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Posts tagged ‘Rascia Land of Serbia’

Kosovo celebrates 10 years of independence, Serbs boycott

February 18, 2018

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The Kosovo Assembly, or Parliament, convened in a special session Sunday to celebrate the country’s 10 years of independence — a ceremony boycotted by the country’s ethnic Serb lawmakers.

Speaker Kadri Veseli pledged that “the second decade of independence would be focused on the economic well-being of Kosovo’s citizens.” The second day of celebrations continued with a parade of military and police forces and a state reception.

In Feb. 17, 2008, Kosovo’s Parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo, one of poorest countries in Europe, has taken a first step to European Union membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. But the country faces serious challenges besides its relations with Serbia, including establishing the rule of law and fighting high unemployment, corruption and organized crime.

Kosovo is recognized by 117 countries, including the U.S. and most Western powers but Serbia still sees Kosovo as part of its own territory and has the support of Russia and China. A day earlier in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Kosovo’s independence remains fragile and won’t be concluded without an agreement with Serbia.

Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania contributed.


Serbia museum benefits from renewed interest in Nikola Tesla

January 30, 2018

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Along dimmed corridors in an elegant villa in central Belgrade, visitors are treated to a flashy presentation of Nikola Tesla’s technology — as well as a huge array of the visionary scientist’s clothes, hundreds of instruments, and even his ashes.

The Serbian museum, dedicated to everything to do with the 19th-century inventor and electricity pioneer, remained in relative obscurity for decades under the communist-run former Yugoslavia. But thanks to a global revival of interest in the scientist, the collection is now drawing big crowds from home and abroad.

Museum staff say some 130,000 people visited last year, compared to about 30,000 a year in the past — when its audience included generations of local school children but hardly anyone from abroad. Now the small museum is ranked among the top must-see destination for tourists.

Tesla is best known for developing the alternating current that helped safely distribute electricity at great distances, including from the hydro-electric plant at the Niagara Falls in mid-1890s. He experimented with X-ray and radio technology, working in rivalry with Thomas Edison.

Although he’s known to many science lovers, his following and name-recognition among the general public has rocketed in recent years thanks to Paypal billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car. In the U.S., Tesla admirers have raised money through crowdfunding to purchase his laboratory In Shoreham, N.Y.

An ethnic Serb born in 1856 in the Austrian Empire in present-day Croatia, Tesla spent most of his life abroad, working in Budapest and Paris before emigrating to the U.S. in 1884. The Tesla Museum in Belgrade holds a vast array of the scientist’s personal items, from his sleepwear, shaving kit, tailor-made suit and cane to tens of thousands of documents and his awards. Even pieces of furniture from the New Yorker Hotel room 3327, where Tesla spent the last ten years of his life — his bed, fridge, metal lockers and a cupboard — are included.

“He was a man who took great care of his belongings and saved a large number of documents, so thanks to that we can now reconstruct his life and his work,” curator Milica Kesler said. “He was fully aware of the importance of what he was doing.”

Packed in some sixty trunks and containers, Tesla’s entire property first arrived in the former Yugoslavia on a ship from New York in 1951, eight years after his death. Authorities set up the museum in 1952, which later struggled with scarce funds and low attendance.

Nowadays, thrilled visitors are given fluorescent light sticks that light up wirelessly with the discharge from the Tesla coil, a four-meter-tall transformer circuit that generates electricity. In a separate room, in a somewhat macabre setting of dimmed lights and dark drapes, are Tesla’s ashes in a golden ball urn.

There are now so many visitors that the museum has extended its working hours and introduced more guided tours. Museum worker Pavle Petrovic says “the holiday season is the busiest, of course, but numbers stay high throughout the year.”

Although Tesla visited Belgrade just once for 31 hours, Serbia celebrates him as the pride of the nation. Belgrade’s airport and a new city boulevard are named after Tesla, his image is on souvenirs, and the Serbian Orthodox Church wants Tesla’s ashes placed in the country’s main religious temple, triggering protests by the liberal scientific community.

Typical of the Balkan divide, neighboring Croatia also claims Tesla as its own, turning his house in the home village of Smiljan into a memorial center. The rival former Yugoslav republics have marked important dates in Tesla’s life separately amid strained relations stemming from the 1990s’ bloody breakup of the joint ex-federation.

Away from the crowds, Tesla’s archive of more than 160,000 documents, scientific plans, manuscripts and letters is stored carefully in the museum’s basement. Curator Kesler said Tesla made the experts’ job easy by keeping a neat chronology of the documents.

“Sometimes I have a feeling he left us some kind of a path, a guideline to follow,” she said with a smile.

