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November 15, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 112
Serbia in the Broken Mirror: Political games

The Chetniks' Watergate

by Milos Vasic and Filip Svarm

``The Chetniks are hunted in Sid like rabbits: Sid is full of the police. Some are being taken for informative talks, others are being brought in; the small fry are allowed to go, while the big shots are being detained,'' as an inhabitant of Sid who wished to remain anonymous, told VREME. Members of the minorities are relieved, and the Serbs in this part of Srem feel better, since ``the rabble had become so arrogant that they were ripping off all and sundry, regardless of nationality,'' said the man. They were well armed so that everybody was afraid of them, including the Sid police. They were so powerful and selfconfidant that Milenko Petric (among the first to be arrested in the pogrom against the Radicals) had even been considered for the post of Sid's new Chief of Police.

Throughout Srem the Radicals sought to combine business and pleasure: victims were found among ethnic minority members and Serbs in opposition; their common denominator was that they were rich. On April 9, Stevan Kroslak, a retiring Slovak who minded his own business, was killed in Sot. Pavle Draskovic and Goran Vukovic ``Sojka'' were suspected of the murder, while Milenko Nikolic better known as ``General'' is suspected of having come up with the idea. It is believed that Petar Zivkovic, a teacher from Sid who is known to have had problems with minors, decided on the first victim. Kroslak was killed in his yard, but the murderers took fright and fled to Nijemci, a village in the Republic of Serb Krajina. Three months later, on July 30, Goran Vukovic and Pavle Draskovic broke into the house of Nikola Oskomic, a Croat from Kukujevac. Milan Nikolic waited outside in the car, ready to take them to Nijemci. Nikola and Agica Oskomic and their cousin Marija Tomic were brutally murdered. The murderers wanted money, but didn't find any. Nikolic bolted, but Vukovic and Draskovic managed to reach Nijemci.

Oskomic and Kroslak were rich men. Earlier, for the 1993 New Year, a group of unknown uniformed men who introduced themselves as ``Serb fighters from Ozren'' and headed by Milenko Petric, vice president of the Sid Serbian Radical Party (SRS) branch, maltreated Sid Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) vice president Ljubomir Bozic (a private caterer) and demanded money and gasoline from him. Bozic's friends and relatives came to his rescue while the Sid police looked the other way. That was the time when the love affair between the Serbian authorities and the Radicals was in full spate. Things weren't much better in Southern Serbia: former SRS deputy Branislav Vakic was detained last year after a series of explosions in cafes. The police are now calling all those who had suffered damages, to file complaints. At the time, they didn't behave with such expediency. The police in Nis are also after the Radicals, and there were fights and cases of police brutality (a young SRS member died under mysterious circumstances). Dragan Mihajlovic, Milic Ilic and Dragan Denic were arrested and a warrant of arrest was put out for Blaza Krsikapa from Mojkovac after an attack on the refugee camp in Velika Kolesnica (two rockets were fired and two explosives thrown, leaving two women hurt, one of them Serb). In the meantime, a score of Radicals throughout Serbia have been detained temporarily, while an indeterminate number is being processed (informative talks, etc). The Radicals are not safe in Belgrade either: people working for Radio Television Serbia, who until yesterday had threatened to slaughter those with different views or bragged of being ``Serbian Chetniks,'' are now tiptoeing around. Belgrade weekly ``Nin'' journalist and the Serbian Chetnik Movement's spokesman and honorary Cossack Ataman Rajko Djurdjevic, was taken in and let go after an informative talk. Some Radicals in Belgrade are being charged with crimes against the civilian population in the vicinity of Zvornik; a Radical who was there said they had ``had fooled around a bit, cleansed the place and had a bit of fun.'' It is pubic knowledge who sacked Zvornik: the Serbian Volunteer Guards led by Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, local territorial fighters, the ``Panthers'' from Bijeljina under the command of Major Ljubisa Savic ``Mauzer'' and assorted ``volunteers'' from Serbia. The mention of Zvornik in this context has the added task of warning a party which has ambitions of supplanting the SRS in Serbia's political life.

