Postcard from... Belgrade


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The Independent Online

When I visited Borko's 15th floor flat in Belgrade, I commented on the stunning view from his rooftop terrace. He laughed: “Yeah it was a great spot to watch the Nato air raids too.”

The bombing campaign on Serbia in 1999 aimed at forcing Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's troops out of Kosovo, but Serbian civilians also paid a high price for it. Milosevic retreated, and Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence in 2008. Serbia still doesn't recognise it.

In Belgrade, the most visible, shocking reminder of the Kosovo war is the former Yugoslav Defence Ministry, above, bombed in '99 and left untouched. Entire wall sections and metal girders hang in the air in the middle of an upmarket area sharing a street lined with embassies.

Some say it was left intact as a reminder of what happened. But if someone made an offer to redevelop the land, the building would probably be scrapped.

A few kilometres down the same boulevard, Marija, a photographer, points out the former police headquarters, also bombed by Nato. "It was so humiliating to be bombed when I did nothing wrong," she tells me. Billboards were installed on the facade of the ruins a few years back, hiding the damage. The problem, she adds, was that no one thought people might be offended when the first poster to appear turned out to be a giant... Coca-Cola commercial. Local reaction was fierce and the poster was rapidly removed.

Yesterday, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton was in Belgrade, meeting the Serbian president and Prime Minister, to show her support and encourage... the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.