Anti-Milosevic revolt was planned in army

 

Police and soldiers from Yugoslavia's elite units staged a mutiny during Belgrade's day of revolution with army and police opposition supporters inside and outside the parliament and TV station working against those in their units seeking to defend them, it emerged yesterday.

More than 100 active or former soldiers, many from the army's elite 63rd parachute Brigade, spearheaded the storming of Belgrade's federal assembly and the offices of the hated state television RTS, liaising with sympathetic police inside.

The extraordinary story of mutiny within some of the most trusted and previously loyal units in Yugoslavia comes from Mr Zivan Markovic, himself a former special forces soldier with the elite 63rd brigade.

But the tale of mutiny also demonstrates the dangerous split that remains among police and army ranks and that could threaten stability as Serbia struggles through its early days under President Vojislav Kostunica, with Milosevic still in the country.

According to Mr Markovic: "Special anti-terrorist forces from the police and police intervention squads were involved." But he did not wish to give too much detail because of the unstable situation. "We still have some problems," he said.

"They were specialists in all kinds of military activities - not all parachutists. All were experienced people."

"The parachutists were in contact all over Serbia," he said, explaining that many of these were veterans of the regiment." The man around whom these security forces rallied on Thursday - the day of Belgrade's revolution - was the radical activist, Mr Velimir Elic, mayor of the central Serbian city of Cacak.

"We had active policemen, who were not in uniform, of course, and then specially trained police officers," Mr Elic confirmed yesterday. He said most of the soldiers had "seven years experience of war as professional soldiers."

The details emerging now make it clear that the revolt that finally unseated President Milosevic and which initially appeared spontaneous was in fact a carefully planned military operation.

Reports circulated in Belgrade that on Thursday 10,000 men were carrying arms. Mr Markovic would not confirm the numbers, he just said they had "enough" guns.

"When we started out, we had small arms. Later a truck of machine guns came. In Belgrade we had Kalashnikovs."

"We brought in a bulldozer from Cacak. There were water trucks. We had a loud speaker truck. And we had trucks full of youths who had brought stones."

"We had contact with the policemen inside the federal parliament. Some inside and some others. We didn't know exactly who the contact people were. But there were people at the television station and federal assembly." But not all the police had "turned", he said. "Those outside the parliament were from Kosovo and they were regular police," he said.

"When the opposition came toward police [guarding the parliament] they were tear gassed. But when they went inside the federal assembly, in the basement, the police started to strip off their weapons and plead not to be beaten," he said.

Mr Markovic denied reports that western satellite intelligence had been made available to them. "No," he said. "We were definitely against any `help' from outside and if someone from abroad tried to get in then we would have lynched them."

Mr Markovic also said that Mr Milosevic's own bodyguard now includes a majority of people who, personally, do not support him.

"In the special forces, mostly the chiefs are for Milosevic. The 72nd brigade was guarding Milosevic all the time. It's still responsible for his security - and within that guard about 70 per cent do not support him," he said.