Kosovo Serb politician is gunned down; police start manhunt

January 16, 2018

MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was gunned down Tuesday morning, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Assailants opened fire on Oliver Ivanovic, 64, close to the offices of his political party in the Serb-controlled northern city of Mitrovica. He was taken to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

The doctors said Ivanovic had received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The assailants escaped in a car that was later found burned out. Kosovo police sealed off the area of the shooting and began a manhunt for the attackers.

Ivanovic was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions still remain high a decade after it declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize that independence.

Ivanovic was considered a moderate who maintained relations with NATO and EU officials even after Serbia lost the control of its former province following NATO’s 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial was underway. In Pristina, the Kosovo government strongly denounced the slaying, saying it considers the attack a challenge to “the rule of law and efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory.”

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a top security meeting to discuss the shooting. Afterward, he called the killing “a terrorist act” and said Serbia is demanding that international missions in Kosovo include Serbia in their investigation into the slaying.

“Serbia will take all necessary steps so the killer or killers are found,” he said. At the news of Ivanovic’s slaying, the Serb delegation at the EU talks in Brussels immediately left to return to Belgrade.

Delegation leader Marko Djuric said “whoever is behind this attack … whether they are Serb, Albanian or any other criminals, they must be punished.” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo to express the EU’s condemnation of the killing. She appealed for both sides “to show calm and restraint.”

The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu, said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” and considered Ivanovic “among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives for almost two decades. ”

He also urged “all sides to avoid dangerous rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time, and recommit themselves to continue the work toward the normalization of relations and improvement of the lives of the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia.”

Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade; Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania; and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

Erdogan receives warm welcome from Muslim Serbian town


NOVI PAZAR – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received a rapturous welcome on Wednesday during a visit to the Serbian town of Novi Pazar, capital of the Muslim majority Sandzak region that has seen mass emigration to Turkey since the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

Erdogan, on a two-day visit to Serbia, hopes to boost Turkey’s economic and cultural influence in the Balkan region, which was part of the Ottoman empire for centuries, at a time of increased tensions with the European Union and United States.

“We have special relations with this region. Your happiness is our happiness, your pain is our pain,” Erdogan told more than 10,000 people gathered in front of the municipality building.

“Sandzak is the biggest bridge linking us with our brothers in Serbia,” he said, with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic standing close by.

Turkish influence is already strong among fellow Muslims in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo, but mainly Orthodox Christian Serbia is traditionally much closer to Russia. However, Belgrade and Ankara, which both want to join the EU but are frustrated by the slow pace of progress, are keen to increase bilateral trade.

Erdogan said Turkey would finance the construction of a road linking Sandzak with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, reconstruct an Ottoman-era hammam and build a bridge in Novi Pazar.

In Belgrade on Tuesday, Erdogan pledged gas and Turkish investments for the Balkans and he signed deals with Vucic to expand a bilateral free trade agreement.

In Novi Pazar, local people waved Turkish flags and the green and blue flags of Serbia’s Muslim community, and chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). A big banner read “Welcome Sultan” and was signed by “Ottoman grandchildren”.

“Erdogan is our nation’s leader, Vucic is our state leader, this is the greatest day for us Muslims to have them both here,” Ismail Ismailovic, 28, from the nearby town of Tutin, farmer, sporting long beard and white embroidered Muslim skull cap.

It was a far cry from the 1990s when Serbia and Turkey were sharply at odds in the conflicts that tore apart Yugoslavia. Turkey sees itself as the historic defender of Muslims across the Balkan region.

“I know I am not going to be welcomed here like Erdogan is,” said Vucic, who was a firebrand Serbian nationalist during the wars of the 1990s but has turned strongly pro-EU. “But at least I can come out and say that I am working in your best interest.”

Source: Middle East Online.


Unrepentant Mladic sentenced to life for Bosnia atrocities

November 22, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An unrepentant Ratko Mladic, the bullish Bosnian Serb general whose forces rained shells and snipers’ bullets on Sarajevo and carried out the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, was convicted Wednesday of genocide and other crimes and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Defiant to the last, Mladic was ejected from a courtroom at the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal after yelling at judges: “Everything you said is pure lies. Shame on you!” He was dispatched to a neighboring room to watch on a TV screen as Presiding Judge Alphons Orie pronounced him guilty of 10 counts that also included war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human-rights organizations hailed the convictions as proof that even top military brass long considered untouchable cannot evade justice forever. Mladic spent years on the run before his arrest in 2011.

“This landmark verdict marks a significant moment for international justice and sends out a powerful message around the world that impunity cannot and will not be tolerated,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director.

For prosecutors, it was a fitting end to a 23-year effort to mete out justice at the U.N. tribunal for atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. Mladic’s conviction signaled the end of the final trial before the tribunal closes its doors by the end of the year.

But legal battles will continue. Mladic’s attorneys vowed to appeal his convictions on 10 charges related to a string of atrocities from the beginning of the 1992-95 Bosnian war to its bitter end. “The defense team considers this judgment to be erroneous, and there will be an appeal, and we believe that the appeal will correct the errors of the trial chamber,” Mladic lawyer Dragan Ivetic said.

Mladic’s son, Darko, said his father told him after the verdict that the tribunal was a “NATO commission … trying to criminalize a legal endeavor of Serbian people in times of civil war to protect itself from the aggression.”

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie started the hearing by reading out a litany of horrors perpetrated by forces under Mladic’s control. “Detainees were forced to rape and engage in other degrading sexual acts with one another. Many Bosnian Muslim women who were unlawfully detained were raped,” Orie said.

The judge recounted the story of a mother who ventured into the streets during the deadly siege of Sarajevo with her son as Serb snipers and artillery targeted the Bosnian capital. She was shot. The bullet passed through her abdomen and struck her 7-year-old son’s head, killing him.

In Srebrenica, the war reached its bloody climax as Bosnian Serb forces overran what was supposed to be a U.N.-protected safe haven. After busing away women and children, Serb forces systematically murdered some 8,000 Muslim males.

“Many of these men and boys were cursed, insulted, threatened, forced to sing Serb songs and beaten while awaiting their execution,” Orie said. Mladic looked relaxed as the hearing started, greeting lawyers, crossing himself and giving a thumbs-up to photographers in court. But midway through the hearing Mladic’s lawyer, Dragan Ivetic, asked for a delay because the general was suffering from high blood pressure. The judge refused, Mladic started yelling and was tossed out of court.

When he started speaking, “it was not about his health but much more I think trying to insult the judges,” Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia erupted after the country’s breakup in the early 1990s, with the worst crimes taking place in Bosnia. More than 100,000 people died and millions lost their homes before a peace agreement was signed in 1995. Mladic went into hiding for around 10 years before his arrest in Serbia in May 2011.

Mladic’s political master during the war, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, was also convicted last year for genocide and sentenced to 40 years. He has appealed the ruling. The man widely blamed for fomenting wars across the Balkans, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, died in his U.N. cell in 2006 before tribunal judges could reach verdicts in his trial.

The ethnic tensions that Milosevic stoked from Belgrade simmer to this day. Top Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik said the tribunal only underscored its anti-Serb bias by convicting Mladic. Dodik said the court was established with the “single purpose” of demonizing Serbs.

“This opinion is shared by all the Serbs,” Dodik said, describing Mladic as “a hero and a patriot.” Serbian President Alksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who supported Mladic’s war campaigns but now casts himself as a pro-EU reformer, agreed that the court has been biased against Serbs but added that “we should not justify the crimes committed” by the Serbs.

“We are ready to accept our responsibility” for war crimes “while the others are not,” he said. For a former prisoner of Serb-run camps in northwestern Bosnia who was in The Hague, the verdict was sweet relief.

Fikret Alic became a symbol of the horrors in Bosnia after his skeletal frame was photographed by Time magazine behind barbed wire in 1992 in a Bosnian Serb camp. “Justice has won,” he said. “And the war criminal has been convicted.”

Associated Press writers Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Sabina Niksic and Amer Cohadzic in Sarajevo, Eldar Emric in Srebrenica and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Serbia’s dethroned royals hold a wedding in Belgrade

October 07, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Although it’s not a kingdom now, Serbia has hosted a wedding for dethroned royals. Prince Philip Karadjordjevic, of the dethroned Serbian royals, married Danica Marinkovic on Saturday in a ceremony at Belgrade’s main cathedral.

The wedding was performed by the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, and attended by many public figures. Dozens gathered outside the church on a sunny but chilly autumn day. Philip is one of the sons of Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the heir to Serbia’s now-defunct throne. The royal family ruled Yugoslavia until communists took power after World War II and abolished the monarchy. Exiled during WWII, the family returned to Serbia after 2000.

Philip was born in Fairfax, Virginia, while his wife is the daughter of prominent Serbian painter Cile Marinkovic.

Hundreds rally for free, fair elections in Serbian capital

October 06, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Several hundred people have gathered at an opposition protest demanding that an upcoming local election in the Serbian capital of Belgrade be free and fair. Opposition leaders have alleged that the ruling parties have been beefing up voters’ lists ahead of the ballot expected next spring. The authorities have denied this.

The Belgrade race is viewed as a test of President Aleksandar Vucic’s rule. Vucic swept the presidential elections earlier this year and his right-leaning coalition controls the government, but opposition parties are hoping to undermine his power in Belgrade.

Opposition leaders have accused Vucic of stifling democratic freedoms, exerting pressure on the media and threatening opponents. Protesters on Friday put forward a set of demands, including equal treatment in the media and international observers at the Belgrade vote.

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