Milosevic faces three-way fight


You could see two lines of traffic on the roads between Belgrade and Croatia yesterday, one a file of battered cars and bruised Serbs heading south, the other a column of infantry and armour moving north.

The show of military resolve to defend the remaining Serb territory of eastern Slavonia was intended to warn the Croats and to soothe Serbian public opinion.

"It all depends on Croatia," said Vladislav Jovanovic, the rump Yugoslav foreign minister. Croatia has told the United Nations it will not open a new front in Eastern Slavonia. But large forces are ranged against each other and artillery exchanges take place regularly. Mr Jovanovic said Serbia would have no choice but to fight if its "vital interests" were jeopardised.

Such statements are, no doubt, intended to reinforce a battered national pride. But yesterday's flood of refugees dented any pride that Serbs might muster in the still formidable array of Soviet-era weaponry deployed across the flat farmlands. The latest arrivals, driving smashed-up cars and bringing tales of violent humiliation at the hands of the Croats, have swollen the numbers of embittered refugees sent forth by the collapse of the Krajina.

President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, the arch-nationalist turned peace- maker, must now be engaged in a three-way fight to retain his command over the country's political direction. First he sorely needs to reassure public opinion, a task partly fulfilled by his successful visit to Moscow yesterday which won a pledge of support from Boris Yeltsin and the prospect that Russia will unilaterally lift sanctions on Serbia.

That move would help ease Mr Milosevic's second objective, the containment of the Krajina Serb hordes descending on Serbia. Their needs will further weaken Serbia's half-strangled economy, with unpredictable political results. Russian aid would demonstrate Pan-Slav solidarity, maintain Mr Milosevic's credentials as a shrewd leader and defuse the wild talk of betrayal and vengeance circulating among Serb radicals.

The radicals held a rally late on Wednesday in Belgrade's Republika Square at which up to 10,000 people shouted for vengeance. A prominent Orthodox clergyman, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, told the crowd that "the Belgrade leadership" was most to blame for the fall of Krajina.

These excitable sentiments no doubt remind Mr Milosevic of his third problem - the one that will be central to any settlement. That is the intractable behaviour of the Bosnian Serbs, whose military and political wings seem locked in an unresolved schism between Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Mr Karadzic, struggling to boost Bosnian Serb morale, toured the front-line town of Bosanski Novi yesterday, and appealed to the remaining residents not to abandon their homes.

Well-informed sources in Belgrade say that Mr Milosevic has done all he can to strengthen General Mladic, with assistance on military hardware,logistics and intelligence.

"Our whole public can see clearly today that hundreds of thousands of citizens could have been spared the horrors of war by acceptance of the Vance-Owen plan two years ago," said Mr Milosevic, "and hundreds of thousands more through acceptance of the international community's plan last year."

No doubt Mr Milosevic has worked out how a strengthened General Mladic will fit into this happy scenario. But he has not let anyone else in on the secret.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower