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Video Shows Serbian PM Fleeing Srebrenica Memorial as Crowd Pelts Him With Debris

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was forced to flee a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre after people hurled stones, bottles, and insults at him.

by Tessa Stuart
Jul 11 2015, 4:52pm

Photo by Marko Drobnjakovic/AP

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was forced to flee a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica under a barrage of flying water bottles on Saturday. Vucic was booed by thousands of mourners as he left the cemetery after laying a single flower at a monument to the victims.

In July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces entered a UN-mandated safe zone in Srebrenica and, over the course of three days, slaughtered 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys. The massacre was part of a larger ethnic cleansing campaign perpetrated by the Bosnian Serb Army, backed by Serbia, in the early 1990s.

Serbia has acknowledged the massacre, but has refused to call it genocide. In remarks last month, Vucic instead called Srebrenica a "horrific crime."

During the war, Vucic, then a Serbian nationalist, once declared, "kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims." A banner carrying that quote was seen in the crowd at the cemetery on Saturday.

In footage captured at Saturday's ceremony, Vucic can be seen approaching the monument wearing a green and white flower on his lapel, a symbol of Srebrenica, pinned there by the head of Association of Srebrenica Mothers. As he walks away after placing a flower at the monument, a shoe comes flying out of the crowd and nearly hits a member of his entourage. 

Related: Bosnian Mass Grave Provides New Evidence in Military Chief's Genocide Trial

Later, the prime minister can be seen being hustled away from the furious crowd, surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. Mourners rushed after him, pelting Vucic and his security guards with bottles. One of the prime minister's bodyguards uses an umbrella in an attempt to shield him from the projectiles as they hurry up a road toward a waiting motorcade.

Vucic's glasses were broken in the scrum, an adviser told the Associated Press. At least one man can be seen being detained by security guards in the video.

Related: Balkan Blood Ties: Children of The Hague's Accused Deny the 'War Crimes' of Their Fathers

Former US President Bill Clinton, who was elected during the Bosnian War, attended Saturday's ceremony as part of a delegation that also included former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Clinton spoke at the ceremony, and praised Vucic's courage to attend in his remarks.

After the incident, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who also took part in Saturday's ceremony, called the attack on Vucic "far removed from the spirit I felt at this dignified and solemn commemoration."

"This incident must not detract from what we are to learn from Srebrenica," Eliasson added. "Genocide must never occur again. And truth and reconciliation are the road to healing and preventing another Srebrenica."

Follow Tessa Stuart on Twitter: @tessastuart

Watch the VICE News documentary, After the Flood: Mines and Mass Graves in Bosnia: