THE FRENCH BATTALION LIBERTES THE VRBANJA BRIDGE
‘And one day I go to Skenderija, and I see a real sight. Tanks are out on the bridge, Skenderija. The new colonel came. And on his first day while they were on the Vrbanja Bridge, at that checkpoint, the Serbs took advantage of the fact that they had stolen bulletproof vests, uniforms, and vehicles. During the night, they tricked the new French troops who were stationed at that checkpoint during the night. They acted as if they were changing guard, and in this way took over the bridge. Of course, a general panic ensued, and later the colonel told me that he had taken back the bridge over night. I asked him whether he had asked permission from the main headquarters at the post office. He just smiled, and I think, I’m not sure that they had a direct line, my Colonel Sandal and Jacques Chirac, who had just come to power. He, the colonel, only told me: ‘We were specifically ordered to take back and liberate the bridge’. The action of returning the bridge to French hands was led by a very young lieutenant. He was about twenty-two years old. As a reward for that successful action, he got a day off, and on that day he walked about the battalion in a sports outfit.’
• In Sarajevo, Akashi tries to negotiate a truce. The premier of the Federation of BiH, Haris Silajdzic, says of the attempts: “We cannot confuse peace talks with negotiations over a ceasefire. Insofar as they do not kill us, the Government will not actively engage members of the ARBiH. According to the Geneva Convention, starvation amounts to the illegal killing of our people and genocide.”
• Mostar: Brian Eno and David Bowie decide to finance the construction of one of the most vanguard music schools in Europe, on the eastern side of Mostar.
• In Sarajevo a center for music therapy is created.
• The Krajina Serbs shell Zagreb, on the orders of the Croatian Serbs: 5 are killed and 120 wounded on the streets of Zagreb.
• Richard Holbrooke: “No side is strong enough to deliver a decisive blow.”
• Radovan Karadzic: “We have resolved to defend every Serb. I’m now free to ignore any resolution, particularly those from UNPROFOR.”
• Donors do not deliver oil. Buses do not work. The tram runs a short line from Cengic Vila to Alipasino polje.
• Massacre in Butmir. A commentator on the Serb television network, “Srna”: “The Bosnians staged the massacre, and dragged the bodies of Bosnian soldiers to the site of an accident.” UN: “We have concluded that this was in fact a tragedy, with no staging."
• A new French president is elected, Jacques Chirac.
• Akashi rejects a request for air strikes, which had been made by the UNPROFOR Commander, General Rupert Smith.
• Sarajevo is slowly suffocating.
• Bill Clinton travels to Moscow.
• At the “Unis” building, a French soldier from the anti-sniper protection force is killed. The UN does not know where the shot came from, and does not respond with fire.
• UN spokesman, Alexander Ivanko: “The UN has received a fax-request from the Bosnian Serbs on a new status for the airport, some of whose demands ‘are hard for the UN to swallow.' UNPROFOR is preparing a draft, and will re-negotiate."
• After the liberation of occupied territory in Croatia, an exodus of Serbs ensues from the Croatian Krajina to areas of Bosnia held by Bosnian Serbs and to Serbia.
• “Drina” cigarettes arrive at kiosks.
• Humanitarian aid decreases by 50%.
• Karlos Menhem elected the new president of Argentina.
• General attack on Sarajevo.
• The Civil Defense advises the citizens of Sarajevo: “Go to your basements, check your gas, electricity and water, and prepare blankets, food and water."
• Sarajevo: no transportation, low gas pressure, and inadequate water.
• Radovan Karadzic, in an interview with the German magazine “Der Spiegel”: “In the case of an intervention, we will take the 'blue-helmets' hostage.” He approves of the withdrawal of the UN, because then the Serbs could take the “safe areas”, including Sarajevo, to the extent that the Muslims in those cities were disarmed.
• Throughout the city shipping-containers are sought for protection against snipers. UNPROFOR refuses to endanger the lives of its own soldiers when placing the containers. On the streets visual anti-sniper protection is put in place.
• A commission is formed for pan-Serbian unification.
• The Serbs steal two pieces of heavy artillery on Poljine. Alexander Ivanko, spokesman for the UN: “The safe areas are there, but they have eroded.”
• Protection measures already implemented: setting up of written warnings for sniper fire: “CAUTION - SNIPER”; setting up of visual anti-sniper protection – blue tarps; issuing of orders on darkening apartments and living spaces; basement cleaning; and after three years, the introduction of a sniper alarm. Depression descends on the city.. People begin to quickly wither and deteriorate.
• In Romania, fuel smuggling has flourished since the embargo on Serbia and Montenegro.
• The Fifth Corps of the ABiH liberates 70 km of occupied territory.
• Slobodan Milosevic again rejects proposals to recognize BiH in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
• Fuel stolen from a UN observers’ vehicle in an incident south of Lukavica.
• Hellish day in Sarajevo. Rupert Smith gives an ultimatum to the Serbs and the ABiH to halt fighting, otherwise they will risk military strikes. Akashi: “We demand a ceasefire without delay.”
• Survey of the magazine “Ratni Dani”, in Bosnia: 74.67% of respondents have a positive attitude towards the former Yugoslavia, while 4% have a negative attitude.
• Massacre in the center of Tuzla: 63 dead, 200 wounded.
• NATO fires at a depot near Pale. The Bosnian Serbs respond with an attack on Tuzla.
• Another NATO strike has occured in order to compel the Serbs to return stolen weapons and withdraw their artillery from banned zones.
• Battle on Vrbanja bridge in Sarajevo. The French UNPROFOR battalion take back an observation post which the Serbs had taken from them through deception. Two French soldiers are killed in the incident.
• 231 UN personnel are taken hostage by the Bosnian Serbs, under threat of death if NATO attacks again. The Serbs use all of their weapons at the UN checkpoints. The Serbs first disarm the UN soldiers at the checkpoints, then capture and blockade them. Three UN soldiers bound to posts are used as a human shield against bombardment.
• A guided missile hits a helicopter carrying BiH Foreign Minister, Irfan Ljubjankic.
• At different locations, Bosnian Serbs surround 116 “blue-helmets.” The Bosnian Serbs give an ultimatum: “Withdraw or be attacked!” The Serbs seize UN equipment and a trailer from a soldier at Poljine.
• The ABiH liberates new territory at Ozren. Radovan Karadzic: “UN resolutions, NATO ultimatums and UN agreements mean nothing!”
• “Velepekara” lacks oil, electricity, water and yeast for producing bread.
UNPROFOR, or for those who don’t know them: United Nations Protection Forces, were awaited as saviors when they first arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina with their white vehicles and blue berets. As time went on, they proved to be powerless. Now they are helping in repairs of the infrastructure, in cleaning the city. They are also establishing bureaucratic rules of their own. In some instances proven to be good merchants, they are driving around in trucks, jeeps transporters. Children are climbing onto their vehicles, and soldiers are throwing them sweets. They transport wounded, bring humanitarian aid, drive from and to the airport. In short, nothing is done without them. UNPROFOR Headquarters is in the building of Communication Engineering at Alipasino polje. Soldiers are in the barracks which were formerly inhabited by the soldiers of the Yugoslav Peoples Army. The main Headquarters of the UNPROFOR’s commander is in a private villa. All these successions seem to be very natural.
THE UNPROFOR (the United Nations Protection Forces)
The role of the UNPROFOR was manifold. They served as hostages to the aggressor, they cleared the garbage, they rode in trams as a protection against snipers, they gave out sweets, brought flour, destroyed the surface of Sarajevo streets with their tanks and transporters, representing the only city transportation throughout a long period, they repaired electrical transmission lines, they controlled the airport... The most important form of the protection of citizens was driving the transporters next to them shielding them from the sniper fire while they were crossing the Tito street. For a long time they were the most significant part of the city’s commercial life because they were trading the goods available to them.