To what extent the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) attack on the Radicals has shaken SRS leader Vojislav Seselj, is best illustrated by Seselj's decision to start a scandal and rid himself of his best operator in the field and organizing force behind the ``volunteers''Ljubisa Petkovic. The decision was obviously onesided and made with the media in mind. It was premeditated because Seselj had earlier said that the State Security was planning to frame him. On November 6, Seselj launched a counterattack through the media. He called TV ``Politika'' (of all the stations) and started interrogating the surprised Petkovic in front of the cameras on how he had acquired his apartment and car. A flustered Petkovic answered that he got the car in July 1992, and did not deny that the car license was registered in the name of the Serbian Police. Seselj asked him who he knew among the State Security, while Petkovic replied that he knew many people. Seselj then mentioned the nicknames ``Frenki'' and ``Badza,'' while Petkovic added ``Rasa'' (``made a great contribution in Eastern Herzegovina''). The main thing was yet to come: the answers which Seselj got out of Petkovic (without much trouble), point to the fact that some currently top State Security members of the Serbian Police fought alongside the Chetniks and others outside Federal Republic of Yugoslavia territory. (``Frenki'' ``department chief,'' which is an exaggeration; ``Badza''Radovan Stojicicdeputy minister); and more: ``Frenki, like the majority of the police took part in battles with our fighters and Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) soldiers,'' said Petkovic. On being asked if ``Badza'' had been in Erdut and taken part in combat in the Republic of Serb Krajina and the Serb Republic in BosniaHerzegovina, Petkovic realized where this line of questioning was leading and shut up.

Seselj's interrogation of Petkovic in front of TV cameras was a message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. With the arrest of SRS members, Milosevic had shown a sample of what could follow. In his TV playlet, Seselj showed Milosevic some of his goods. The message was: ``Don't try to play dumb now; we did it all together and I am prepared to go public if you threaten me seriously.'' The threat was convincing because Seselj has the reputation of a man who is capable of cutting off his nose to spite his face, something he has done before.

What, in fact, could have Seselj and his followers done since 1991 without the knowledge, the patience and help of the State Security, whose operatives took part wholeheartedly in all the war operations, starting with the arming of Serbs outside Serbia since 1990, via Borovo selo and all that followed to the present day. The names ``Frenki'' and ``Badza'' have been around since 1991, and they aren't the only ones. They have been recognized on photographs, albeit under different names. Instructors, units, equipment, weapons and ammunition all come from somewhere. Serial numbers on Thompson automatic rifles used in April and May 1991 in Slavonija, all point in this direction. There are also many witnesses who have told their stories and have never been contradicted.

The SeseljPetkovic public polemic outlines conflicting platforms: Petkovic claims that ``Serb volunteers'' were armed by the military rather than the police; Seselj claims that {page|1}

Serbian Police State Security knew of, armed, cooperated with and commanded ``volunteers'' in the field. Both former friends and allies are right. Milosevic, as always, accuses the JNA (and the Yugoslav army when necessary) for everything. Seselj knows this, but it is a bit too late. Namely, it matters little that Seselj is trying to explain that the ``Serbian Chetnik Movement'' and the SRS are two different things. In 1991 and later, he used to go around claiming that the two were one and the same, and that the ``Serbian Chetnik Movement was a collective member of the SRS for formal reasons.'' Seselj liked to be photographed while visiting various battlefields. He waived his pistol around in public; he beat up teachers and threatened pupils with his pistol; encouraged national, racial and religious hatred, hurled insults and made slanderous remarks to such an extent that it became obscene. In the meantime, the police worked quietly and diligently behind the scenes.

If Seselj thinks he knows more about the State Security than they do about him, then he is only deluding himself. Would it have been possible to do all that he had without the support of the police? For months Petkovic met with Serbian Police State Security chief Jovica Stanisic at the Ministry of the Interior, and not in secret apartments, which would be what an infiltrated agent would have done. Seselj knew about it all, and didn't object. In fact he bragged that he was well informed.

It is always a good thing to remember how it all started. Vojislav Seselj was allowed to get away with anything right from the beginning; he was helped everywhere and received political and media support. Seselj's appearances from early 1991, proved to be visionary: whatever Seselj said usually happened. Seselj demanded the expulsion of Slovenia from Yugoslavia and this took place. He asked for the ethnic cleansing of the JNA (the Macedonians were allowed to stay on), and his wish was fulfilled by Generals Domazetovic, Panic and Perisic (in late October); he demanded a Serbian army and he got one. Seselj wanted ``Serb Chetniks'' to take part in the JNA and managed to infiltrate the Air force via Stevanovic and Boskovic and the 252. (``1st. Serbian'') squadron. In 1991 he demanded a ``Serb BosniaHerzegovina.'' Seselj's power base in the armed forces (Stevanovic, Domazetovic, Boskovic and others) remained unchallenged until this summer. Seselj never had any problems with the police or the public prosecutor. The warrant for his arrest issued in Osijek was never taken seriously in Serbia.

It was easy for Seselj then: he said out loud what the Serbian authorities thought, and carried out what he said. In return, the ruling SPS gave him everything: media promotion, he enjoyed Milosevic's protection (Seselj was his ``favorite opposition member''). In short, Seselj's status was that of someone who is above the law and can do as he pleases. At the time there were people who said that things wouldn't turn out well, and that Milosevic would get rid of him sooner or later in a spectacular fashion.

Seselj's braggadocio continued and he got whatever he wanted (the downfall of former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic and both PanicsZivota, the General and Milan, the former Yugoslav Prime Minister). It turned out however, that Seselj was just a puppet played by the Serbian Police. However, all of Seselj's promises weren't fulfilled. Seselj didn't ``capture Zagreb with 10,000 Chetniks,'' he didn't bomb Krsko (a nuclear plant in Croatia), he didn't demolish the Djerdap hydroelectric power plant, nor did he arrest former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia PM Ante Markovic and various ``treacherous generals.''

Some coincidences, however, do stand out. The notorious ``line of demarcation with Italy'' KarlobagOgulinKarlovacVirovitica, or ``Greater Serbia's borders'' coincided with what the League of CommunistMovement for Yugoslavia (SKPJ) had wanted to set up in 1991 in order to protect the population from interethnic clashes (the idea failed), and that which General Kadijevic (former Socialist Yugoslavia Defence Minister) described as the ``borders of the future state'' (which also fell through). This future border was first mentioned during Seselj's election campaign in spring 1991. It was later quickly forgotten. Seselj became a deputy with the selfless help of the SPS. It was a passionate affair: Mihailo Markovic (SPS) praised Seselj's ``reasonableness where Serbia's interests'' were concerned. Top SPS official Borisav Jovic rejected all criticism of Seselj by Cosic as ``political amateurism.''

It would seem that the VanceOwen plan was the key element in Seselj's (and Democratic Party of SerbiaDSS leader Vojislav Kostunica's) decision to rely on the Serbs outside Serbia in their battle against Milosevic. In May this year, Seselj suddenly started accusing the SPS of cowardice. At first glance it seemed that he had a better strategic solution than Milosevic: to reject the VanceOwen plan, even though the threat of foreign intervention was greater than usual. ``The SPS chickened out,'' said Seselj. The threat was an empty one and still is. Did Seselj come up with the idea himself, or did matter follow a wellknown routine: Milosevic would tell police eminence grise Radmilo Bogdanovic to tell the Police to tell Petkovic to tell Seselj: We can't turn down the VanceOwen plan, but let Seselj and Bogdanovic kick up a fuss. ``The Socialists made a big mistake there,'' said Seselj talking about the Jahorina episode (the Bosnian Serb Parliamentary session which was supposed to decide if the Bosnian Serbs would accept the VanceOwen peace plan), with Milosevic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, Cosic and former Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, and this estimate is what probably sealed his political career.

Seselj's image of someone who is always very well informed suffered a serious setback after the fall of General Boskovic and the break with the SPS. Seselj is now just waving around with old papers, showing signs of confusion and well controlled panic. He no longer has any confidential information from the Army, nor the Police while the earlier information received through Petkovic must now be reviewed. Was it true or just misinformation to entice him into making disastrous moves?

