A gdje si, Otpor?

(in English: "But where are you, Otpor?" "Otpor" is the name of a Serbian organization whose English translation is "resistance.")
In the tradition of the revered hajduk warriors who staved off Turkish and Austro-Hungarian encroachment centuries ago, the Serbian people don't react cooperatively to the pressure of outsiders. Think back to end of the last century: neither of two bloody wars in the 1990's, nor American bombing in Belgrade, nor the opposition of most of the free world, nor the demands of a war crimes tribunal in The Hague, were enough to topple the Slobodan Milosevic dictatorship in Belgrade.

So how did Milosevic fall? Through a grassroots movement of Serbian students called Otpor.

Otpor got its start with a group of young people in Belgrade who advocated non-violent pressure against Slobo's reign. It spread rapidly until it had vibrant organizations in over 70 Serbian cities. When Otpor organized a march on the national Parliament in response to Milosevic's insistence on an unwarranted election recount, he was forced to step down. Otpor's mass helped the police and security services give in without violent resistance in defense of the regime.

If a grassroots student group can bring down an entrenched and powerful dictator with no qualms against using brutal repression to remain in power, imagine what they could accomplish with ferreting out war criminals who are holding their country back.

As the Serbian people become more aware of how much they are suffering because war criminals still enjoy impunity, we may see a resurgence in this powerful and respected movement, capable of delivering real results.

Let's all lend our support to Otpor.


Public reaction

It's hard to break down into specifics, but there were some interesting observations on public opinion during the recent flurry of "Mladic has been located" rumors.

A couple observers noted to me, and transcripts of talk radio seem to confirm, that the consensus reaction in Serbia was of relief at the capture stories, while desperation and sadness marked the majority's reactions in (non-Banja Luka) Republika Srpska.
Are the stakes greater for Serbian citizens than RS residents? Probably, since the RS doesn't have as much of a near-term economic stake in war crimes cooperation as Serbia. Could the RS also have more hardliners who will support K & M at any cost? Also probably true.

Seems Radovan has every reason to feel like he's still comfortably on his home turf along the border of the RS and Montenegro.


Some recent reports unavailable elsewhere

Bucharest Authorities Neither Confirm Nor Refute Mladic’s Arrest 24 February 2006 08:48 FOCUS News Agency Bucharest.

The arrest of accused of war crimes General Ratko Mladic in Romania was not confirmed by Bucharest official representatives but it was not refuted either, Adevarul newspaper reads today. According to information from Wednesday evening the Serbian General was arrested during joint Romanian - British Special Forces operation in the region of Zhelezni Vrata on the Danube. A possible operation of British special unit SAS may have taken place with Romanian unit Delta, told the newspaper former chief of Foreign Intelligence Agency Catalin Harngea. For such an operation to take place the approval of Romanian President Traian Basescu is needed. According to anonymous sources from Special Service Romania’s name was involved in the scandal after there was information that Mladic is hiding near the Danube but on the Serbian bank of the river. “This is how the whole media circus began”, the source stated.

Deserted lodge may have been Mladic's hideout By Kate Connolly on Cer mountain (Filed: 24/02/2006)

A bottle of unfinished beer, the stubs of a cheap brand of cigarette and an empty coffee packet are the only items left behind amid the rotting mattresses and iron bedsteads by the last people to have stayed at the Lipova Voda lodge.

The door which has a faulty lock is held shut by a tree trunk. Two weeks ago the man who usually guards the run-down holiday home, Zoran Tufegdzic, was mysteriously ordered by the state-owned company that pays his wage to stay away "until the end of February".

He told his story to a Belgrade newspaper. Its publication was enough in these tense days to spark speculation that this was one of the hideouts of Zlatko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general sought on war crimes and genocide charges by the UN tribunal in the Hague.

The lodge is located on Serbia's Cer mountain, close to the border with Bosnia. It is half a mile from a major military base and close to a monastery in an area where the former strongman, who was indicted in connection with the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, has been widely reported to have found refuge. The place is so secret it is only to be found on one map kept locked in a military museum, and many road signs have been blacked out.

Officials in Belgrade have denied that Mladic is negotiating his surrender. But the Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, who visited Serbia this week, said last night that he had heard reports that Mladic had instructed supporters to open talks with the authorities. He is said to be in poor health after years on the run.

