Kosovo remembers 45 people killed in 1999 and denounces Serbia for not apologizing

Hundreds of people have gathered in a village in southern Kosovo to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a mass killing of 45 ethnic Albanians by Serb forces

Sylejman Kllokoqi,Zenel Zhinipotoku
Monday 15 January 2024 12:07 GMT

Hundreds of Kosovars gathered in a southern village Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a mass killing of 45 ethnic Albanians by Serb forces, an event that helped spark international intervention to end a 1998-99 war in Kosovo.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Parliament Speaker Glauk Konjufca joined citizens at a cemetery in Recak, 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of the capital, Pristina, for the commemoration ceremony.

Former U.S. diplomat William Walker, 88, who led an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission tasked with overseeing a cease-fire agreement, also was present. Walker's use of the term “massacre” to describe the killings in Recak paved the way for a 78-day NATO bombing campaign of Serb forces that ultimately ended the war. He is revered as a hero in Kosovo.

The government of Serbia’s then-president, Slobodan Milosevic, claimed that the dead were members of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army who were killed in combat with state security forces.

“This was one of the most horrendous massacres committed by the Milosevic regime at that time, showcasing once again that their intention was to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against the people of Kosovo,” Osmani said.

At the time of the war, Kosovo was a province of Serbia. A Serb government crackdown on Kosovo’s separatist ethnic Albanians killed some 13,000 people, most of them ethnic Albanians. The United Nations governed the province until 2008, when Kosovo declared independence, an act that the government in Belgrade still hasn’t recognized.

Kurti denounced Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for not recognizing and apologizing for the Recak massacre, either as Milosevic’s minister of information or Serbia's current leader.

The mass killings in Recak were the first confirmed through evidence collected by international monitors and made known to the world through international news coverage, Kurti said.

”The Recak massacre has been proved as a crime against humanity in front of the world and of history,” the prime minister said.

Relations between the two neighboring countries remain tense and flare from time to time. In September, a gun battle between about 30 Serb gunmen and police in northern Kosovo left an officer and three gunmen dead.


Associated Press writer Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.


Follow Llazar Semini at https://x.com/lsemini

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