Rachak is a small Albanian village of two hundred and more houses near Shtimlya at the foot of the Yezerska Planina mountain. The 126 Albanian militants and the headquarters of the terrorist group were located in Racak. It was from Rachak that attacks and incursions against police officers were constantly made. The police had planned the anti-terrorist operation in the village for a long time, but postponed it because all its actions were instantly interpreted as an attack on the civilian population.
This time, the law enforcement agencies knew that there were no civilians in the village, except for a few old people. The anti-terrorist operation against the militants was scheduled for January 15, which was reported to the OSCE mission by 110 police and a small army unit. According to the plan, a small group of policemen began moving toward the village at 1:00 in the morning. They passed unnoticed through Rachak and occupied the first row of trenches dug by Albanians on a mountain beyond the village and was empty that night. The others waited for the start of the operation on the road leading to the village. By morning, the militants were surrounded.
At dawn, the military and police began to move toward the village. Albanians on alarm grab for weapon and run to the trenches, not knowing that they are already occupied by the Serbian police. Many of the militants died, some managed to return to Racak, where a firefight began with the troops advancing from the road, after which the Albanians tried to break into the mountains. The operation lasted until the 15 hours, the militants were saved a little, their headquarters was destroyed, the police were pleased with the results of the operation.
Many policemen returned to the base, some remained to guard the trenches, but due to the attack of Albanians who came to the rescue from the side of Yezersk Planina, she was forced to withdraw to Urosevac.
Albanians enter the village, and here the play begins. All the corpses are spread on the field, where no hostilities took place, 40 killed people are dressed in civilian clothes, and the rest are taken to Budakovo and buried there.
The next morning, on January 16, the American Control Mission in Kosovo and Metohija, American William Walker, suddenly appeared in the village. He discovered “reprisals” against the civilian population, convened Western journalists, forbade Serbian investigators and correspondents to appear in Racak, after which he made a statement.
“This is a massacre,” William Walker told the telephone by phone to NATO Commander Wesley Clark. - I am here. I can see the bodies, ”He found“ mountains of bodies ”in civilian clothes, many of which were killed at close range, and this fact at a press conference for foreign and Albanian journalists called“ a crime against humanity ”, which was committed by the Serbian police forces. Even then, experienced journalists were surprised that there were no traces of bullets and blood on the clothes of “brutally killed civilians” ...
And this is how US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes this event. She heard on the radio "a report about a real massacre that happened eight thousand kilometers from my house." William Walker told reporters: “There are a lot of corpses, these people were shot in different ways, but most of them are almost point-blank.” When he was asked to name the perpetrators of the crime, he answered without hesitation: “This is the Serbian police”. According to his version, “the Serbs began shelling the village the day before the incident. After an artillery attack, militarized units entered Rachak. They drove the women and children to the mosque, took away the adult men and took them with them. Later, villagers discovered their bodies. ”
And on January 19, the following statement appeared: “The UN Security Council strongly condemns the brutal murder of Kosovo Albanians in the village of Rachak in southern Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, January 15 1999, as reported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Control Mission in Kosovo (KMK). The Council notes with deep concern that the KVM report states that the victims were civilians, including women and at least one child. The Council also notes the statement by the head of the KVM that the responsibility for this brutal murder lies with the security forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that uniformed soldiers of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and officers of the Serbian special police took part in it. The Council stresses the need for an urgent and full investigation of the facts and urges the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to cooperate with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the KVM in order to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. ”
It is clear that the Western media carried the details of the "massacre" on the front pages of newspapers. The real version of the events did not interest them, because it did not correspond to the “attitudes” about the “cruelty of the Serbs”.
Later, the Belarusian experts who arrived at the scene investigated the “crime scene” and concluded that the bodies of the killed people were brought from another place. Then a “neutral” international expert group of Finnish pathologists was created: its task was to autopsy and decide whether it was the shooting of civilians or the terrorists of the Kosovo Liberation Army killed in battle. In their opinion, the majority of those killed were the military, then dressed in civilian clothes. Traces of gunpowder were found on the fingers of many of them; bullet holes were found on bodies, but not on clothing. The expert report was published only a year later. According to the report, “in 39 cases from 40 it is impossible to talk about the shooting of unarmed people.” The main conclusion: there was no “massacre” in Racak. The data of the Finnish experts was confirmed by the director of the Hamburg Institute of Forensic Medicine, Klaus Püshel, who studied the opinion of Finnish pathologists. According to him, the examination did not give any evidence that the dead were civilians, and, moreover, that they were killed by the Serbian military. Serbian experts worked together with the Finns. A specialist in the field of forensic medicine and a direct participant in the research in Racak, Professor Vuyadin Otashevich told the Politika newspaper that all the detailed documentation about the events in Racak is in the Supreme Court of Serbia.
In Serbia, it was clear to many that the “Racak Massacre” was a well-staged performance that was supposed to justify further NATO intervention. Albanian terrorists have already organized provocations earlier. In June, 1992, on the approach to Sarajevo Butmir Airport, a helicopter was shot at with French President François Mitterrand on board. In August of the same year, Sarajevo itself was fired - in conjunction with the attack on a visit to the city by the British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. In September, an Italian transport plane was shot down on an approach to Sarajevo, a few days later an attack on a UN food convoy ...
And the “free world”, having learned about the “massacre in Racak”, was already ready to punish the leadership of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav army, and with it the entire Serbian people. Letters to the Security Council came from Australia, Albania, the Islamic Group to the UN, expressing outrage in connection with the “cold-blooded killing of 45 innocent Muslim civilians” by XNUMX, which should be viewed as a manifestation of “ethnic cleansing in Kosovo”.
Russia, in a joint statement with the United States, also resented the killing of Albanians, “to whom there is no excuse,” also mentioned a threatening “humanitarian catastrophe”.
The reason for “punishing” the Serbs was received in the West, and they were inclining it in every way. Madeleine Albright began to act. She asked Wesley Clarke and General Klaus Naumann, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, to go to Belgrade and demand Slobodan Milosevic to stop the violence. The Serbian leader was reminded that the threat of the North Atlantic bloc of armed intervention remains in force. Then M. Albright began to call the foreign ministers of NATO member countries and suggested that the alliance revise its plans for attacking. The United States representative to NATO, Alexander Vershbow, has been tirelessly arguing for one month that the bloc will ultimately have to use force to prevent Milosevic from further terrorizing the population of Kosovo. The Secretary of State’s plan was simple: the bombing was already “on schedule”, but the goodwill of the West to negotiate had to be demonstrated beforehand. And - the intransigence of "insidious Serbs." At the same time, it would be better to create a situation in which the Serbs would refuse to participate in the negotiations at all ...
By January 23 the final strategy was developed in Washington.
No one paid any attention to the appeals of the Yugoslav leadership to the UN Security Council on the responsibility of Albanians for the escalation of terrorist activities, for attacks on police patrols, abductions of military and civilians.
Events according to the "Racak plan" developed. M. Albright gained the support of the presidential administration and the leadership of the Pentagon. Her memoirs show: it was she who was the engine of the entire NATO operation. And the General Staff, and the Minister of Defense, and a soldier. Now she began to persuade the European allies. But in the Old World not immediately showed willingness to support the military plans of M. Albright.
The Russian General Staff, as Colonel General Leonid Ivashov recalled, had information about the events in Racak: she came from our embassy in Belgrade, from our observers in the OSCE Kosovo verification mission, and therefore our military leadership doubted the authenticity of Walker's findings. But this, too, did not worry anyone in the West, the “massacre in Racak” was bound to become a pretext for punishing Serbia. This is confirmed by the letters of the NATO Secretary General from 28 and 30 in January 1999 to the President of Yugoslavia, called the “last warning”.
In London, the 29 of January was a meeting of the Contact Group (established in 1994 for the purpose of coordinating a settlement in the Balkans, it included the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany), at which it was announced that peace negotiations would begin on February 6 in French Rambouillet As M. Albright recalled, “we were going to offer both parties a plan for consideration, according to which autonomy is granted to Kosovo”. She closely followed the negotiations. In Washington, she was told that “the Serbian delegation treats the talks carelessly,” while the Albanians, who demanded a referendum with obviously predictable results on the independence of Kosovo, behave “stubbornly like donkeys.” Therefore, the Secretary of State decided to fly urgently to Rambouillet. She “set two main goals for herself. First, I wanted to convince the Serbs that it was in their interest to conclude an agreement. Secondly, to ensure that Albanians accept the framework agreement proposed by the Contact Group. ” Upon arrival in Paris, she met with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, during which she persuaded him to accept the presence of NATO "peacekeeping" forces in Kosovo. Milutinovic answered her: “I agree with what you said, somewhere between sixty and seventy percent. We must seriously think about the future and try to resolve the Kosovo conflict by political means. We accept the idea of autonomy and democracy, but we are definitely not satisfied with your proposal to deploy external armed forces in the province. It will be a disaster. Instead of building such plans, you should cooperate with us in the area of dissolving the KLA. ”
The conference was attended by Russian diplomats. It was they who had to persuade the Serbs to accept the agreement.
