YU army displays decoys
NIS, Jun 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army on Wednesday displayed a range of crudely-made decoys that it said had tricked NATO pilots into firing away from genuine targets during the alliance's 1999 air strike campaign.
The head of Yugoslavia's Third Army division, Colonel-General Vladimir Lazarevic, sought the upper hand in the post-war public relations battle by reiterating accusations that the West had exaggerated the damage inflicted by its bombs.
"The first victim (of the war) was the truth," said Lazarevic, who headed the army's Pristina Corps during the conflict and who was later promoted by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Lazarevic, speaking at the bomb-damaged headquarters of the Third Army in the southern Serbian city of Nis, put its losses at 13 tanks, 10 armored personnel carriers as well as some artillery pieces - well below Western estimates.
"The truth is that the losses in military equipment were minimal," he said in an interview. "Never before in the history of warfare have such low losses been seen."
He did not go into detail about army strategy for avoiding greater damage, nor did he give military casualty figures.
But journalists were later shown decoys at an army base outside Nis which army personnel said were used in Kosovo.
Intended to trick hostile aircraft into going after the wrong targets, the decoys include dummies of soldiers filled with hay standing next to fake anti-aircraft guns made out of various metal parts, including old water pipes.
ARMY SAY DECOYS EFFECTIVE
One decoy was a multiple rocket launcher with rusty vegetable cans as barrels.
"It looks primitive, but it was very effective," said one army official. "The results were very good."
Another army officer, who declined to be identified, said the decoys had contributed greatly to reduced hardware losses. He said most of them were hit during the March-to-June air war.
Before reporters could approach a field where a dozen or so decoys were scattered, soldiers covered some of the larger ones so they could not be seen.
The army said these decoys had survived the bombing and been brought back by soldiers withdrawing from Kosovo last year to Nis, where the Pristina Corps, named after the provincial capital, is now based.
NATO bombed Yugoslavia to force Belgrade's military and police into ending a harsh crackdown on ethnic Albanians seeking self-rule in Kosovo, a southern province of Yugoslavia's main republic, Serbia.
Last month, the Pentagon and the U.S. Air Force denied a Western media report that the U.S. military and NATO had vastly inflated bomb damage wrought on Serbian armor.
An article in the U.S. magazine Newsweek said the air strikes were very accurate against fixed targets but ineffective against tanks, armored vehicles and mobile artillery.
U.S. Air Force Brigadier General John Corley, director of studies and analysis at U.S. Air Force headquarters in Europe, conceded that only about 26 destroyed and burned-out Serb tanks were found by his team after the bombing ended.
But he said that the total count was 93 destroyed after information from sources such as satellite pictures and gun-camera film was considered.
Kosovo, still legally part of Yugoslavia, is now under the de facto international rule, with 40,000 NATO-led peacekeeping troops struggling to keep peace and vengeful ethnic Albanians carrying out frequent attacks against remaining Serbs.
Echoing statements by the civilian Yugoslav leadership, Lazarevic said KFOR peacekeepers had failed to stop such attacks and suggested that they should be replaced by Serbian troops.
"There is no peace in Kosovo, there is no peace in the Balkans, unless the international security troops, the way they are, withdraw from Kosovo," he said.