But people in the village of Tekeris, which is close to the mysterious lodge, are unimpressed by all the fuss. Some claimed yesterday never even to have heard of one of the world's most wanted fugitives.

"Who's he? I've never heard of Ratko Mladic," said Milias Spajic, 81, a headscarved peasant, as she carried her milk home. On hearing that there was a reward of £3.4 million for his capture, she said: "Thanks for letting me know - I shall look out for him."

But ome locals hoped that if Mladic was handed over to the Hague tribunal it would open the way for Serbia to join the European Union.


Deconstructing the Mladic story

For the latest in rumors: Serbian (not Kostunica's office) and Romanian officials claim that Mladic was arrested by British and Romanian special forces troops yesterday near Drobeta Turnu-Severin in Romania, near the Serbian border. Maybe true, maybe not, I haven't heard from anyone I trust about it yet. The Mladic affair has really shown how the powerful players have developed in the war crimes hunt. The February 21st flurry of rumors were believed over statements of the Serbian government that they weren't true. It wasn't until del Ponte and the ICTY issued a denial of the Mladic arrest that the buzz (albeit, much of it legitimate buzz) began to settle down. Where was the US in its statements? Where was the EU? They may have had something to say, but they've become comparatively more marginal in FRY influence as Del Ponte has increased her influence. And even though the Europeans have EU club membership to dangle, don't count on them to independently assess Serbia. Rather, they will continue to do whatever Carla del Ponte tells them to do regarding Serbia.

Back to Mladic, here are some probabilities:
"Mladic has been located in the last week" - near certain
"Mladic was located in Belgrade" - 50/50
"Mladic was arrested in western Serbia" - unlikely
"The Serbian government will not allow Mladic to be arrested in Belgrade" - probable
"The Serbian government arrested Mladic but denies it" - unlikely
"ICTY negotiated payment for Mladic with his handlers" - likely
"Mladic was arrested in Romania" - we'll see
"A rivalry of two or more groups demanding payment is delaying Mladic's arrest" - possible



Not yet anyway. But for the first time in 10 years, the process has begun to deliver Ratko Mladic to face war crimes charges at The Hague.

The indications are strong. First, John1975 reported that a friend just called him with the news from the RS. John's a smart spook with lots of experience and connections throughout K and M territory, and is culturally savvy enough to discern the real indicators from the noise.

Next, Sunflower wrote to me with a similar report. Sunflower's a lawyer by trade but a diplomat and topnotch intelligence official in function, with extensive Balkan experience. When she sends me a heads-up, I know there's something to it.

Finally, Nick Hawton wrote about it. Nick's consistently been the most reliable western journalist on the Balkan war crimes trail, a topic which many journalists lacking Nick's toughness and savvy don't seem to stick with. Nick reports in today's Times the conflicting rumors over whether Mladic was captured, surrounded, or near a negotiated surrender in return for cash for his family. He also mentions that a senior official in Sarajevo close to the war crimes investigation said he believed Mladic was in the custody of Serb security forces.

A new article in the AP covers these developments: Mladic has been "located" (but not detained) near Cer Mountain in western Serbia near the Bosnian border, just a week before crippling sanctions were due to begin against Serbia for their failure to cooperate in finding war criminals.


New report: Karadzic and Mladic handlers working together in Hague negotiations

Are Karadzic and Mladic just financial assets of their nationalist crime boss controllers, to be offered in exchange for undisputed Serbian hegemony in Kosovo? Read on.

Consensus has grown about the of the power that the K and M protective networks enjoy in moving their men, controlling finances, and negotiating terms. Indeed, the network bosses nowadays seem to have more control over their "golden egg fugitives" than K and M themselves. Now emerges a report that the protective networks are negotiating with the Hague... and maybe even negotiating jointly for both K and M.
The FENA article below outlines the evidence of this trend. Next, I've excerpted Trusted Friend's analysis of these reports and his assessment of their credibility. Finally, the original and full report in German from Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (one of Germany's most respected daily papers, known for thorough and proper research) is attached.

English summary article:

20.02.2006 (14:51)

BERLIN, February 20 (FENA) – Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic demand 5 million Euro each to surrender to the authorities, German "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" daily reported on Monday. These funds would be used to secure the families of Karadzic and Mladic, as well as their supporters.