However, First Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott evaluated their activities differently. “A platoon of Russian diplomats who defended the principle of Belgrade rule over Kosovo, minimized the role of NATO in the settlement and discredited Kosovars as gangsters, who are not unlike terrorists, roamed Rambouillet.” - While negotiations were underway, I was in Moscow, for my part reinforcing the mission of Madeleine and keeping in touch with her team through the American ambassador to Macedonia, Chris Hill - he was the most experienced and skilled specialist in the Balkans in the diplomatic service. We tried to make the Russians understand: once again speaking with Serbian advocates, they only encourage intransigence and thereby increase the likelihood of war. ”
On the day of the end of negotiations, the Serbian delegation received the text of the Interim Agreement and its annexes. After the conclusion of the negotiations in Rambouillet, both sides made statements. “The delegation of the Government of the Republic of Serbia emphasizes that during the negotiations in Rambouillet significant progress was made in the elaboration of a political decision on the broad autonomy of Kosovo and Metohija, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” the Serbs said. - We especially emphasize the same thing that the Contact Group is talking about, namely, that it is not about the independence of Kosovo and Metohija, nor about the formation of a third republic. Therefore, all elements of autonomy at the time of approval of the agreement must be known and clearly defined. In future work, this question must be adequately raised and consistently resolved. In this sense, we are ready to participate in the next meeting dedicated to this issue. ” The Albanians stressed: they will sign a treaty if, after three years, the Albanian people in Kosovo are allowed to hold a referendum on independence.
In fact, Yugoslavia have put forward an ultimatum: if it signs a treaty, NATO troops will enter the territory of the province. If he refuses, he will be held responsible for the failure of the negotiations, which implies “punishment” by bombing.
Commenting on such a humiliating ultimatum, even American newspapers, as well as many authorities in the field of international law, rhetorically asked: “Could anyone really expect the Serbs to accept it?” Some also turned to the readers' conscience: “Would you yourself sign such an agreement?”.
For M. Albright it was very important to make S. Milosevic change his position. She was even ready to change the wording so that the occupation of the entire country by the armed forces of NATO looked more “decent”. She proposed, for example, to the Serbian side such a characteristic of the NATO troops as “anti-terrorist forces”, since their role, in particular, should be to facilitate the disarmament of the KLA. But one more thing was important to the Americans. To avoid accusations of occupation and foreign invasion, it was necessary to get from Belgrade an invitation to NATO forces to settle in the territory of Yugoslavia.
It was not possible to do this. They even attracted the Russian foreign minister in the hope that he would be able to persuade S. Milosevic. In the middle of March, Igor Ivanov went to Yugoslavia and saw “only idiots who are ready to go to war” ...
While there were discussions about the text of the agreement, the headquarters of the North Atlantic bloc were already preparing to attack. S. Talbott writes that at this time “NATO began to actively prepare for the bombing campaign. The point of view dominated the US government: the operation would not last long. Bosnia has proved that Milosevic is a cowardly bully: if you smash him harder, he will curl up. ” NATO is starting to deploy ten thousand troops in Macedonia on the border with Kosovo. Troops are on alert.
The second round of negotiations began in Paris on March 15. Upon arrival in the French capital, the Yugoslav delegation held a press conference. The Americans did not expect the Yugoslav side to come with well-crafted texts of documents and without the desire to let NATO members go to Kosovo. As M. Albright recalled, “representatives of the Serbian leader appeared in Paris with a completely distorted version of the agreement proposed by the Contact Group. The word "peace" at the beginning of the contract, they simply crossed out. Perhaps Milosevic believed that we were bluffing, or hoped that the Russians would find a way to prevent NATO from attacking. Maybe he trusted the bad advisers who urged him on how quickly he would be able to win the war for Kosovo. Perhaps Milosevic believed that his power would only be strengthened if he continued to play the role of a victim. In any case, he made his choice. We had to make ours. ”
In essence, neither the delegation of the "Kosovo-Metohian Albanians" nor the American negotiators wanted negotiations. “Albanians” were present in France only physically, and on their behalf were the Americans, who understood the negotiations as a duty to dictate terms.
