A Milosevic In Moscow

Borislav Milosevic, elder brother of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, has served as Yugoslavia's ambassador to Moscow since October 1998. Before that he spent 12 years in Algeria and Paris as a businessman. He has developed close ties with Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's special envoy on the Balkans, and has actively lobbied in favor of a union of Yugoslavia, Belarussia and Russia. Borislav and Slobodan Milosevic are personally close and speak to each other regularly by phone. Ambassador Milosevic talked with NEWSWEEK's Owen Matthews in Moscow last week. Excerpts:

MATTHEWS: What differences are there in the Russian and Yugoslav positions on bringing an end to the Kosovo conflict?
Our idea is to solve the problem based on two principles--national sovereignty and self-determination. I don't know if Russia understands this fully. When we talk about an international force, my government still says it should be a civilian force but Russia says it should be both civilian and military. So our positions don't coincide exactly, though they are close.

Do you see Russia as an ally or a mediator?
Russia is a mediator first and foremost. From the very beginning, Russia insisted that international law should be observed and took a very principled and consistent position against the bombings. So in that sense they are an ally. [Russian Foreign Minister Igor] Ivanov called the bombings "aggression" right from the start.

Whose side do you think Chernomyrdin is on? Is he more pro-Western than [Prime Minister Yevgeny] Primakov or Ivanov?
No foreign politician can really ever be "on our side." In politics there are no emotions, only interests. If our interests are complementary and can help in a given moment in history, then we can agree--but I can't say he's on "our side" or not. All Russian politicians follow Russia's interests above all.

Can Russia influence your position?
Russia has always influenced us. In this case, if Russia lobbies us in favor of international law, of civilized values and order, then it can influence us. If Russia wants to lobby us in the name and interests of NATO, then it cannot influence us.

Why do you want to form a union with Russia and Belarus?
There are many good reasons for such a union--economic, first of all, and cultural closeness. But I don't count religion or Pan-Slavism as reasons, because both Russia and Yugoslavia are multiethnic nations. If NATO goes too far into expansion this union could be a counterweight. Not a new Warsaw Pact, but some kind of counterweight to the hegemony of the U.S.

Why do you think NATO is bombing you?
In the first place, to protect its southern flank and increase access to raw materials. Also, it could be in their political interests to artificially ignite flames of conflict between the Islamic and Orthodox worlds. No way is it to defend the human rights of the Kosovar Albanians. We have no quarrel with the Albanians, only with warring extremists. Albanians are our people, too. I remind you that there was no humanitarian catastrophe and no refugees before NATO began bombing.

Why are refugees leaving Kosovo in such huge numbers?
Because NATO is bombing Kosovo. They are scared. Some want to find a new life in the West, but the majority are fleeing because NATO is bombing their homes.

What about reports of ethnic cleansing?
I don't exclude that there are some wild elements, some hooligans in the police and security forces. Some of them have even been tried. There was also fighting with the KLA, which also could have forced people out. But no ethnic cleansing. This is a myth. During World War II Serbs were systematically ethnically cleansed from Kosovo and Croatia. But no one talks about that now.

So the refugees who say that they have been thrown out are lying?
Maybe not all of them, but a large majority are lying. I saw the TV pictures of crying children, the helpless old men. It was all very touching. But I also never saw any pictures of Kosovars who have been killed by NATO bombs. The Western press does not talk about Albanians killed by NATO. It also does not mention that 55,000 Serbs have also fled Kosovo. People are fleeing the fighting, not the Serb police.

Your government has said it will allow back "Yugoslav citizens" who have fled Kosovo. But many refugees say their papers were confiscated. Who will you allow back into Kosovo?
Many of the Albanians in Kosovo are not Yugoslav citizens. They have been coming in illegally from Albania for decades. We will welcome back any Yugoslav citizens, irrespective of nationality.

What is your brother's mood at the moment?
His mood is normal. He knows what he is fighting for. He is fighting for the interests of his nation.

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