Russians accused of sheltering war crimes suspects
by Ed Vulliamy, Sarajevo
Russia's secret services are shielding Bosnian Serbs wanted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for atrocities committed during the Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered.
Gojko Janković, a Bosnian Serb who gave himself up to the tribunal [14 March] to face accusations of torture and multiple rape, was one of a group of fugitive alleged war criminals living in Russia under official protection. According to sources at The Hague and other intelligence sources, those still on the run and enjoying protection from the Russian secret services are Vinko Pandurević and Vujadin Popović, two senior Bosnian Serb military figures accused of genocide over the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995.*
Mr Janković was flown to The Hague yesterday having given himself up in the Bosnian Serb capital of Banja Luka, after four years in Moscow. There was no conclusive explanation last night as to why Mr Janković had turned himself in. A senior diplomat said: ‘Janković suddenly phoned from Moscow saying he wanted to come in.’ His wife, Milica, suggested personal reasons: a phone call to their son, Boban, in Belgrade, and the belief that he may be able to serve a prison term in Bosnia. Mrs Janković wanted to convince her husband to ‘surrender ... for the family’. Sources at The Hague pointed to pressure from the Bosnian Serb republic, Republika Srpska, ‘who are beginning to realise that this is not going to go away’.
The FSB, Russia's secret service, told the Guardian last night: ‘We know nothing about this, and we have no comment on it.’ There is acute frustration in diplomatic circles with Russia's attitude, not least because it is a signatory to the Dayton accord, which ended the Bosnian war in December 1995. ‘Why they are doing it is not clear. What is clear is that the Russians are helping these people, which is holding the process to ransom,’ one senior diplomat said.
During the Bosnian war, Mr Janković was sub-commander of military police and a paramilitary leader in the river Drina valley town of Foča, which was hit by violence in 1992, with Muslim families rounded up and driven out or killed by Serbs. A number of girls and women were kept (along with some other civilians) in a school, a sports hall and a military facility. There, and in a network of apartments and motels, they were subjected to serial sexual assault by Serbian soldiers and paramilitaries.
In 2001, three men were convicted at The Hague in a case which, for the first time, affirmed serial rape as a crime against humanity. But Mr Janković, accused of a series of assaults at the facilities which were detailed in his indictment, slipped the net. The Guardian can reveal that Mr Janković has been living under the protection of the authorities in Russia. A statement by Mr Janković's wife to the Bosnian Serb republic's interior ministry has been obtained, in which she describes a voyage to Moscow from eastern Bosnia in December, to meet her husband. Her account describes a visit largely supervised by a man driving a black bulletproof Mercedes and carrying a FSB identity card. The man produced the card over dinner, but put it away when Mrs Janković's interest was roused. He was ‘a person of knowledge and experience in police work as he spoke about tapping devices, etc’, the statement said The man paid the couple's bills in expensive restaurants each evening of the visit, before taking them home in the early hours to a luxury flat with which Mr Janković had been provided. ‘I was bothered by his constant presence, and then I realised that he was the one who paid the bills. I got the feeling that Gojko feels very safe in his presence,’ said Mrs Janković. According to her statement, Mr Janković was given Russian citizenship, under a pseudonym.
Others who slipped the net
Sources at The Hague said Mr Popović, wanted for ‘genocide or complicity in genocide’ for the Srebrenica massacre, was also hiding in Russia. The episode was the biggest single carnage in Europe since the second world war. Under the direction of the now fugitive Serb general Ratko Mladić, Bosnian Serb and Serbian soldiers and paramilitaries separated men from women and children while Dutch UN troops watched, and took the men to a series of execution sites. They also ambushed a column trying to escape through the woods, executing thousands more. Mr Popović was assistant commander for security in the Drina corps of the Bosnian Serb army and is accused of being ‘a key participant’ in the massacre.
Other Western intelligence sources named Mr Pandurević, who was commander of the Zvornik brigade and alleged to be involved in the capture of Srebrenica and the attacks on the column through the woods, as also hiding in Russia Along with General Radislav Krstić, who has been convicted at The Hague for his role in the massacre, Mr Pandurević is accused of overseeing the mass murder of hundreds of Muslims in a field near a school at Grbavići and hundreds more at a military farm in Branjevo. He also allegedly commanded the reburial of bodies in secondary mass graves, in order to try to conceal the extent of the massacre.
Russia's protection of fugitives can only obstruct efforts to rein in Republika Srpska which was established along with the Muslim-Croat Federation by the Dayton peace agreement. Russia has persistently crossed swords with the UN high representative in Bosnia, Lord Ashdown. Republika Srpska's refusal to cooperate with the Hague tribunal has blocked Bosnia's entry into NATO and led Lord Ashdown to impose two rounds of sanctions.
*Both these indictees have since surrendered to the Hague tribunal
This article appeared in The Guardian (London), 15 March 2005
[Koštunica] always complains that he was bugged and, sure, he was, though not by the DOS government but by his own Rade Marković, his own Nebojša Pavković and his own Aco Tomić. I’ve talked to a witness who was listening to Koštunica’s conversations before 5 October, i.e. between 24 September and 5 October, his conversations with the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister, when the Russians were shedding tears and trying to persuade Koštunica to agree to the second round of the elections and he was trying to resist. I must credit him for resisting. But something else has since become known. It seems, though it has not been fully confirmed, that Igor Ivanov asked Koštunica to let Milošević become federal prime minister, in order apparently to prevent his humiliation.
This is the conversation which allegedly no one knows about?
Yes, the famous conversation during which Koštunica says: ‘I would gladly keep him, but those people in DOS would never let me.’ He finally refused, causing Milošević to shout and throw tantrums. One day all this will be revealed.
It was all taped?
Yes, it was all taped. We checked all this with some people from military intelligence. We got a relatively convincing explanation that listening in was perfectly possible, but it could be done only with the assistance of Nebojša Pavković and others. Pavković always liked to tape conversations, though secretly.
From an interview with Miloš Vasić in Monitor (Podgorica), 8 April 2005