How the good soldier Zvornik was betrayed

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The Independent Online
Zagreb - Zvornik, a Serb volunteer, was standing guard at his barracks near Drnis on Friday 4 August when he heard the bombardment of Knin begin at 4.50am, writes Sarah Helm.

"The aggression was expected. But we were manning the borders, and we were told our lines would hold. I was sent with a small group to an observation point on a hill above the barracks. We remained there all of Friday and into the night, watching the shells get closer. All the time we were expecting reinforcements. In the early hours of Saturday we saw a movement of soldiers near the barracks and we thought this was the Serb reinforcement.

"Then at 4.25am we saw the barracks burst into flames. I got anxious and went back down. At first I thought the barracks had been set on fire by our own forces in the face of the Croatian advance, but then I realised it had been set on fire by the Croat forces. All our soldiers had gone. The forces I had seen moving earlier were our soldiers in retreat. I could not believe they had left us like this.

"I headed towards the town of Drnis, ignorant of what awaited me. I found few people. Most were fleeing. I asked a man what had happened to our defences, to our anti-aircraft guns. He said he didn't know. "I decided to take my belongings and try to escape with the rest. There was total confusion. Nobody knew what was going on, what to do. They were all scared of the shelling. I met one old man who said he was going back to his village, because it would be safer. But I joined a tractor to Knin, because I thought there still might be Serb resistance there.

"On the way I saw houses abandoned all around. In Knin I saw many bodies in body bags. I heard the Croat tanks and I realised everything was over. We were completely betrayed by our own leadership. It will never be clear to me why they did it. It was a terrible treason. We could have defended ourselves. The civilians could have been prepared or evacuated where necessary. We had a good army and many weapons."