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Bulgaria turned over intelligence on "Operation Horseshoe", a plan for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, the country's former foreign minister reveals in a new documentary.
Bulgaria's government turned over to Germany and NATO intelligence information about "Operation Horseshoe" - believed by western governments to be a plan for ethnic cleansing led by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 1999.
Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Neynski (formerly Nadezhda Mihaylova) revealed the leak in a documentary on "Operation Horseshoe" broadcast on the private Bulgarian channel bTV.
"I provided the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer – and respectively NATO – a report in possession of the Bulgarian government that made it clear that there had been a plan, "Horseshoe", carefully prepared by the intelligence services of Serbia and then state leader Milosevic that set two goals.
"First – to destroy the Kosovo Liberation Army, and second – to "cleanse" Kosovo of ethnic Albanians. This plan boiled down to the deportation of large masses of Albanians from Kosovo. It was started at the end of February 1999," Neynski, currently a MEP, revealed in the documentary entitled "The Secret History of the Horseshoe Plan."
The Bulgarian documentary reveals that the information about the operation was snatched by Bulgaria's military intelligence and provided to the Bulgarian government of the rightist party Union of Democratic Forces, UDF, and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov.
According to Neynski, the Kostov Cabinet then decided to hand over the information to NATO.
The ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo was the formal justification for NATO's military intervention in Kosovo in 1999, a three-month bombing campaign of Serbia which led Slobodan Milosevic to pull out his forces from Kosovo.
Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes, repeatedly rejected claims of the existence of an "Operation Horseshoe", and denied allegations of war crimes committed in Kosovo.
Neynski explained that the Bulgarian government in 1999 chose to provide NATO with the report on the Horseshoe plan even though the military intelligence warned that the information could not be verified.
"When there is such data, it is logical that we provide it to our partners. If they find it to be unconvincing, they have the right not to use it. But this is an alert that we as nationally responsible politicians had to convey in order to protect our country," Neynski elaborated, stressing that then Foreign Minister Fischer took the report of the Bulgarian military intelligence very seriously.
Neynski also commented on the allegations that Milosevic's Horseshoe plan for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo never existed but was fabricated by Western intelligence services to justify NATO's air strikes on Serbia.
"This plan aroused many emotions because in essence it legitimized the Kosovo War – namely, to find an explanation to a question many wondered about – if the large-scale refugee exodus was caused by the bombardments or by something else. The answer is that they were caused by something else, and that was the Horseshoe plan of the Serbian intelligence," Bulgaria's former foreign minister said.
She stressed that the mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo started around February 25, 1999, when "there was no logic for those people to be leaving Kosovo."
"There was no way 400,000 people would come down from the mountains suddenly to leave Kosovo. You don't need to be a politician or an intelligence officer to know that. NATO and the international coalition were no amateurs who would just take in some piece of information. It was all verified and it was found that there is truth to it," Neynski stated.
"I definitely believe that Bulgaria behaved in an extremely dignified fashion back then, and managed to prevent probably dramatic events for the region," she concluded.
The bTV documentary also addresses Bulgaria's refusal to accept ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo during the 1999 crisis.
"You remember that there was enormous pressure on Bulgaria to take in refugees," explained Neynski, while emphasizing that Bulgaria's authorities were concerned with the possible "palestinization" of the Kosovo conflict.
"Subsequently, unfortunately, in the Balkans these people could have acquired weapons easily, and could have started to stage attacks [on Serbia] from across the border, thus drawing neighbouring states into the conflict, and setting the Balkans on fire.
"So this question corresponds with the question posed many times back then and today – whether Bulgaria made a mistake by not taking in refugees. I believe that this decision was key for preserving Bulgaria's stability," the former foreign minister said.
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