Is this the only issue on which Seselj was duped? According to information from military circles, Seselj organized his party's membership in Vojvodina (Serbian province) according to the military territorial principle of districts with Voivodas, through units and platoons down to squads. Troika's were formed for special tasks, on the principle that they operated elsewhere, never on their territories. This did not bother the authorities in the beginning (because of the intimidation of minorities). It was later seen that things had gone too far, because the matter concerned the setting up of real, latent forms of authority in the field. Seselj boasted that he had 30,000 armed men in Serbia. Army estimates put the figure at 8,000. At the start of the war, Seselj sent his volunteers to the battlefields with great pomp. Now he does so with discretion. He knows that he needs people with combat experience. Vojislav Seselj's political career ended when the State Security powers started asking themselves: ``Why does he need them?''

Seselj gave cause for the final showdown on two issues: firstly, he ignored orders to leave Nikola Sainovic's government alone, and secondly, he accused Radmilo Bogdanovic (the main behind the scenes mover in the Police), and through him Milosevic, for the coup in Banja Luka in September. Seselj counts on the support of Serbs outside Serbia, where whispers can be heard of ``Milosevic's treachery,'' his secret negotiations with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in the past few weeks, etc. The State Security have closed the circle in the Serb lands outside Serbia: defeats at Divoselo, Citluk and Pocitelj have been laid at the feet of the compromised local Radicals. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha describe the SPS attack on Seselj as a ``family quarrel within one and the same party,'' and refuse to comment. Serbs in the Republic of Serb Krajina are shocked and desperate over the arrest of ``proven patriots,'' but what can be donethey will not bite the hand that feeds them, etc.

There is nothing left for Seselj but to air the dirty linen to the end. At a press conference in Belgrade on Thursday, November 11, Seselj fired his big guns in one suicidal gesture: he first waived around with a letter of thanks to Branislav Vakic (SRS) from the Serbian Police; and then accused the Serbian Police of having used the authorities in the Republic of Serb Krajina. After this he asked: ``Who is the main mafioso in Serbia?'' and supplied the answer ``Slobodan Milosevic!''. Why? Because, said Seselj, ``without his help, Jezda and Dafina (private bankers, ed. note) could never have robbed the people!'' How? Dafina Milanovic, said Seselj, is ``holding top Serbian police officials to ransom,'' and he, Seselj, has papers to prove it. And not only this, former Chief of Staff Zivota Panic has Slobodan Milosevic in his power because they shared war booty (those legendary ``7,000,000 DM'' from Vukovar). Slobodan Milosevic was behind the coup in Banja Luka, protecting ``Sainovic's corrupt government.'' He, Seselj, will gladly go to Geneva and The Hague and answer for war crimes, but not without Slobodan Milosevic. Seselj says that ``the main criminal under Radmilo Bogdanovic's protection'' is not Milosevic, but Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, whose Serbian Volunteer Guard (SDG) ``used trailer trucks to bring back war booty under the sponsorship of Bogdanovic and Mihalj Kertes (now Minister without portfolio, responsible for arming Serbs outside Serbia'').

Seselj, who was always so well informed, must have known about all this earlierjust as the ruling SPS knew about his ``Chetniks,'' their affairs and deeds, right from the beginning. The whole matter now really does look like a ``family quarrel,'' with the family secrets being made public for all to see. The Socialists' motives are power and the international public which needs to be thrown a few war criminals. Seselj's motive is survival both physical and political. He entered Serbian politics as Milosevic's instrument (a monster worked by remote control). Along the way he got too big for his boots and thought that he could topple Milosevic with Serbs wherever they might be, not noticing that Milosevic had set him a trap. There is also the possibility that it was made clear to him that he would be sacrificed in the latest shuffle in Serbia, and if he couldn't save his political skin, then he should, at least, try to save face. Things however, seem to have gone too far. All in all, an increasingly nervous Milosevic has opened up Pandora's box. It remains to be seen where the dirt will stick. Everybody is suddenly wise and well informed, just as if it had all happened yesterday and not during the last three bloody years.

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