Serbs Are Still Defiant, But Stunned By Border Closure With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt
Aug. 04, 1994
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Defiance and a sense of betrayal coursed through the gloomy streets of this Bosnian Serb stronghold Thursday as people took in the stunning news that their patrons in Yugoslavia had cut them off.
A constant drizzle further dampened the gloomy mood in Pale, once a scenic town of 15,000 where the well-to-do of nearby Sarajevo spent their weekends.
Now the town accommodates 40,000 people, many of them Serb refugees from other parts of war-ravaged Bosnia.
Yugoslavia withdrew support for the Bosnia's Serbs Thursday, backing out of a war it bankrolled for more than two years at the expense of its own economy.
The Yugoslav government sealed the 300-mile border between Yugoslavia and Serb-held Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs have depended on Yugoslavia for weapons, fuel and other supplies throughout the 28-month war against Muslims and Croats.
''I think nobody should even try to go to Serbia,'' said Milanka Mitrovic, 36, when she heard the news. ''History has not seen such a betrayal.''
It was Slobodan Milosevic, powerful president of Serbia, who first whipped up the pathos and nationalism that have fed 28 months of war in Bosnia.
On Thursday, it was Milosevic who cut off aid and told ordinary Bosnian Serbs their leaders had betrayed them by rejecting an international peace plan.
A Bosnian Serb soldier, who identified himself only as Lt. Stevo, vowed to fight on. ''If we run out of ammunition, we are going to fight with our bare arms, we are not afraid to die,'' he said.
Bosnian Serbs are indeed likely to resume the fight with new fury if they feel cornered. But pride and anger could soon give way to fear, because the future for the isolated Bosnian Serbs is bleak.
A secretary at the Bosnian Serb leadership's headquarters was so shocked at the news of the border closure that she was unable to speak. A bank clerk, who refused to give her name, said she already was sobbing two weeks ago when she found out state coffers were virtually empty.
Milosevic, who has maneuvered in recent weeks to set up his own political party in Bosnia, played to such sentiment, painting Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his cronies as war profiteers with crimes on their consciences.
''The Serb people are put in the position of paying with the lives of their best sons, fighting as heroes, for the mad political ambitions and greed of their leadership,'' he said.
''Those who really make decisions don't have sons on the front.''
Bosnian Serb media have not made clear the full extent of Belgrade's wrath over the refusal to accept a peace plan that would give 49 percent of Bosnia to the Serbs, and the remainder to a Muslim-Croat federation.
But some veterans of Balkan fate and fortune needed no Milosevic to see a bleak future.
Radovan Nikic, a 70-year-old pensioner, said he ''wanted to die'' when he heard of the rift with Serbia. ''Now, we cannot hope for anything good.''
In Sarajevo, a Serb member of the ethnically mixed Bosnian presidency told The Associated Press:
''What Karadzic conquered, in blood and crime, he won because he had help from Milosevic,'' said Mirko Pejanovic. ''Now, if he wants to continue the war, he will have to rely only on the lives of his own people, and that is a resource that will run out one day.''
Families with friends and personal ties across the Drina River border in Yugoslavia were dismayed.
Stanka Miljakovic, a homemaker in her 40s, blinked back tears as she gazed skyward and talked of her children's dreams of studying in Belgrade.
''They were looking forward to studying in the big city. Now I don't know whether they will be able to even cross the border,'' she said.
Thousands of ethnic Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia study in Belgrade, where Bosnian Serb leaders have a villa-like hotel.
But, on Thursday, hard-line leader Biljana Plavsic was turned back at the border.
Scores of trucks piled up on the Serbian side of the border, according to AP photographer Srdjan Ilic. Only empty trucks could cross.
In forlorn Pale, seven trucks stood loaded with timber.
''I'll try to take this shipment to Serbia,'' said driver Branko Ljusin. ''They paid for it already.''
''I don't know what do to if we cannot export timber anymore,'' he said. ''We were selling it cheaply to Serbia, but it was almost the only money we could get.''