According to the witness testifying at the Srebrenica Seven trial, the attack on Srebrenica and Zepa in July 1995 was initiated by Radovan Karadzic, who bypassed the chain of command and issued orders directly to Radislav Krstic, a colonel who was the Drina Corps chief of staff at the time

Milenko Lazic, defence witness of Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara and Radivoj MileticMilenko Lazic, defence witness of Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara and Radivoj Miletic

In the words of retired colonel Milenko Lazic, former Chief of the Operations and Training unit in the VRS Drina Corps who gave evidence today at the trial of the former Bosnian Serb military and police officers charged with crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa, there was no plan to annihilate the Muslim men in the Srebrenica area in the summer of 1995. ‘Even if there was an intent to destroy the enemy soldiers, the Drina Corps had no resources to do it’, Lazic said.

As a witness called by the defense teams of Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara and Radivoje Miletic, Lazic recounted that Operation Krivaja ’95 was ordered directly by the then Republika Srpska president and the supreme commander of the armed forces, Radovan Karadzic. In April 1995, Karadzic showed up in the Corps command accompanied by his wife and Momcilo Krajisnik, Republika Srpska Assembly speaker. He greeted Radislav Krstic with unusual cordiality. At that time, Krstic was a colonel and acting chief of staff in the Drina Corps.

Karadzic wanted to know how much time was needed to ‘go against Srebrenica’ saying that this operation should be prepared as soon as possible. According to Lazic, on Karadzic’s orders, Krstic was mastermind behind Operation Krivaja ’95. Lazic himself participated in its preparation but was not directly involved in its implementation. On the eve of the operation he was sent to the western border of the Drina Corps area of responsibility where he witnessed the opening of the Zvornik corridor on 17 July 1995. A part of the column of men retreating in the direction of Tuzla after the fall of Srebrenica was allowed to pass.

As Lazic described it, this column was a great danger to Zvornik. He said that only 2,000 VRS troops – out of a total of 18,000 troops of the Drina Corps - were deployed in Operation Krivaja ’95. Lazic confirmed the defense allegation that Srebrenica and Zepa ‘were never actually demilitarized’ as some 10,000 BH Army members stayed there and constantly attacked Serb positions.

The defense of Ljubisa Beara, former chief of security of the VRS General Staff, put emphasis on the fact that President Karadzic was the mastermind of the Srebrenica operation with general Krstic as the executor. Krstic was convicted by the Tribunal for aiding and abetting genocide and was sentenced to 35 years. In his reply to the Beara’s defense counsel’s questions, Lazic confirmed that Karadzic, who ordered the operation, was not accompanied by a single member of the VRS Main Staff. It was unusual for the president acting as a supreme commander ‘to skip the Main Staff and order an engagement in combat directly to the commander of a unit’, Lazic concluded.

The defense team of Radivoje Miletic, former operations and training chief in the VRS Main Staff, then showed the recording of a statement Radovan Karadzic gave to the Republika Srpska Television, giving General Krstic credit for the ‘liberation of Srebrenica’, calling him a ‘great commander’. Milenko Lazic will be cross-examined tomorrow by the defense teams of the other four accused and the prosecutor.