Braving a military court investigation, a Serbian opposition leader returned here today to face accusations of draft dodging during the Kosovo war and to campaign for the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Zoran Djindjic, head of Serbia's Democratic Party, arrived at Belgrade airport and immediately dismissed the accusations against him, seen by many as an attempt by Milosevic to crack down on those demanding democratic reform in Yugoslavia and its dominant republic, Serbia.
"I think it is utterly cynical . . . that they are after me because of the war they organized, caused and led without themselves fighting it," Djindjic said at the airport.
Thousands of Yugoslav army reservists, including Djindjic, were called to active service during the war for Kosovo, a Serbian province now occupied by NATO peacekeeping troops. But Djindjic fled to Montenegro, Serbia's disaffected partner in the Yugoslav federation, and eventually made his way to Western Europe while the army tried to serve him with a draft notice.
"My stay in Montenegro and abroad enabled reestablishing the credibility of a democratic Serbia in the world," Djindjic said today. "I think I was of more use to Serbia [there] than if I stayed."
Djindjic's party has spearheaded protests against Milosevic, rallying support from increasing numbers of Serbs who have been impoverished by his policies.