State ceremony marking the anniversary of the Day of Remembrance of the victims of NATO aggression was held today at the Railway Bridge with memorial in Grdelica Gorge, which was shot on 12 April 1999, when a train full with passengers was crossing it.
18th anniversary of the start of NATO bombing was attended by many citizens, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President of the Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik who laid wreaths at the memorial, and the same was done by the families of those killed in the train that was hit by NATO missiles at a time while crossing the bridge.
Victims of the NATO aggression were honored with a moment of silence.
Surviving train operator of the international train 393, Boban Kostic, said while talking to the people present in the Grdelica Gorge, that everyday job became a duty towards the state and passengers during the bombing.
He spoke of the fateful day, 12 April, when NATO bombs hit the train.
- 18 years ago we did not understand what we are for NATO pilots - a train full of passengers or the biggest target of their army. Even today I can not understand that the NATO pilots sent missiles at us in cold blood - said Kostic.
RS President Milorad Dodik said that history should not be forgotten, because whoever does it he allows the history to repeat it self, and he emphasized that we can't forget that someone decided to bomb the train full with civilians, to kill so much children in 78 days, with cynical name of the operation "Merciful Angel".
Dodik, in his address, spoke out against NATO accession, and announced that Serbian politicians will not support Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) path to that goal.
- When we have to cooperate with NATO, I always had a feeling of unease. You will not divide us on the Drina river. RS won't go in NATO - he said.
Dodik said that RS will not defend NATO border on the Drina, nor will mobilize the Serbs in the RS to send to war against Serbia.
- NATO bombed RS, threw depleted uranium, practiced upon us, creating power and strength because we were bombed. No politician in the RS will decide on the path towards NATO, the people will decide on that. They are afraid of the people and therefore demand that political leaders make a decision. We support the neutrality of Serbia - said Dodik.
He pointed out that they forbid Serbs in Bosnia for decades to love Serbia and they called then Bosnian Serbs, so he underlined that they are a part of unique Serbian people.
- RS is in BiH, but it is not our choice, but a compulsion. Everyone knows where we would like to be. I love Serbia and I love to be in it - Dodik said, pointing out that he was proud of Serbia, which is now being built, that wants to take its rightful place in the region.
With joined marking of suffering in RS and Serbia, old memories of the crimes are returning, said Dodik and thanked the leadership of Serbia and PM for bringing back Serbia on the track of regionally strong and decisive country in regional and economic way.
18 years ago, on 24 March 1999, the NATO military alliance planes began bombing Serbia, the first time since the creation of the Alliance without the consent of the UN Security Council, and in the air strikes, which lasted for the next 78 days, at least 2,500 people lost their lives, according to official data of state bodies.
Passenger train in Grdelica gorge, in which civilians were attacked on 12 April 1999, the second day of Orthodox Easter, and 15 dead civilians were identified, among whom were children.
Besides Grdelica Gorge, the bombing anniversary will be marked elsewhere in Serbia as well.
Estimated damage caused during attacks on military, civilian and economic facilities also varies, so experts from the Group-17 during 2000 amounted information about the damage in the amount of about $ 30 billion, while while the official amounts goes up to 100 billion dollars.
The bombing damaged or destroyed 25,000 residential buildings and destroyed 470 kilometers of roads and 595 kilometers of railways.
14 airports were damaged, 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges, while 38 were destroyed. Third of the power capacity of the country was destroyed, two oil refineries in Pancevo and Novi Sad were bombed.
2,300 air strikes on 995 facilities around the country were performed during the aggression, and 1,150 combat aircraft launched close to 420,000 missiles of the total weight of 22,000 tons, and banned depleted uranium ammunition was used.
Vucic said: We will never again suffer like we did in 1999.
Serbia remained unconquered and is cheering for freedom today and is becoming stronger and stronger and will never again suffer like we did in 1999.
Vucic, on marking of the 18th anniversary of the start of NATO bombing at the bridge in Grdelica gorge, said that the most brutal aggression human history began on this day and terrible march of the greatest military alliance of all times on small, but in its existence - great country.
- We saved the pride and dignity of the Serbian heart, a small country remained unconquered today, more clearly than ever, cheering for beautiful freedom and its beautiful, the most beautiful Serbia - Vucic said.
Serbia will not seek to be part of the alliance that was destroying our country and killed our children, nor will it be a part of any another alliance.
- Aggression on our country will never be repeated, on which we will not have a strong and victorious answer - said PM.
Vucic previously, along with the families of those killed in the train that was hit by NATO missiles at a time while crossing the bridge, laid a wreath and paid tribute to all the victims killed in the NATO aggression.
We want the relations with NATO to be decent, to save the lives of people on Kosovo, said PM.
- We want to be on our ground, to have peace and freedom and we will never allow anyone to touch us into free spirit of our people - Vucic.
He said multiple times Serbia is stronger than it used to be and that it will be even stronger with each passing day.
- I said many times that Bljesak and Oluja will never happen again, and no aggression on our country on which we will not have a proper, strong answer - said Vucic.
Stating that today we are becoming adults today and that we will never forget those who gave their lives for Serbia, Vucic said that 227 children are born every day in Serbia, that in 18 years they will become adults and take pride in the generation that defended its country.
He said that 18 years ago a tragic war began in which 19 countries had a need to demonstrate that they are richer and more powerful than our small but proud country.
He added that they threw three kilos of bombs for each of us, more than 1,150 aircraft with 30,000 flight has bombed Serbia, and spent the the amount of money enough to feed 80 million people, by their own calculations
- An expensive funeral they prepared for us - expensive for them, but also for us - said PM.
We suffered, as he said, damage of around 130 billion dollars, which is more that World War II, and more than 2000 civilians lost their lives, and more than 1000 soldiers and police officers were killed during three months of bombing.
Vucic reminded that the explanation of NATO pilot was that he did not see the train from the smoke caused by the first rocket fired at the same train.
- And can we say to the bombs and missiles that made smoke in the middle of Europe so the entire people, Serbian people, becomes invisible - asked Vucic.
He said that Serbia has spoken already, as he pointed, on 24 March 1999, 172 children were born in Serbia, and because each day till 10 Jun almost the same number was born, "and finally, those born in the disappearance were precisely 14,391."
- Those children are becoming adults today and we are becoming adults with them. The entire Serbia, in grieving days, celebrates adulthood, adulthood of pride, dignity and brave heart. Serbia is celebrating because it succeeded, got over it, passed the exams, matured and because it can move forward - said Vucic.
(Telegraf.co.uk / Tanjug)