Thousands of Serbs honored the victims of the 1999 NATO bombings with a commemoration on Saturday, attended by Serbian president and many officials, including the Russian envoy. However, the ceremony took place with obvious absence of Western diplomats.
The main commemorative event, held under the slogan “We will forgive, if we can, we will not forget while alive,” took place in the Southern town of Aleksinac which suffered heavily in the 1999 US-led NATO campaign, sources reported.
Darkness and silence fell over the entire city center as the ceremony, attended by President Aleksandar Vucic and his cabinet ministers, opened with deafening sounds of air alarm sirens. At least 3,000 people gathered in front of the stage and the ruins of a building destroyed in NATO bombing, Sputnik said.
“What do we say today, we on whom 420,000 missiles and nearly 40,000 cluster bombs and 1,300 cruise missiles have been dropped?” Vuvic asked. He spoke about the deaths and destruction caused by NATO, adding that his country still seeks a partnership with the alliance.
“Yes, we want a partnership with you, you who have perpetrated terrible crimes on us. We want from the enemy to become friends, just do not expect us to forget that you killed us, or to blame our country for it. We want a partnership, but we will not join NATO. It would be rubbing too much salt into our wounds,” Vuvic said.
The Russian Ambassador to Serbia, Aleksandr Chepurin, who also attended the poignant ceremony, pointed out in a word that “Today once again none of the Western diplomats bothered to attend this ceremony. So they show no repentance and, moreover, believe they did everything right. Looks like the Serbs are not humans to them, but they nevertheless continue to teach us humanism”.
Meanwhile in the capital Belgrade, about 500 demonstrators gathered in front of the Serbian Parliament in an anti-NATO protest commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Yugoslavia bombing. Protesters waved flags and lit flares, while others held banners with anti-NATO messages.
According to a recent poll, 19 year later a majority of Serbs would not accept an apology from NATO for its military intervention, and only 10 percent would wish to see their country become a member the trans-Atlantic military bloc.