Well, Moscow did not take seriously the unilateral signing by Albanians of the entire text of the agreement, believing that it “has no legal force”. But did the Russian Foreign Minister, who did not wish to disrupt this performance, presume that the “agreements” would be referred to in subsequent documents and demand its implementation from Yugoslavia? After all, the West began to use the following wording to justify all its actions: “Establish peace in Kosovo on the basis of the agreements reached in Rambouillet”.
Obviously, the negotiators did not need the consent of Belgrade, otherwise the whole plan of the NATO military operation would have collapsed. One of the employees Madeleine Albright said frankly: the United States "deliberately set the bar so high that the Serbs could not overcome it." In effect having disrupted the continuation of the Paris negotiations, the United States and NATO began to prepare for the punishment of Yugoslavia as the "culprit in the breakdown of the negotiations."
On March 21, the NATO Council gave S. Milosevic several hours to ponder and sign the agreement, after which he promised to strike from the air. The next day, the Alliance Secretary General received expanded powers from the NATO Council to decide on air operations against the Yugoslav army. In response to the message of the co-chairs of the meeting in Rambouillet of the Foreign Ministers of France and Great Britain, the President of Yugoslavia wrote: “As for your threats regarding NATO military intervention, your peoples should be ashamed of them, because you are preparing to use force against a small European state only because that it protects its territory from separatism, protects its citizens from terrorism and its historical property from the thugs ... You have no right to threaten other countries and citizens of other countries. "
S. Milosevic still hoped to solve the problems in Kosovo by peaceful means. Were there any objective possibilities for this? Of course not.
As President Bill Clinton wrote on 23 in March, “after Holbrooke (Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Yugoslavia - EG) left Belgrade, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, with my full support, gave the order to General Wes Clark to start air strikes.
Let us imagine that Belgrade would agree to sign all the proposed documents in Rambouillet. Would this change the course of events? Not. “And even if Milosevic would answer“ yes ”to everything contained in the Rambouillet agreement, we will still bomb him to hell,” said S. Talbott in March 1999 of the year.
With Russia, which persistently advocated a peaceful solution to the problem, it seemed that a completely acceptable option was also found. The head of the Russian government was to meet the beginning of the bomb strikes in the USA at the negotiations of the joint Primakov-Gore commission.
There, Yevgeny Primakov would try to convince of the correctness of the undertaken military actions. However, Moscow in the person of the head of the cabinet this time showed character.
Negotiations in the framework of the joint commission "Primakov-Gore" were to begin in the US on March 23. Flying up to the territory of the United States, E. Primakov spoke with Vice President Al Gore over the phone. Later, he would describe the conversation and his subsequent decision: “Vice-President Gore could not guarantee the direct question raised by me that the attack would not be carried out at least during my stay in the United States. Calling the commander of the ship, I said: "Come back." "How, let's not sit in Washington, because before landing, three and a half hours?". “No, we will not sit in the USA. If there is not enough fuel to Moscow, we will make an intermediate landing. ” The plane turned over the Atlantic Ocean ... ".
E. Primakov knew about the upcoming attacks, another 22 in March, Assistant Vice-President of the USA L. Fett warned him that “the visit will take place against the background of a very rapidly evolving situation around Kosovo” - so that the possible actions of the American side would not come as a surprise to him . However, he decided to fly to the negotiations, because he hoped that his visit would be able to prevent aggression, because in Washington, the position of Russia was well known: it is against the use of force against Yugoslavia.
A. Gore was very concerned about the reaction of public opinion to the “turn” of E. Primakov. He offered Yevgeny Maksimovich to inform the journalists that the visit was simply postponed until a later date and express regret that "a peaceful solution on Kosovo has not yet been found." The chairman of the government was decisive: “I regret that by your actions you put at risk all that has been gained in relations between Russia and NATO. To achieve this was very difficult. The ratification of the START-2 Treaty is also under threat. ” As for the press statement, Yevgeny Maksimovich did not want to dissemble, and promised to tell the real reason for his return to Moscow.
For many, the “turn” of E. Primakov was a bad sign. So they will bomb, I thought then. Russia was excited because of what is happening in the Balkans, all the people looked at the Serbs with sympathy and a desire to help ...
The NATO military operation against Yugoslavia, called the "Allied Force", began on March 24 1999. This is official. In fact, it began in the village of Rachak.