Czech President Milos Zeman’s apology to the people of Serbia for the Czech Republic’s role in the 1999 NATO aggression against Yugoslavia is a historic event, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the Pink TV channel on Tuesday.
"This day was very important for us from the historical point of view, it will be included in history books. [Zeman’s apologies] are a great honor for us. This tormented him, tormented his for years, and we appreciate his courage," Vucic said.
The Czech Republic's president, Milos Zeman, apologized for NATO's bombardments of Yugoslavia in 1999 during negotiations with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday, TASS reports.
The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999. The alliance's bombardments followed on March 24 to continue till June 10, 1999. Zeman, the then Czech prime minister, strongly protested against NATO's actions and stressed the historical and cultural proximity of the people of the Czech Republic and Yugoslavia. The Czech authorities then denied permission to NATO planes participating in the operation to land in the country's territory.
NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia began on March 24, 1999, and continued for 78 days. The operation, dubbed Allied Force, cited "the prevention of the genocide of Albanians in Kosovo" as its main cause. According to NATO’s statistics, warplanes of the alliance carried out 38,000 sorties during the operation, including 10,000 bombing runs.
According to Serbian officials, the bombing resulted in deaths of 3,500 to 4,000 people, while some 10,000 people were injured. Two thirds of the victims were civilians. The material damages amounted up to $100 billion. During the three months of the bombing, NATO dropped 15 tonnes of depleted uranium as bombs. After that, Serbia registered the biggest number of cancer diseases in Europe. In the first 10 years after the bombings, some 30,000 Serbian citizens were diagnosed with cancer, and between 10,000 and 18,000 of them died.