Former OSCE Verification Mission Ambassador in Kosovo William Walker says Serbia has invested heavily in propaganda to deny the Recak massacre, which was carried out by Serbian police and military forces.
Walker in an interview for The Geopost points out that the current Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic was in the command chain of Slobodan Milosevic, who had given the order to carry out this massacre on January 15, 1999.
“Since the beginning, Serbia has said that this event is not true. They had many justifications, that I am a CIA agent with international cover from the OSCE, that I was sent here by the CIA or by the State Department or by the White House to somehow destroy Serbia and that I was willing to say every lie to destroy it”, emphasizes the former OSCE ambassador.
“When I know that the Minister of Propaganda at the time of Milosevic was a gentleman named Aleksandar Vucic and that he was spreading all these ridiculous things about me and what I came to Kosovo for, I understand why he still uses the topic of the massacre of Recak and what was the Serbian version of what happened,” adds Walker.
Also, he claims that such stories of denial were constantly coming out of Belgrade when Vucic was Minister of Propaganda, mentioning the Panda case that happened in Peja.
“If we talk about the murders in the Panda bar in Peja, there is a connection between the stories coming out of Belgrade when Vucic was the Minister of Information, if you want, they are very consistent, until today, they talk about Recak as if it didn’t happen or Walker distorted it or Walker was using it to somehow destroy Serbia,” he claims.
According to Walker, Vucic’s propaganda should be understood in all European capitals when it comes to the massacre of Recak.
“I think everyone in the capitals of Europe who has knowledge of Vucic and Serbian propaganda understands, many of the people who are now in the foreign ministries of the rest of Europe were too young to know about Recak at the time, but Vucic and what he does with information, disinformation, I think is understood in all the capitals of Europe,” says Walker.
For the former OSCE ambassador in Kosovo, Serbian President Vucic was in the chain of command of the Milosevic Government at the time when the massacre of Recak took place.
“The vast majority of war crimes committed here were committed by Serbian troops, Serbian police, Serbian army and Serbian special forces. Vucic was in the command chain of the Milosevic Government, when they will have a Special Court for them, this was a real chain of command. Look at what the Serbian army did, the Serbian police, the people who were under the command of Milosevic and Vucic,” he says.
Walker says that Russia continues to be a supporter of Serbia and, according to him, if the Balkan countries want to calm down, then Russian influence in this region should be reduced.
“If the Balkans are ever going to calm down, it will require that Russian influence in the area be reduced. Russia is still a strong supporter of Serbia, regardless of Serbia’s position. I understand that in negotiations Serbia can be very tough on some issues, I think this stems from Moscow, I think the rest of the international community should be a little tougher on Serbia if they want to be part of the modern world. If they want Europe to live in peace, Moscow must back down. I don’t see that happening right now with the negotiations process here, what is happening in Ukraine, it’s obvious that Russia, especially under Mr. Putin, but I understand if he falls, the people that might come next might be even worse nationalists.
In this interview, he also spoke about the unfair trial of the former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in The Hague.
The Geopost: Serbia has invested a lot in propaganda, especially for the Recak massacre, where are you among the victims of Serbian propaganda? How important is the presentation of what happened, and the opposite – what Serbia says?
Well, I’m trying to write a book about the Racak incident and what came about immediately after, the NATO bombing campaign, the liberation of Kosova, the return of the refugees and I think much of what happened afterwards, including the creation of the new nation here, called Kosovo in a way began with Racak massacre.
From the beginning of course, Serbia has been saying it’s not true. They had many explanations, one that I am a CIA agent with international flavor from the OSCE, but really I was sent here by CIA or by the State Department, or by the White House to somehow destroy Serbia, and that I was willing to tell any lie to destroy Serbia.
The first thing to say is, I was not really a CIA, I was not sent to destroy Serbia, I had had previous pretty good relations with Serbia when I was in Croatia for the United Nations, heading up the mission there.
I think the reason president Milosevic accepted my coming to Kosovo was because he thought I was a Serb friend, that I have done things for the Serbs in eastern Slavonia to protect them from Croats. In Croatia I tried to be helping both sides, I wanted them to reconcile after a very nasty war.
When I came here, I came completely neutral and as things developed, we saw, not only I, but almost every member of the mission saw that the Albanian population was being treated very, very badly by a government that claimed them as their citizens, but treated them not as other citizens.
When I know that the minister of propaganda under Milosevic was a gentleman named Vucic, and he was spreading the word that all these ridiculous things about me and what I came to Kosova for, I understand why is he still using the topic of Racak massacre and what was the Serb version of what happened.
He continues to defend it, he continues to attack me, fine, that does not bother me, I think most rational people understand that the evidence was overwhelming, that 45 villagers, man, boys, including a 99 years old man, including a young teenager were taken out, taken of under armed guard and were executed in the middle of the night. That’s what I saw the next morning, that’s what I thought I was here to tell the world what was happening here, I saw what it happened in Racak and I simply told the world.