The daily writes that intensive negotiations are underway with both men and that both of them demand to be provided at least 5 million Euro for surrendering to the Serbian authorities.

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte has increased pressure on Belgrade to arrest Mladic and Karadzic, "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" reported.

Her spokesperson Florence Hartman said that they know where Mladic is and that he is “within reach of the Serbian authorities”.

Trusted Friend's analysis:
Even though I do not know their sources I would be inclined to believe, that there is something behind this story. The questions are: why this report NOW, and WHO's playing?

To me the most significant part of this report is "...These funds would be used to secure the families of Karadzic and Mladic, AS WELL AS THEIR SUPPORTERS ..." It makes me think, whether it really is Karadzic or Mladic who do the negotiating. I assume it is the supporting networks, trying to line there pockets once more, getting one final large payout and then deliver the two to the ICTY.

After recent legal and political developments in Serbia and Montenegro, NATO's/EUFOR's increased operational (and intelligence gathering) capabilities in S&M and the re-structuring of the security apparatus, the support networks have to feel the mounting pressure by now: they probably do realise that it will get increasingly more difficult to sustain their operations. At the same time, their own financial basis has been severly damaged in recent months (Mandic's detention, etc.).
Their political support has vanished too, recently. In fact, the very sensitive KOSOVO-status talks have begun yesterday in Vienna. This will be Serbia's main effort in the upcoming weeks as for historical reasons the KOSOVO is still seen as Serbia's heartlands, which will have to be defended "at all costs". The two PIFWCs might impede Serbia's international position, as she struggles to gain international credibility. Therefore, for the Serbian government K&M might well turn out to be the "cost" to be paid to remain KOSOVO's status as a Serbian province. And then there is also the issue of association talks with the EU. Only last week the EU
Commission's President Barrusso told Belgrade, the EU would like to start talks
in autumn, but S&M will have to fully co-operate with the ICTY first
... Somebody will have to give in and pay the price ...

The support networks will also understand that one day K & M will be found and then the game (and the business) will be over. They too would end up in the dock ... Why not obtain a nice golden handshake, maybe negotiate immunity for themselves, and move on? Ohh... and do they care about the families? Do they bollocks! I think Sasha and Ljiljana Karadzic made that very clear last year, when they were quite explicit about this issue.

All of this would fall in line with my earlier assumption, that K & M have become pawns in a game they do not control themselves. Do I have proof for this? NO, but I have been involved closely enough to know how these "supporters" tick and how "SECURITY BUSINESS in the Balkans" is being conducted.

Anyway - we have had similar reports before and nothing has happened so far. But I think indications are, time really is running out soon. Let's see ...
Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung original article:

Karadzic und Mladic verhandeln über Aufgabe Osnabrück

(APA,ag.) - Die seit Jahren flüchtigen mutmaßlichen Kriegsverbrecher Radovan Karadzic und Ratko Mladic haben nach einem Pressebericht je mindestens fünf
Millionen Euro dafür verlangt, dass sie sich den serbischen Behörden stellen. Über diese Forderung werde mit dem ehemaligen Präsidenten und dem Ex-Oberbefehlshaber der bosnischen Serben derzeit "intensiv verhandelt",
berichtete die "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung".

Die Gesuchten wollten mit dem Geld angeblich ihre Familien und ihre wichtigsten Helfer versorgen. Die Chefanklägerin des UNO- Kriegsverbrechertribunals, Carla del Ponte, habe mit Blick auf die Suche nach Karadzic und Mladic den Druck auf Belgrad erhöht, berichtet das Blatt.

"Wir wissen, wo sich Mladic aufhält. Wir wissen, dass er in Greifweite serbischer Behörden ist. Und wir wissen, dass die Regierungen in Serbien und Montenegro das auch wissen", sagte ihre Sprecherin Florence Hartmann der Zeitung.

Die Anklägerin legt Mladic und Karadzic Völkermord und Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit zur Last, darunter das Massaker an fast 8.000 moslemischen Bosniern in Srebrenica im Juli 1995. Serbien-Montenegro will am 27. Februar mit der EU Gespräche über ein Assoziierungsabkommen beginnen, den ersten Schritt zur Mitgliedschaft. Brüssels Vorbedingung für die Verhandlungen ist jedoch die "umfassende Zusammenarbeit" Belgrads mit dem Haager Tribunal.

APA 9:07 20.02.2006