Kosovo War

Electoral success of SRS due to Kosovo situation

Part of the electoral success of Seselj's SRS can be linked to the violent struggle against Serb rule by the Kosovo Liberation Army, (KLA) in 1996. Fears of Albanian secession in Kosovo and stories of the victimization of Serbs were central to the first-wave of Serbian nationalism in the 1980s. In the 1990s after Dayton, it appeared to many Serbs, with access only to state-controlled media, that those fears were being realized.

Guerrillas in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). AP/Wide World Photos.

Guerrillas in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). (AP/Wide World Photos)


The short-lived Kosovo Verification Mission

OSCE observers arrive in Pristina to lay the groundwork before the arrival of the Kosovo Verification Mission's 2,000 unarmed verifiers, 18 October 1998. (OSCE)

OSCE observers arrive in Pristina to lay the groundwork before the arrival of the Kosovo Verification Mission's 2,000 unarmed verifiers, 18 October 1998. (OSCE)

As the situation in Kosovo continued to deteriorate, the OSCE concluded an October 1998 agreement with Yugoslavia under which a Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) would be deployed, primarily to verify a ceasefire accepted by all parties.  The KVM was slow to deploy and reached 1,500 international staff on the ground by February 1999, only part of its authorized strength.  It was never able to carry out the full range of tasks alloted to it.  Ceasefire violations continued and OSCE CiO/Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek withdrew the KVM in  March 1999.

Milošević rejects deal at Rambouillet Conference

Meanwhile, talks to defuse the Kosovo conflict were held at the Rambouillet Conference in January 1999. Milošević refused to accept a NATO- drafted agreement, which would have placed NATO troops on the ground in Kosovo. The U.S., UK and Albanian delegations signed the agreement, the Yugoslav and Russian delegations refused to do so. Yugoslav state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo eventually prompted NATO to launch an air campaign against Serbia and Montenegro in March 1999.

1999 Kosovo War

NATO's bombing campaign lasted from March to June 1999.  Targets ranged from Serbia to Kosovo.  Few attacks were made against targets in Montenegro, to avoid undercutting the position of its anti-Milosovic prime minister, Milo Đukanović.

Remains of the Yugoslav Army headquarters bombed by NATO during the aerial campaign in 1999. Photo – Teddyboy

Yugoslavian Army General Headquarters building in Belgrade  damaged during NATO bombing. Photo taken in August, 2005. (Tadija)

NATO Secretary General Robertson estimated that about 500 civilians were killed in the bombing.  Serbian authorities claimed the total was higher.  The bombings, including damage in downtown Belgrade, left a residue of public animosity to NATO.

After the war

The Kosovo war ended with the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and paramilitaries from the province. Over two hundred thousand Serbian civilians also left their homes.

Serbia's pariah status continued while Milošević remained in power. International financial support for free media and the political opposition reached Serbia, along with promises of further aid for reconstruction on the condition that a democratic government would be elected.