COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Russian correspondent likens Bosnian Serb operation against Sarajevo to siege of Leningrad.

COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Russian correspondent likens Bosnian Serb operation against Sarajevo to siege of Leningrad.

Saturday, 19 October, 2002

Konstantin Kacalin became the first Russian journalist to give evidence at a war crimes trial when he recounted his time in besieged Sarajevo during last week's war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb corps commander Stanislav Galic.

Kacalin, a defence witness, told the court that the siege reminded him of tales of the siege of Leningrad, saying after seven days there he was "lucky to get out of Sarajevo alive".

During this time, he was shot at by a sniper while waiting to interview the then-president, Alija Izetbegovic, outside government buildings.

Kacalin, editor of the third channel of Russian state television, said he was appalled to visit the city hospital and discover children, some as young as ten, recovering from shrapnel wounds.

But he said the hospital itself was untouched by shellfire. He said that he blamed both sides for the suffering, saying the city appeared to be "blocked from both sides", because both Serbs and Muslims wanted to "exterminate each other".

The defence also called a Bosnian Serb army officer, who appeared as a protected witness and was identified in court only as DP6.

He was the company commander in the Sarajevo-Romanija corps commanded by Galic, and whose zone of responsibility included the front line between the airport and the edge of the city.

DP6 at first denied prosecution claims that a sniper victim, Edin Karic, could have been shot and wounded from a position in the former Institute for Blind Children, on the part of the line held by the witness.

But after a day of cross-examination, he agreed that the building would offer such a shooting position. Though he denied that it was in his command area, saying it belonged to the Ilidza brigade, also of Sarajevo-Romanija corps.

Prosecutors objected to testimony from Serb doctor Miodrag Lazic about the effect of the war on the Serb side of the line, saying it was not relevant to their case.

The judges ruled that the doctor could be heard, and he told the court that the Serbs had only one hospital, in Ilidza, which treated more than 8,000 wounded between 1992 until the end of 1995. Dr Lazic said one third of these were civilians and 400 were children.

Galic has pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

Emir Suljagic is Hague correspondent for the weekly magazine DANI.

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