“We should build a monument to the victims of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences,” he wrote.
According to Lakicevic, it was the 1986 Memorandum that turned Serbs against their neighbors and, indeed, against the rest of the world.
“The harm done by that ideology [expressed in the Memorandum] is far greater than the damage caused by the war against NATO,” Lakicevic writes.
The wars that preceded the 1999 intervention led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of educated young people and incalculable economic loss -- “a national catastrophe,” according to Lakicevic. “And that is without even mentioning the evil wrought upon other [neighboring] peoples."
Apart from Prime Minister and now President-elect Aleksandar Vucic, who said that Serbia will “fulfill its duty toward innocent victims of aggression,” a number of public figures have pledged their support, including some signatories of the 1986 Memorandum. Serbian film director Emir Kusturica is one of the most outspoken supporters of the Sputnik initiative.
Kusturica said the proposed monument should “stand as a reminder that everything that befell the Serbian people in the last century was part of a project aimed at its destruction.”
She also points out that no one involved in the Sputnik idea is mentioning the Albanian victims of the war.
“[Ethnic Albanian victims] are considered citizens of Serbia by the constitution, and yet they are excluded from outpourings of public empathy, which only shows this government’s hypocrisy,” Trgovcevic said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service in Belgrade. “On the one hand, they continue to lay claim to Kosovo and its territory as part of Serbia, and on the other they do not count [ethnic Albanians], including those who died [as a result of NATO bombing] among the citizens who deserve to be honored. I see absolutely no reason for the monument, and I am decidedly against it.”
The figures are based on almost 1,500 documents and more than 500 statements from witnesses and victims’ relatives.
NATO air strikes began on March 24, 1999, only after months of failed peace talks, broken promises by the Milosevic government, and, finally, a new wave of repression against ethnic Albanians by the Serbian military and police.
“No one can doubt the large-scale human rights violations, expulsions, and war crimes [perpetrated by the Serbian forces in Kosovo] -- all of which are ignored in this [Sputnik] initiative,”Jelena Krstic of the Humanitarian Law Center told RFE/RL.
Her response to Vucic’s statement that “Serbia is obliged to fulfill its duty” to the victims of the NATO bombing is that “we also have to show respect for the victims whose deaths we are responsible for.”
Trgovcevic sees the Sputnik initiative as a distraction from Serbia’s current problems.
“We have many other much more pressing problems, including high unemployment and the exodus of young people from this country, and yet we are dreaming up pharaonic monuments to serve the needs of those in power,” she laments.