But I also said something that Mr. Vucic forgets that I said, look, if anyone disagrees with me, bring in international investigators. Do autopsies on the bodies, determine what killed them, what sort of weapons were used to kill them and of course government in Belgrade, judge Marinkovic from Nish, they took control of the bodies, they did autopsies on some of them well before the international forensic team came in with doctor Ranta. And like I said, they continued to change their interpretation, their story as to what had happened, if I wasn’t with CIA, I gone up there in the middle of the night, changed all their clothes, I shot the bodies myself.
And to this day they are sticking by that ridicules story, and I’m afraid Mr. Vucic does not want to correct himself. If we do talk about the Panda Bar killings, there is a connection between stories that were coming out of Belgrade when Vucic was minister of information, propaganda, if you want, they are very consistent, to this day, they are talking about Racak, as it either it did not happen or Walker disorted it, or Walker was using it to somehow destroy Serbia.
I’m an old man, I’ve known about Serbia all my life, I know what they did in WW II, I know what they did as a part of Yugoslavia. I have nothing against Serbia or the Serb people, but the government in Belgrade, number one, treated the Albanian population here, the overwhelming majority not as citizens of the country headed by Belgrade, they treated them as they wanted them out of here or completely out of their hair, and as I say to this day, they still seem to think that Kosovo is theirs and they should tell Kosovo what should happen here.
The Geopost: Do you think that the west understands this Serbian propaganda, specially Vucic’s propaganda?
The west, no. I think everybody in capitals of Europe that have any knowledge of Mr. Vucic and Serb propaganda understand, many of the people who are now in foreign ministries of the rest of Europe were too young to know about Racak at that time, but Vucic and what he does with information, misinformation I think is understood in all capitals of Europe.
The Geopost: What should happen in your opinion to calm down the Balkans? Should the pressure on Serbia be increased, or should the West become even more aware? Or maybe lose Russia?
If the Balkans are ever going to quiet down, it’s going to require that Russian influence in the area diminishes. Russia is still strong supporter of Serbia whatever Serbia’s position is. I understand in negotiations Serbia can be very tough on certain issues, I think that emanates with Moscow, I think the rest of the international community should come down a bit harder on Serbia if they want to be part of the modern world, if they want Europe to reside in peace, Moscow has to be pushed back. I don’t see that happening right now with the negotiations process here, what is happening in Ukraine, it’s obvious that Russia, especially under Mr. Putin, but I understand if he falls, the people that might come next might be even worse nationalists.
I think the international western part of Europe should put more emphasizes on Serbia, you either go with Russian model or you try to go with European model, and until Serbia decides which way they want to go, I don’t think they can have it both ways, they going to have to decide which direction they want to go, right now they are trying to do it both ways.
Right now you got the former leadership of this country, the former president, the former speaker of the parliament, former very high official within the official party in The Hague, accused of war crimes, whether crimes committed in the aftermath of the refugees coming back and finding their villages burned, finding their friends and parents dead. Were there bad things done? Of course, there will be bad things done in Ukraine when the Ukrainian population gets back in to the East and sees what the Russian army has done there, horrible war crimes.
I am very upset by the international community insistence on having a special prosecutor in The Hague to look into war crimes committed by the KLA and claiming that Hashim Thaqi was a supreme commander of the KLA.
The vast majority of the war crimes who were committed here, were committed by Serb troops, Serb police, Serb army, special units.
Mr. Vucic, he was in the chain of command of the Milosevic government, when they are going to have a special court for them, that was a real chain of command. The KLA did not really have one, they were disorganized, one commander was in Peja the other was in Podujevo, they were not a war lords, but they were in control of their area, they did not receive orders. So, the bad things that happened in the aftermath I think were committed by civilians who came back here, they saw what had happened to their village, they did not like someone who was a collaborator or who had participated in a crime, that’s where the crimes were committed, but they weren’t war crimes from the top.
Take a look at what the Serb army did, the Serb police, the people that were under the command of Milosevic and Vucic.
I am very critical of what’s happening in The Hague right now.
The Geopost: What is your message to the people of Kosova?
I was just talking to someone, what you think is status of Kosova right now. Over the last 20 years, but especially after independence when you set up the government, you formed the parliament, I have been very critical of Hashim Thaqi, I was critical of other politicians, I’m sure I will be critical of Albin Kurti with some of the things they do. But, there has been dramatic, the dramatic establishment here of the real democracy. Yes, there are parties arguing politically, that is great, but you also have election after election, the losers have not done what they did on Washington on January 6th, peaceful transition from one party to another in the parliament.
The freedom of press here, if went on and praised Serbia or praised anything, I’m sure you would publish it. As I describe it, I was here when this baby was born, I watched it come out of the cradle, I watched it grow a couple of years, mistakes were made, your leaders from the KLA or from the civilian side had no experience running a country, because they were not allowed to run anything under the Serbs. So, mistakes were made, I watched it go through teenage years and you are not full adult yet, but you are going very much in the right direction.
I think Europe, the rest of Europe, western Europe, the democratic countries of Europe should be very proud of what has happened here, some of them should be envious because they are not as democratic as you are. I think this country is really on the right road and that should be recognized. Why a country like Spain, well I understand why they have not recognized you yet, but this country is more democratic, more giving rights to minorities and protecting people than some of the countries that won’t recognize this for what it is, and I’m appalled by how you are being treated internationally. /The Geopost/