavy metal used to give shells a harder punch. It has been claimed that it contaminated battlefields in Iraq and caused widespread cancer among civilians, and that it may have caused health problems among allied military veterans of the Gulf War.