FRI, 07 APR 1995 18:36:26 GMT
Settling accounts between Montenegrin civilian and military authorities
The arrest and the investigation proceedings instituted by military judiciary of the Army of Yugoslavia in Podgorica against the retired colonel-general Pavle Strugar who was the military commander of the JNA forces and the Territorial Defence of Montenegro during the descent on Dubrovnik, reveals the intention of Montenegrin civilian authorities to disassociate themselves from the whole affair and to lay the blame on allegedly disobedient commanders in the field.
The regime in Podgorica is burdened with misunderstandings with the former military leadership in Podgorica, which was headed by general Strugar himself. At the time of the rising of Serb nationalists in Pljevlje, when Montenegro was threatened by the possibility of the war in Northern Herzegovina flowing over its borders, President Momir Bulatovic lost control of the situation and now, according to unofficial information, as inspirers and organizers of the uprising, he is charging the army officers from Podgorica for it. Mutual suspicions and distrust increased during the '92 election campaign, when the army supported Momir Bulatovic's opposing candidate, Branko Kostic, and then maintained contact with him after the elections in order to maybe cause a split in the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists in favour of Kostic again.
With the help of the Federal Minister of Defence and his personnel manager, Pavle Bulatovic, at the session of the Supreme Military Council in August '93, Momir Bulatovic succeeded to get rid of two key officers of the Podgorica Corps - general Pavle Strugar and his deputy, general Radomir Damjanovic. The first was retired, and the latter sent to the General Staff, to the post of the head of the sector for the relations with UNPROFOR. Some six months afterwards, he too was retired, despite the fact that he was just 55 at the time...
There have been many clues that led to the conclusion that Strugar and Damjanovic have not rested indifferent to the unexpected and sudden interruption of their military careers, but tried and still are trying to get even, at least, partly with Momir Bulatovic. The public has more or less remained in the dark about these activities, but it is believed that they are using their influence to develop an "anti-Bulatovic" frame of mind in the units of the Podgorica corps.
In December last year, after he had several times refused to respond to summonses of the military Prosecutor from Podgorica (who is believed to be controlled by Momir Bulatovic), general Strugar was arrested by the military police and held in custody for interrogation which lasted for at least four days. He was then temporarily set free. Investigation authorities interrogated general Strugar about the whereabouts of the plundered wealth from Croat Konavli in the vicinity of Dubrovnik.
General Damjanovic reacted to such developments in a statement on the pages of the independent weekly Monitor, accusing President Momir Bulatovic of being involved in the events about the breaking out of the rising in Pljevlje and claiming that the President had sent inmates of the Penal and Correctional Institution in Spuz to the battlefields around Dubrovnik. Commenting on the destiny of the plundered Konavli wealth, general Damjanovic also accused Bulatovic for it claiming that, for instance, the cattle brought from the Konavli villages died in Montenegro due to negligence of the civilian authorities!
General Damjanovic also said that he might institute court proceedings against individuals and administrative agencies in Montenegro for alleged slander which blemish his name and which are connected to to the rising in Pljevlje.
The current commander of the Podgorica Corps of the Army of Yugoslavia, general Bozidar Radic, is also the target of the retired generals, since they consider him unqualified for the post and believe that he contributed to their inglorious discharge. General Babic succeeded general Strugar at the post and the retired generals believe that he is a favourite of President Bulatovic for being obedient, but especially because his brother is the director of "Montenegrobanka" which is claimed to be financing the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.
Momir Bulatovic is still far from having managed to get rid of the officers who are not to his taste. The commander of the air-force base near Podgorica (Golubovci) is colonel Jovan Strugar, a relative of general Strugar. He has become known to Montenegrin public back in autumn '91, when, in the capacity of the commander of the base in Divulje (Split), he sent a letter to the state daily "Pobjeda" attacking President Bulatovic for his decision to withdraw Montenegrin reservists from Banija (Croatia).
For the time being, it is very difficult to forecast with some certainty how the relations between the civilian and the military structures in Montenegro will develop, but it is evident that a feeling of dislike towards Bulatovic is growing among army officers. The recently relieved colonel Ljubodrag Stojadinovic of the duty of the head of the Office for Information of the General Staff, in his letter published in NIN which caused a scandal, placed the Montenegrin President together with Minister Pavle Bulatovic in a distinctly negative context, which can be interpreted as a wide-spread opinion especially of the middle rank officers in the field, but a considerable number of generals in the central command as well. Many tend to recognize the influence of generals Strugar and Damjanovic in this.
Vladimir Jovanovic AIM Podgorica