|NATO MILITARY BRIEFING|
April 28, 1999
Spokesman Jamie Shea and Italian General Marani discuss the missile which struck Bulgaria and other military operations in NATO's daily briefing.
JAMIE SHEA: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. You have heard from me twice today already, so I think it is wholly suitable that I ask General Marani to begin.
GENERAL MARANI: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. NATO's air campaign continued over the past 24 hours with numerous strikes against airfields, petroleum facilities, lines of communication and fielded forces.
Our military action has had significant impact on FRY military and
NATO continues to support Non-Governmental Organisations and the governmental institutions of Albania and FYROM, contributing significantly to the relief effort in these countries. In the last 24 hours there were 18 aid flights flown into FYROM with nine tons of food and water and five tons of tents. For Albania there were 27 aid flights delivering 81 tons of food and water, 41 tons of medical supplies and 39 tons of tents. Thus far NATO has assisted in the total delivery of 3,264 tons of food and water, 928 tons of medical supplies and 1,763 tons of tentage.
Now let's turn to the Serbian ground operations in Kosovo.
Serb forces are continuing localised operations in north and south
UCK guerrilla operations continue, as shown here. Although Serb forces occupy key villages and lines of communication throughout most of Kosovo, they still do not wield full control over many parts of the province, particularly areas of rough terrain. The Serbs' inability to substantially consolidate territory beyond key terrain reflects in part the gradual degradation of their forces after continuous operations and a decreasing fuel supply.
Turning to Serbian Air Force activity, although Serb early warning radar activity was observed, Serb air defence was relatively light, with four shoulder launched surface to air missiles and three unidentified SAMs noted. No FRY Air Force fixed wing activity was noted, and once again we had no NATO aircraft losses.
I will turn now to NATO operations. Last night multiple strikes were conducted against the Podgorica airfield in Montenegro. These were precision surgical strikes that were highly sensitive to avoid damage to civilian infrastructure such as the runway and civilian terminals. Military hangars, petroleum storage facilities, air defence radar and numerous Super Galeb aircraft parked in revetments were among the targets. Two other Super Galebs were also targeted at Sutomor during an attack against the Denotinovici radar site in south west Montenegro.
While we would have preferred not to have attacked sites in
As previously stressed many times, there shall be no sanctuary for
In addition to the attack on the military facilities at Podgorica
This video is of an attack on Monday, 26 April against an army command post at Prizren army headquarters.
The integrated air defence system was again targeted in our continuing campaign to prevent the Serb military from reconstituting the system. This is a video taken two nights ago of a similar attack against the Banja Koviljaca radio relay facility. This was part of a multi-aircraft attack and after the bomb impact you will see the results of these other strikes.
Petroleum storage and production facilities were targeted, including the facilities at Smederevo and Pozega. We again struck lines of communication, including several bridges. Serbian force infrastructure was struck, including the Ruma and Pozarevac army barracks, the Belgrade army training centre and various army storage areas. The following is a video of an attack on 26 April against the Djakovica army garrison in south west Kosovo. The following is the post-attack image of the same structure. The image also shows damage from previous attacks against the same facility.
Once again we successfully attacked fielded forces throughout Kosovo, including tanks, armoured personnel vehicles, fielded troops, radars, helicopters, petroleum railcars, mobile command post and other military equipment.
Finally there is a report that a NATO missile landed in Bulgaria about an hour, an hour and a half ago. You had a press release about this incident and really we don't have at this time anything more to add to it. Obviously this was not intentional and we regret any damage that this may have caused.
That concludes the operations briefing for today. Thank you.
JAMIE SHEA: General Marani, as always thanks very much. Just a couple of things from my perspective to add before we go to questions. First of all on the political front you heard from Strobe Talbott a few moments ago and I think his message was clear, after his consultations, is that the Alliance is resolute and our insistence on our five conditions for resolving this crisis are absolute. Indeed we once again see many echoes of international solidarity behind what we are doing, they are always welcome.
Yesterday, as you know, the Parliamentary Assembly at the Council of Europe voted very decisively to condemn the ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav Armed Forces in Kosovo, to call on Milosevic to withdraw his forces and to support an international security presence in Kosovo for a transitional period. There were some motions by individual parliamentarians to condemn NATO for Operation Allied Force, but they were not adopted.
At the same time we continue to receive indications from a number of countries that are not in the European Union that they are willing and ready to join the oil embargo that was agreed by European Union Foreign Ministers just a few days ago. At the moment we have Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. So that is a very impressive array of countries that are willing to put their long term interests in a secure and democratic Balkans, ahead of their short term economic gain, and we are grateful for that and we hope that other countries will also be prepared to show solidarity by joining this oil embargo. Anything that can help us to shorten this operation and end the violence in Kosovo should be supported by the international community.
At the same time, the facade of the union sacre in Yugoslavia
So more and more people are now coming forward with statements that we weren't hearing just a few weeks ago, and although they at the moment may be voices in the wilderness, they are nonetheless influential voices. And I believe again that this is an indication that Milosevic has not succeeded in snuffing out completely democracy, it is there lurking below the surface and it is increasingly making its voice felt, and this is encouraging even though naturally we fully appreciate the personal risks that such brave people are accepting by speaking out in this way.
REPORTER: I would come back to the incident in Sofia. I have two questions. First, I think there is a confusion because we heard about two bombs or rockets, one in the outskirts of the city and there was an explosion inside the city, downtown. I wonder if you would comment on that and you feel responsible for the second one, in the downtown explosion as well? And secondly, could you offer us a kind of technical explanation, how is it possible to deviate a rocket by 60 kilometres and what is the guarantee that it couldn't happen again?
GENERAL MARANI: In short, what Mr Shea said about the press release that went out an hour or so ago, contains everything we know about this incident. I haven't heard of any two explosions, or an explosion and a missile. The only news I have is about the single missile and we are looking to see why it happened and of course what we are also doing, we are making sure that our procedures, everything we can possibly do to avoid it happening again is presently carried out. How technically this could happen, there are many reasons for why a missile could deviate from its trajectory really malfunction or many other reasons. It depends in this case what happened and we are seeing into it.
JAMIE SHEA: And as I said earlier, obviously we will look at whatever
we can to minimise still further the possibility of this type of thing
REPORTER: Back to the Bulgarian issue. Isn't it true that also there is a question of violating Bulgarian airspace here? And secondly, this search and find mission that Clark is supposed to plan, is it still in the military committee and do you expect NAC to get it this week at all?
JAMIE SHEA: Yes, if I could perhaps answer the second question and General Marani will come back to the first, but on the first one, let me say that we have no information on the airspace issue at the present time.
Secondly, on the visit and search regime, yes it is still with the
Now it is true that SACEUR was able to develop his initial concept of operations very quickly and you would expect that from SHAPE, to be able to work very quickly and professionally. But 19 countries have to look at this, 19 countries, and they all have to be satisfied that what is on the table is something that they can implement and it makes sense. That is not a sign of weakness, that is a sign of strength because when we come up with things we have 19 countries and as you see, sometimes many more, implementing them.
On the other hand, please do not see this, if I can warn you, as a
But I think what we have done so far, quite frankly, is beginning to hit home. I saw today that Belgrade is now rationing each car on the streets of Yugoslavia to 20 litres a month, down from 40 litres a month, as the army has to raid if you like the petroleum piggy-bank of the country's citizens to continue to fuel its own activities. And you can't go very far, as you know, on 20 litres a month, so I think it is a sign that things are beginning to hit home.
GENERAL MARANI: About the airspace, I really don't have much to say. What I know about this possibility is what I have learned from the media on my way here.
REPORTER: (inaudible) says that the Bulgarian authorities have reports about the time when foreign planes entered the Bulgarian airspace?
GENERAL MARANI: I am not telling you what the Bulgarian authorities have released, what I can say is that looking into the matter we will verify whether an airspace violation occurred.
JAMIE SHEA: Let me, if I may, just make it clear that obviously we are looking into this. We have given you the information we have thus far and the Secretary General has received the Ambassador of Bulgaria today obviously to exchange information and to clarify the issue as much as we know it and we will continue obviously in the coming hours this afternoon to work with Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a partner country of ours, it has been very supportive, as you heard of course in Washington from President Stoyanov of what NATO is doing. The allies have also written on a few occasions to Bulgaria to make clear our interest in its security and its well-being and stability during the Kosovo crisis, and we are very grateful, we have an excellent working relationship and we will tackle this with the Bulgarian government in an atmosphere of full cooperation and transparency, I can assure you.
REPORTER: Jamie, on the list of countries that have joined the EU oil embargo, there are a couple of NATO Allies missing, like the US and Canada?
JAMIE SHEA: I was tackling, if you like, the recent additions, but I am grateful for this question Patricia, mainly because for once I happen to know the answer. Canada and the United States on Monday both promulgated legislation, the United States I believe via the Commerce Department and under Commerce Acts in order to also implement this oil embargo. So I can assure you that those actions have been taken in both countries. I can even give you the reports in my office afterwards.
REPORTER: Two questions, General Marani: If I understood well, during the bombing on Podgorica, one bomb went astray -- where did it land and why and how can you talk about "surgical precision" if that happened? Secondly, if I understood again, it seems that Serbian planes move from primary airfields in Serbia to Podgorica to use as sanctuary or as a secondary base -- could you then explain how much control of Serbian air space NATO planes have if such planes are allowed to fly from Belgrade right down to Podgorica?
GENERAL MARANI: First of all, I am not aware of any bomb that went astray in Podgorica. Second, as I had a chance to say in the previous days, air superiority, air space control is not to be intended as an absolute capability to inhibit any kind of flight. A quick flight, very low, of course poses some kind of difficulty in detecting the aircraft because we don't have airborne early-warning radars on top of Serbia, we are looking from only one side so some kind of terrain masking can be used. Therefore, these flights are detected some as soon as they get airborne, others with a small delay but the only thing they can do is they can be quick in taking off, fly extremely low and be quick-landing. This is what they can do and that is of no operational value really.
REPORTER: (inaudible) ... transferred from Serbia to Podgorica?
GENERAL MARANI: To be bombed in Podgorica.
JAMIE SHEA: Dominique, when you spoke of the bomb, I think I can clarify this. Last night, against this airfield in Podgorica there were just under 30 missions flown -- not bomb but missions -- all but one of those missions were successful, one mission obviously was not able to drop its ordnance and it could have been weather, cloud or smoke and we always come back to this point of pilots taking extreme precautions to be certain that they can hit the target before dropping their ordnance so this wasn't a question of a bomb going astray, it is just one mission that obviously was not able to complete and therefore again it is an example of firstly, the restraint but secondly, the fact that if it was only one out of a factor of virtually thirty, that this was a very successful night of operations. And by the way, the weather forecast is due to be good in the next few days as well.
REPORTER: Now the American Congress has reminded the President that he needs to obtain congressional approval before sending ground troops into Kosovo, what is NATO's interpretation of the status of the Apache helicopters?
JAMIE SHEA: Again, General Marani may have an answer there. It's not for me to comment on the US Congress, as you know that is something which American spokesmen are better placed to comment on than I. All I can say is that the United States in general has been very supportive of what we're doing in Kosovo including Congress. I was in Washington, as you know, last week for the NATO summit, the Congress hosted on the Friday afternoon a major event receiving all of the NATO Heads of State, SACEUR, the Secretary General, there was a meeting on Kosovo and there was very widespread support -- bipartisan support -- among both Republicans and Democrats for what we are doing and I am certain that the United States' involvement in this operation, the assets it's committing, the very important role it's playing are going to be upheld right to the end. I've no doubt in my mind at all about that and as far as the Apache mission is concerned, nothing leads me to believe that it's not up and running and will soon be making its influence felt.
REPORTER: Does NATO classify the Apache as constituting ground troops or not?
JAMIE SHEA: Oh no, the Apache is part of the air operation, we have always made this clear; it's an extra capability within the current operational plan for what we're doing, it's nothing to do with ground troops whatever. There are troops deployed in Albania but of course to protect and service and fly those Apaches and for no other mission at all.
REPORTER: A question each please. General Marani, you said that the Yugoslav forces had shifted the weight of their operations from west of Pec down to the line Decane-Djakovica and I'm wondering why they've done that, have they given up defending the incursion route west of Pec or have they secured it and could you estimate in general what percentage of the troops they have in Kosovo are on the border line?
Jamie, on the question of oil, wouldn't the secession of Montenegro from the Yugsoslav Federation solve a lot of problems? Is it part of the scenario and is it likely?
GENERAL MARANI: I don't think they have given up defending that line of communication but shifting the forces from one side to another can well be a tactical move that doesn't change the overall strategy in the area.
About percentages, I really wouldn't know at this moment what is the percentage of the troops deployed on the border in relation to the entire number of military VJ and MUP troops in Kosovo.
JAMIE SHEA: Doug, that is obviously a very interesting question, I'm grateful for that because it inspires a reflection. I referred a moment ago to the interview that President Dukanovic today gave in "Ivestia" and in it he said something that I didn't mention, he said that he is against Milosevic but he's for Yugoslavia.
I find this is an interesting comment, in other words, what he wants is for the principle to be accepted that according to the constitution of Yugoslavia, a constituent republic of the Yugoslav Federation -- which is what Montenegro is -- can be allowed to implement its own policies, according to the constitution, on the basis of a democratic election without being undermined from outside and as you know, Milosevic has persistently blocked Dukanovic and his government from sitting in the Yugoslav parliament soon after his election and indeed has been using Montenegrans of his own party and the former President Bulatovic to try to stir up trouble and undermine that so what I think Dukanovic is saying is that he prefers to be part of a democratic multiethnic Yugoslavia rather than to be forced into secession because that would be the only way to preserve democracy.
Yesterday, we had a discussion about the Kosovar Albanians and I made the same point, they only embraced independence once it became clear that they would not be allowed to have their autonomy under Milosevic but for many years all they asked for in the passive resistance organised by Ibrahim Ragova and others was simply for their human rights, their ethnic identity, their autonomy, to be respected. If people have left Yugoslavia since 1991, it's not because of any desire first and foremost to have so much their own state, it's because the policy of rabid nationalism in Belgrade gave them the impression that if they stayed within the Yugoslav Federation, they would not be able to survive or have their rights protected.
Our policy is not to encourage lots of states to suddenly emerge in
that part of Europe, it's simply to try to allow Yugoslavia to run on
the same decentralised federalist lines that many other states in
REPORTER: Could you give us an assessment of what strikes were made around and in Bar and were there any strikes that were made on the port facilities in the past 24 hours? And with the second errant bomb in 24 hours, could you give us an idea of what precautions are being taken to prevent this from happening and radical though it may sound, is there any consideration being given to stopping strikes until you figure it out?
Jamie, is there concern about undermining the Bulgarian government that has extended air space to NATO in the face of political opposition? Do you worry that that could be a policy reverse?
GENERAL MARANI: As far as air strikes are concerned, I'm not aware of any strike on Bar or the harbour facilities. There has been a strike south-east of Bar but at quite a distance and obviously you cannot correlate this strike with Bar itself.
In terms of precautions, of course any time aircraft go into action,
JAMIE SHEA: On the political aspect, first of all the Bulgarian parliament has yet to vote on the recommendation of the government to approve the use of air space by the Allies so we await the outcome of that vote and obviously we will fully respect whatever decision the parliament takes but we are very heartened by the fact that the government has recommended approval. That is the first point.
Secondly, we had, as you know, Prime Minister Kostov here last week just before we went to Washington. I also mentioned the very successful meeting with President Stoianof in Washington as well. Both expressed solidarity with the Alliance -- you heard the Prime Minister yourself here just a few days ago sharing our objectives and the need to work together -- and Bulgaria has been one of our longstanding partners in the Partnership for Peace, it's a country which has expressed an interest in joining the Alliance and we have an excellent relationship.
Obviously, if an incident like this one occurs at any time the first
I mentioned a moment ago that we have written to the Bulgarian
In fact I personally do not believe that it will have any impact on
REPORTER: Jamie, a couple of weeks ago, you were emphasising the urgency of rapid action to rescue the internally-displaced people inside Kosovo. I believe General Clark said the military is going to study with great urgency measures to air-drop some relief supplies. If NATO's been so successful in suppressing the Yugoslav air defences, why hasn't some kind of air-drop mission been undertaken?
JAMIE SHEA: Well Bill, this as you know came up at the Washington Summit and we don't exclude air drops. I want to make this clear that we haven't dismissed the idea, far from it, the military are still looking at planning and various options for trying to bring some kind of assistance but we do not believe that air drops can be a panacea.
It would be wonderful if they could be but they can't, not just because of the operational risks that NATO aircraft would be faced with -- and they would be faced with risks because although we have, as you say quite rightly, degraded significantly the air defence, these C-130-type aircraft that would be responsible for air drops would have to go in very low to be certain of being able to see the people that they are meant to be dropping the food to and would have to fly quite slowly because it's very difficult to do an accurate drop if you're flying at supersonic speeds and they would therefore be highly vulnerable to man-portable air-defence systems, so called "manpads" or even simply anti-aircraft fire from the ground and we would have to recognise that this would be a very risky venture. Secondly, as SACEUR has pointed out in the times that he's been up here, you would need an enormous number of aircraft to have any significant impact.
The best way of achieving the result obviously is to stop the
There are some things that we can do and are doing. The first thing is that we can give the humanitarian organisations information and intelligence which will help them to identify the scale of the problem and the location of the refugees.
The second thing is that we have a military planning activity to see
The problem is that they are the first people to say that in order
JAMIE SHEA: Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we've pretty much done the tour de raison for today and so I look forward to seeing you again here tomorrow at 3 o'clock for the next briefing. The next operational update will be in the morning at 10.30 and then the next briefing with General Marani at 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Thank you very much for the time being.