Vuk Draskovic's Fledgling 'Falcons'

On December 7, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement announced plans to form a special unit to 'counter the threat of state terrorism'. They have a military-sounding name - the Falcons - but they don't have guns. Yet.

Vuk Draskovic's Fledgling 'Falcons'

On December 7, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement announced plans to form a special unit to 'counter the threat of state terrorism'. They have a military-sounding name - the Falcons - but they don't have guns. Yet.

Thursday, 10 November, 2005

Two months ago opposition leader Vuk Draskovic nearly died in a road accident that he says was engineered by president Slobodan Milosevic's secret police. Now his party has its answer - a special force of its own to defend its members from 'state terrorism'.


The founding of the unit - christened the 'Falcons' - was announced December 7 by SPO spokesman Ivan Kovacevic. He added that another unit, dubbed the 'Serbian Defence Movement' had also been set up in response to "assassinations and arrests of members of the SPO" allegedly ordered by Milosevic.


He refused to say whether the Falcons or the Serbian Defence Movement would be armed.


The SPO accuses the Serbian state security force (SDB) of 'organising' the October 3 road accident. An unidentified truck laden with sand crossed the central reservation on the Belgrade to Cacak highway and hit two cars carrying Draskovic and four party colleagues. Only Draskovic survived.


Kovacevic's statement has been widely heralded as establishing a paramilitary organisation to fight the Milosevic regime. But can it be taken seriously?


The SPO does have has experience in forming paramilitary units. In the early nineties it formed the Serbian Guard, a paramilitary organisation for members and supporters of the party. Trained in US style special forces tactics and equipped with modern western weapons, it fought alongside Croatian Serbs in the Krajina before Zagreb troops recaptured the province in 1995.


Its independence made the regime suspicious, says a SPO source, and the party came under pressure to disband the force, especially after the death of leading member Djordje 'Giska' Bozovic, allegedly at the hands of Serbian secret policemen.


Given the size and reach of the SPO network across virtually every municipality in Serbia, the party could potentially mobilise a large number of volunteers for any recreated paramilitary formations.


After the NATO air strikes, a large number of reservists took their weapons home with them. In addition a huge quantities of weapons entered Serbia as "memorabilia" following the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.


It is almost impossible to say how many unregistered weapons are currently floating around Serbia. The government has introduced new laws to encourage the surrender of prohibited weapons and to legalise unregistered guns.


The Serbian police and military loyal to the Milosevic regime will be very active in countering any such opposition paramilitary threat.


"It would be rather difficult to form any paramilitary organisations in Serbia under the watchful eye of the Serbian authorities. The regime will not allow the formation of forces that could be used against it," a source close to the Serbian police told IWPR.


"The KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] provide an example of a successful attempt to form of a secret organisation in Serbia. They organised everything locally, in small groups that only later developed into something bigger.


"But the Albanians [sic] have always had an exceptionally closed community and having a clear goal was beneficial. Neither of these facts apply to Serbs or to the SPO," the police source.


The announcement by the SPO looks more like an attempt to test the waters. It is not yet clear whether Draskovic intends to openly oppose the Milosevic regime or is merely indulging in sabre-rattling ahead of future renewed dialogue.


"I think that this question has not been resolved yet - even in the very leadership of the SPO," the source concluded.


Daniel Sunter is a journalist with the VIP agency in Belgrade.


Support our journalists