Krajina's deposed 'president' in vain quest for return

Balkan turmoil: Former Serb leader vows to 'do an Arafat' 8 Muslims at risk as pull-out begins

TONY BARBER

Europe Editor

Driven from his homeland with 150,000 of his compatriots, branded with responsibility for one of the most humiliating defeats in Serb military history, and named as a war crimes suspect by a UN tribunal, Milan Martic could be forgiven for thinking that fate played a cruel trick tempting him into politics. But three weeks after Croatian forces recaptured most of the rebel Krajina Serb region, causing Mr Martic to flee Knin, nationalism still burns in the breast of the self-styled Krajina Serb president.

Mr Martic, a rural policeman catapulted into the annals of infamy during the Krajina Serb revolt against Croatian rule in 1990-91, fell out of sight when President Franjo Tudjman's troops stormed Krajina on 4 August. Radio stations in Slovenia and Muslim-held Bosnian territory relayed rumours that Mr Martic had committed suicide, or that a Krajina Serb police unit had killed him as he tried to escape to Serb-held Bosnia.

By 8 August, it was clear that Mr Martic was very much alive. Bosnian Serb television broadcast a statement from Mr Martic, said to have been issued from a Croat-encircled Krajina village 25 miles north of Knin, in which he proclaimed: "As long as one Krajina person is alive, we must not recognise this occupation. We must do everything to return to our centuries-old homes."

Next day in Banja Luka, the citadel of die-hard Serb nationalism, he held an emergency meeting with Radovan Karadzic, his fellow international pariah and war crimes suspect. The Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb leaders discussed measures to assist refugees pouring out of Krajina, and worked on a plan to reverse Croatia's war gains in Krajina and western Bosnia.

By this time, Mr Martic was lacing his remarks with a mixture of self- pity and deluded grandeur as well as defiant optimism. "I am convinced that, even though my position is difficult ... I will come back as the winner, because I know the mentality of our people."

However, other Krajina Serb leaders, including Mr Martic's own prime minister, the former dentist Milan Babic, were already blaming him for Croatia's crushing victory in Krajina. They alleged that Mr Martic and the Krajina Serb military commander, General Mile Mrksic, had ordered an evacuation of Krajina rather than resistance in battle.

On 12 August, Mr Martic gave his reply. He said a fake Radio Knin, run by Croatians, had sown confusion among Serb civilians and soldiers and added: "I ordered the inhabitants to take cover in nearby villages but not to leave Krajina. There was no question of withdrawing the army." Still holed up in Banja Luka, Mr Martic appealed to the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, last Friday to secure a Croatian withdrawal from Krajina and the return of Serb civilians. The appeal fell on deaf ears, for the reality is that Mr Martic is a deposed rebel on the run, wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for ordering the bombardment of civilians in Zagreb last May.

There remains nothing of Mr Martic's self-proclaimed state but eastern Slavonia. That is under the sway of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's President, who has dropped Mr Martic as quickly as he elevated him in 1990.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried