The insurrection of the Unit for Special Operations, in November of 2001, was the culmination of a skillfully organized campaign for the deposition of the Government led by Zoran Djindjic, as “unpatriotic and traitorous”. The headquarters of that campaign were located in the Presidency of then FRY, and its instigator and sponsor was Vojislav Kostunica.
This campaign got its clear ideological base with the public speech held by Vojislav Kostunica, on the 28th of June that year, on the day Slobodan Milosevic was extradited to the Hague Tribunal. On that day, Kostunica took off his “legalist” mask, and revealed himself as the direct protector of Slobodan Milosevic and his politics. In his statement, he accused the entire Serbian Government of “legal violence” and “a coup”, and condemned the extradition as illegal. What he omitted to say was how much effort he personally invested in the attempt to prevent any kind of legal decision for this extradition, in the form of a special decree. One day, some law historian will have the opportunity to shed some light on Kostunica’s manipulations of the Constitutional Court, including telephone calls to its members, in order to hinder the passing of a decree or special law. That was the reason why the Government of Serbia was forced to rely directly on the Constitution that was in power at the time in order to provide a legal basis for the extradition. All of this did not prevent this “legalist” from clearly showing, during the press conference, that the entire Milosevic brotherhood could count on him and his full understanding for Milosevic’s politics.
Everything that was, until that moment, wrapped in unclear formulations such as – “a conflict of personalities” or “political ambitions” which exist and grow between Djindjic and Kostunica – suddenly became crystal clear. It was a matter of two policies, with distinctively different perceptions of the development of Serbia and Milosevic’s legacy. From that moment on, it was clear that any kind of insurrection or protest against Djindjic could count on Kostunica’s support.
The criminals, thieves, killers and smugglers from Milosevic’s military and police forces remembered this well. They also had media support from Kostunica’s Office, where the media consultant was Aleksandar Tijanic, former JUL Minister in the Government led by Mirko Marjanovic. However, this horrible, daily, constant media satanization of Djindjic, did not yield adequate results. Djindjic did not back down. Despite everything, he led a very successful Government. It can be legitimately assumed that, exactly during that period, the decision was made that the media campaign had not been sufficient and that it needed to be intensified, by introducing the military division of Milosevic’s State Security, the so-called Red Berets or JSO, a unit constituting mostly of common, but also war criminals. At that time, Djindjic himself did not have enough power to disband this unit. In order to help JSO, one weekly paper received a falsified list of its members, allegedly wanted by the Hague Tribunal. They were only waiting for an opportunity to rebel.
In the meantime, individual members of Kostunica’s team begin to get in touch with criminals from the so-called Zemun Clan. The Zemun Clan becomes the planner of criminal activities carried out by JSO leaders during that period. One of the recently arrested criminals from the Zemun Clan testifies to this fact. The Zemun Clan urges JSO to organize an armed insurrection. They are told, in a friendly way, that Djindjic is a traitor, who wants to arrest and extradite JSO leaders to the Hague Tribunal. JSO waits for an opportunity. This opportunity presents itself in November 2001. Djindjic is away on a trip to the US, Kostunica’s associates promise them support, while General Aco Tomic asserts that the army will not interfere. The reason is, of course, purely fictional: the arrest of brothers Banovic in Obrenovac. JSO announces that “it refuses to arrest the poor” and patriots, soldiers who fought in the previous wars. Another reason (also fictional), is that “it was not explained to them” who they were arresting. First, they demonstrate in their base in Kula, and then, overnight, they arrive to Belgrade armed, blocking one lane of the highway through Belgrade.
As expected (maybe even arranged), Kostunica immediately offers them public support. It is the famous quote about a strike “in work uniforms”. In the history of dishonorable behavior in Serbia, this statement comes as one of the most repulsive ones. The armed insurrection of some members of the Serbian Ministry of Interior is labeled “legitimate strike”. Since the author of this text was himself a witness of these events, I will briefly present them, as I remember them, in the first person.
I was informed that the Unit arrived to Belgrade during the night, while the Prime Minister was still on a trip abroad. I considered it my duty, as deputy Prime Minister, to go straight to the Ministry of Interior, to the office of the Minister, to see how the Ministry would react, as well as be present when decisions were made. When I arrived to the Ministry, the Minister Dusan Mihajlovic, the head of National Security General Sreten Lukic and the head of the State Security Goran Petrovic were present. They were sitting in the conference room, adjacent to the Cabinet of the Minister. They informed me about what was happening and told me that they were waiting for Prime Minister Djindjic, who had landed in Paris on his return trip from the US and was, at that time, departing for Belgrade.
We decided to wait for him. The atmosphere was tense and we were almost completely silent. It was clear to us that the insurrection was a definite threat to the safety of the country and an arrogant demonstration of power by a group which had serious political support.
Djindjic arrived at the Ministry immediately after he landed in Belgrade. As soon as he sat down, he asked Sreten Lukic whether he had a police unit capable of stopping the JSO, if the Unit decided to try and take over the building housing the Serbian Government. Lukic clearly answered that he had no such unit, since his assessment was that other police officers would refuse to fire on JSO members. Djindjic then said that this armed insurrection had to be solved in another way. He went to the Government building and held a series of meeting. He convened a session of the Government that afternoon, where several decisions were made. The most important was the acceptance of resignation or rather the deposition of the head of State Security and his deputy.
Djindjic was forced to humiliate himself in this way, because he was powerless to react in a different way. During the session of the Government, he whispered to me, as we sat next to each other, that he was going to see members of JSO in Kula, in order to try and prevent even bigger trouble. I expressed my concern for his safety, but he just waved his hand and said he had no other choice. However, that emergency and extraordinary session of the Government had two parts. During the closed part which was recorded on tape, but without formal minutes being taken, Djindjic openly spoke about the armed insurrection against him, the Government and the future of Serbia. There are at least twenty witnesses who can corroborate my statement.
In here lies the basic immorality of Kostunica’s aids, who, in articles like the one published by Bakarac The dishonorable lawyer falsely accuses, knowingly falsify facts. Firstly, they quote the government minutes,despite the existing decision that they are not to be made public. It would be interesting to know when did Kostunica’s government make the decision to make these exact minutes public? And whether this included all other sessions of the government, starting from January 2001 until today.
Secondly, they quote only excerpts from the minutes, so that one cannot deduce that, at some point, Djindjic interrupted the recording of the session and asked the stenographers to leave. They should make the entire recording of the session public. Then, this would become perfectly clear. Instead, what they are doing is quoting illegally acquired parts of the government session minutes, when Djindjic was trying to reduce political damage and gave statements which were meant to restore the trust of citizens in the institutions of the state. Djindjic was fully aware of the damage that had been done. Finally, he was forced to appoint Milorad Bracanovic, a man whom Ulemek trusted, as the deputy head of the State Security, who was appointed to this position in order to control Djindjic and report to the criminals and murders who were supported by Kostunica.
A cynical man could say that Djindjic’s statements during the open session of the government were meant for people exactly like Nebojsa Bakarec, who were only looking for opportunities to proclaim the armed insurrection against the legal and legitimate government as an everyday and justified event. Unfortunately, Djindjic was forced to say that, because he was completely alone – the army promised JSO that it would not interfere, Kostunica supported them, and the police refused to stand up to their own colleagues. What else could he have done, but to create an illusion for the public that he was the winner who avoided the well organized trap by Kostunica’s Office. He did survive this politically, but he paid a very high price. This event was the true prologue to his assassination, less than two years later – Milosevic’s criminal brotherhood, led by Kostunica, realized that only united could they stop the Prime Minister in his attempts to democratize Serbia.
And the other confabulations coming from Kostunica’s entourage, like, for example, that he did not “command the army himself” or that the armed insurrection did not “endanger the constitutional order”, were only feeble attempts to transform the fear of the criminal charges filed by Zoran Djindjic’s mother and sister into a pseudo-legal discussion. The truth is simple. The support given to the JSO insurrection in November 2001 created the core of the group that would kill the Prime Minister in March of 2003. It is completely irrelevant who says this, whether it is the “unholy lawyer Srdja Popovic” or the author of this text. The truth cannot be hidden.
Factually, the leader of the JSO insurrection was Ulemek, a.k.a. Legija. Zvezdan Jovanovic can also be clearly seen on the recording of the Belgrade highway. Both have been convicted, Ulemek as the organizer of the assassination of Zoran Djindjic, and Zvezdan Jovanovic as the man who pulled the trigger. There were the people who, according to Kostunica’s words, “held a legitimate strike because they were unsatisfied with being forced to arrest patriots”.
Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. It is clear that Kostunica’s entourage, as well as Kostunica himself, have many reasons to fear the charges Djindjic’s mother and sister have filed, and many reasons to try and prevent the full truth about the political instigators of the assassination from surfacing.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic