When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Siege Of Sarajevo Redux: An Appeal To Free General Divjak

Jovan Divjak, who led Bosnia's defense in the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo, has been arrested in Austria on a Serbian warrant. Top French intellectuals demand his release, calling European policy on the Balkans a continuing “affront to reason.”

Sarajevo central cemetery
Sarajevo central cemetery
Jean Hatzfeld and Bernard-Henri Lévy

Jovan Divjak, one of the heroes of the siege of Sarajevo, was thrown in an Austrian jail on March 4, released on bail four days later, and is now being held under house arrest. Every hour that passes is a reminder of the shame and pathetic equivocation that has characterized European diplomacy toward the war in the former Yugoslavia.

General Divjak was arrested on March 3 at Vienna airport after the Serbian government put out an international warrant against him for alleged war crimes. Although Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Spindelgger quickly dismissed the possibility of extraditing Divjak to Serbia, the general's detention – while Bosnian Serb Radko Mladic is running free on the streets of Belgrade – is an affront to reason and ethics, and the notion of European justice.

Let's be clear. Since the battle of Azincourt (1415), all armed conflicts have had a negative impact on the protagonists' reputation; and after each conflict, almost all officers could potentially face charges for war crimes. Almost all, yes, but Jovan Divjak is an exception.

On April 6, 1992, right before the start of the three-year-long massacre, Divjak and Mladic, both pro-Tito Serbian generals, were in charge of the military sector of Sarajevo for the JNA, the Yugoslavian army. But, as Mladic went to Pale to take charge of Radovan Karadzic's nationalist Serbian troops, Divjak stayed in the besieged city and became the architect of its defense.

Divjak's role was to prevent Serbian forces from entering the city, and to help shape a Bosnian army out of the thousands of ill-prepared volunteers. His enemies were the tanks up on the hills of Lukavica and Jagomir, the Grbavica snipers and the paramilitary militias bent on ethnic cleansing.

Divjak didn't take part in the horrible war in Central Bosnia. He wasn't part of the liberating offensive of Krajina. He stayed in Sarajevo.

During the awful assault against civilians that was the Bosnian war, there was only one side to be on: that of the innocents that were hunted-down throughout the city by soldiers filled with hate and violence.

Tired of politics and war, Divjak left the army soon after the Dayton agreements in 1995 and worked for an orphanage and several others humanitarian organizations. He also joined a group of antinationalist intellectuals, taking advantage of his popularity in Sarajevo cafes.

The prototype of those men of duty who, as Andre Malraux once wrote, "made war without loving it," he stayed away from veteran groups, refused all military honors and has tried to bring back the civil, multi-confessional and tolerant Bosnia of the past. His house arrest is absurd, a blow to history and a crime against conscience. Austria and Europe must regain their senses and let Divjak return to Sarajevo.

Jean Hatzfeld is a French foreign correspondent who covered the Balkan wars. Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, and member of the editorial board of Le Monde Group.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Alexander Nitzsche

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

That Man In Mariupol: Is Putin Using A Body Double To Avoid Public Appearances?

Putin really is meeting with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelganger for meetings and appearances.

screen grab of Putin in a dark down jacket

During the visit to Mariupol, the Presidential office only released screen grabs of a video

Russian President Press Office/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Have no doubt, the Vladimir Putin we’re seeing alongside Xi Jinping this week is the real Vladimir Putin. But it’s a question that is being asked after a range of credible experts have accused the Russian president of sending a body double for a high-profile visit this past weekend in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

Russian opposition politician Gennady Gudkov is among those who confidently claim that a Putin look-alike, or rather one of his look-alikes, was in the Ukrainian city.

"Now that there is a war going on, I don't rule out the possibility that someone strongly resembling or disguised as Putin is playing his role," Gudkov said.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest