Kosovo. The Kosovo Albanian UCPMB guerrilla continued its acts of violence in the region around the border in the east towards the rest of Serbia at the beginning of the year. The guerrillas, the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, wanted to incorporate Albanian-dominated parts of the Presevo Valley with an independent Kosovo.
In February, 7 civilian Serbs were killed and 21 injured when a bus was blown up in the air on the road between Niš in southern Serbia and Podujevo in northern K. The bus was part of a column with six other buses and with an escort of the NATO-led KFOR force. The attack contributed to NATO’s decision at the end of the month to scrap the security zone set up along the border after the 1999 war, mainly to protect KFOR. The Yugoslav military was not allowed to stay in the zone, which stretched half a mile into Serbia and used the guerrillas for attack in the Presevo Valley. NATO also tightened security in the area.
In March, UCPMB agreed to a ceasefire, just hours after Yugoslav soldiers began to regain the buffer zone. Occasional violence continued to flare up, and in mid-May, 14 guerrillas were killed in a fire. However, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement, Yugoslavia was able to send 4,000 soldiers and police on May 24 to occupy the remaining part of the zone. Albanian guerrillas had then for several weeks surrendered to KFOR and allowed themselves to be disarmed. They had been promised impunity. Many Albanians in the security zone fled to Kosovo before entering the army. However, the Yugoslav authorities promised to respect the human rights of all residents.
- Abbreviationfinder: lists typical abbreviations and country overview of Kosovo, including bordering countries, geography, history, politics, and economics.
In May, the UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, outlined how self-government should be designed in the disputed province, which has in effect become an international protectorate. Parliamentary elections were planned in November, but UNMIK retained control of taxes and budget, the judiciary and the civilian force that replaced the disbanded Albanian UCK guerrilla. The new parliament was given the right to decide on health care, education and the environment. Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova’s party LDK won the election by a good margin over two parties led by former guerrilla leaders. Rugova was long regarded as a moderate force, and many were therefore surprised when, even before the result was clear, he made a provocative statement that his highest priority was independence for Kosovo. It turned out that LDK did not get his own majority, which the party victoriously counted on.
The outbreak of the war was preceded, on March 22, 1999, by an ultimatum from Holbrooke which ordered Milosevic to cease all military and police initiatives in Kosovo. The Serbian leader reacted with the mobilization of the Yugoslav armed forces. At the same time, Xavier Solana, NATO Secretary General, ordered General Wesley Clark to start air operations against Serbia.
The war itself can be divided into three phases. The first began at 7:55 pm (Belgrade time) on 24 March. NATO air forces attacked some Serbian military installations north of Pristina and strategic positions around Belgrade (air defense posts, military airports, aircraft shelter and maintenance facilities). The NATO forces, consisting of about eighty aircraft, belonging to the eight allied nations – Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, United States – carried out about one hundred and fifty missions with the use of the American strategic bomber B2A, capable to almost completely neutralize the radar interception. The British instead used Tomahawk missiles, launched from an attack submarine, lo Splendid, off the Montenegrin coast. The response of the Serbs was rather weak, entrusted above all to means of Soviet origin, technologically obsolete. Only two NATO aircraft were shot down and even in those cases the recovery of the pilots was carried out, thanks to the special CSAR (Combat and search and rescue) departments. NATO, to neutralize the defense of Serbs systems, used for the first time information warfare (IW, Information warfare). Twelve Yugoslavian MIG29s were destroyed on the first day of the attack.
The second phase of the conflict began three days later, when Serbian forces, despite NATO attacks, stepped up their ethnic cleansing efforts in Kosovo. The NATO command decided to use satellite-guided precision weapon systems (GPS, Global positioning system) of the latest generation, which did not require any type of target designation, as they were directly guided by satellites, and which only US vehicles had at their disposal. But since these systems were not usable in bad weather and for several days the weather conditions were disastrous, the bombing gave rather weak results. Throughout the month of April, military operations did not register much progress, as the Yugoslavs began to deploy men and vehicles near residential areas and to exploit the presence of the thousands of refugees moving from Kosovo to Albania and Macedonia. Furthermore, to evade Allied satellite surveillance, the Serbian forces also resorted to the technique of ‘false targets’, which provided for the replacement of armored and armored vehicles with wooden forms which, appropriately camouflaged, were targeted by NATO aircraft. Meanwhile, the massive influx of Kosovar refugees, driven by the hope of greater security, towards the north of Albania and towards the border areas between Macedonia and Kosovo, determined the need to activate a powerful air bridge between the allied countries and the camps. that the various international missions concurred to set up. A significant turning point from a strategic point of view was recorded starting from 10 April. The United States sent eighty-two aircraft capable of sustaining the bombing actions in conditions of perturbed weather and above all of being refueled in flight. NATO forces massively bombed all major communication routes in southern Serbia and neutralized all fuel deposits. At the end of April, the United States deployed TFH (Task force hawk), an airborne battalion from Germany, a move that also had the function of convincing the Yugoslav military leaders of the ability of NATO forces to support a possible ground attack.
On 23 April, all NATO allies, gathered in Washington, decided to intensify the attacks on Yugoslavia. Thus began the third and final phase of the war. NATO forces bombed strategic installations around Belgrade and destroyed not only the regime’s propaganda tools (television and radio), but also hit Milosevic’s and his wife’s own residence, as well as power plants and aqueducts, stirring up the population Serbian, now exhausted, a consistent negative reaction against the regime. On 8 May, due to an error in identifying the target, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was hit, causing several victims; there was strong controversy over the inadequacy of the intelligence system US and China and Russia protested vigorously. At the end of May, there were more than seven hundred and seventy-two air strikes. Faced with the escalation of the bombings, the willingness offered by all NATO member countries to grant new bases to the US military and by non-NATO countries, such as Bulgaria, to allow free flying over the airspace, Milosevic accepted the made without conditions. On June 9, in Kumanovo, Macedonia, his plenipotentiaries signed an agreement with NATO and the next day, after ninety-nine days of combat and about 37,000 aerial actions, NATO Secretary Solana ordered the suspension of the attacks on Serbia. Operation Allied force officially ended on June 20.