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Balkans’ Conflict Yields One Constant: Refugees Medieval Walled Port Dubrovnik Hit, But Little Shift In Battle Lines

Tue., Aug. 15, 1995

Serb, Croat and Muslim refugees streamed across the former Yugoslavia on Monday, an exodus driven by nationalists seeking to create ethnically homogeneous lands.

As tens of thousands of refugees trekked across Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, artillery duels raged around the Croatian port of Dubrovnik, on the Adriatic Sea. Croatian troops there tried to push across the nearby border with Bosnia to silence rebel Serb guns bombarding the medieval walled port.

No significant progress was reported in the Croatian drive. Battle lines also did not change in central Bosnia, where Bosnian government troops were attacking the Serb-held town of Donji Vakuf, U.N. officials said.

The flow of refugees has swollen dramatically this month with the Croatian recapture of most of its rebel Serb-held land, reprisal expulsions by Bosnian Serbs, and the Serb seizure of the U.N. “safe areas” of Srebrenica and Zepa in eastern Bosnia.

Serbian police, apparently overwhelmed by more than 100,000 Croatian Serbs arriving in Serbia, abandoned attempts Monday to turn back men of fighting age.

On Sunday, huge traffic lines formed as police attempted to turn back potential soldiers. Their sisters, mothers, wives and children refused to leave Bosnia unless the men came too.

On Monday, police gave nothing more than a cursory glance at each sad vehicle limping into Serbia. Many of the battered cars had stalled on the journey for lack of fuel.

For Vojin Arbutina, 49, and his father, Dusan, 79, that was not a problem. They came on a cart drawn by two gray horses and loaded with hay in the back for a bed and warmth.

Both were sunburned after a six-day trek from southern Croatia. “I am depressed,” Dusan said dully. “I left behind all the worldly goods I assembled over half a century.”

Dejan Mlajkovic, a doctor in a makeshift clinic in Sremska Raca, said many of the arrivals were “on the verge of a nervous breakdown” and were given tranquilizers. Other newcomers complained of diarrhea and heart ailments, he said.

From the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka, some 600 Croats driven from their homes in an apparently organized effort to rid the town of non-Serbs crossed into nearby Croatia.

Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said Monday that at least 1,000 Croats have been forced out of Banja Luka. The city’s population has swollen with Serbs fleeing Croatia.


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