Timeline: NATO in Yugoslavia

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

NATO in Kosovo: 1998–1999
by Elissa Haney Kosovo Factsheet

October 1998 January 1999 February 1999 March 1999 April 1999 May 1999 June 1999
October 1998
After repeated threats of NATO air strikes, Milosevic agrees at the last minute to a truce calling for the removal of Serbian troops from Kosovo. Despite the agreement, fighting continues in the region.
January 1999
The killing of 45 ethnic Albanians by Serb forces in the town of Racak leads to international pleas for peace once again.
February 1999
Serb and ethnic Albanian representatives meet at Rambouillet, France to discuss options for peace. Both sides are reluctant to compromise, and the talks break up without a plan in place.
March 1999
Fighting continues in Kosovo, even as a second round of talks gets underway in Paris.

The ethnic Albanians finally take a step toward peace, signing a deal that calls for interim autonomy and a NATO force of 28,000 to monitor the region. Milosevic responds by reiterating Serbian disapproval and the talks are again suspended without an agreement. The Serbs return home under the threat of NATO airstrikes.

American diplomat Richard Holbrooke visits Belgrade in a final, unsuccessful attempt to convince Milosevic to agree to NATO's terms.

NATO begins launching air strikes in an attempt to force Serbia to cease hostilities and allow ethnic Albanian refugees to return to their homes in Kosovo.

Three U.S. soldiers are captured while patrolling the Serbia-Macedonia border.
April 1999
Serb troops force thousands of ethnic Albanians out of the town of Djakovica. At least 47 men, possibly dozens more, are believed to have been rounded up and shot. Serb forces are also accused of raping women and destroying many ethnic Albanians' citizenship papers.
Three relief workers —two Australians and one Yugoslav— are reported to be missing since March 31. It is later learned that they were captured by Serb forces on the Croatian border. On May 29, a Serbian military court convicts and jails the three for passing military secrets on to Canberra.

NATO bombs accidentally hit two convoys of ethnic Albanian refugees being escorted by Serb police. Yugoslav officials put the death toll from the incident at more than 60.

The UN and Human Rights Watch later report that Serbian troops committed one of their worst civilian massacres on this day. 200-300 men are believed to have been killed in the village of Meja. Witnesses tell of Serb troops systematically clearing and burning villages, then separating men ages 18 to 65 from their families and shooting them.
May 1999
On his fourth day in Belgrade, Rev. Jesse Jackson succeeds in winning the release of the three American hostages after negotiating with Milosevic.

An Apache helicopter crashes in Albania while on a training mission. Two U.S. pilots are killed, becoming the only NATO casualties during the air strikes.

The first group of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo arrives in the U.S. Before and during the course of the air strikes, hundreds of thousands of Kosovars abandoned their homes—some forced by Serb troops, others by fear. The result was a massive refugee crisis that primarily affected neighboring countries Albania and Macedonia. Western countries helped ease the burden by offering refuge to some of the 860,000 ethnic Albanians who left Kosovo between March and June.

Three Chinese journalists are killed in Belgrade when NATO accidentally bombs the Chinese Embassy. NATO attributes the mistake to outdated maps. Massive protests erupt in Beijing, where American ambassador James Sasser is trapped in the US embassy for more than 48 hours. The mistake puts an even greater strain on the delicate relationship between China and the United States.

More than 80 ethnic Albanians are killed and at least 100 are injured, by Yugoslav count, when NATO bombs a village believed to have been a Serb military post. NATO claims the victims were being used by Serb troops as human shields.

NATO again hits an unintended target—a KLA stronghold. One member of the rebel group is killed and at least 15 more are injured.

The UN's International War Crimes Tribunal formally indicts Milosevic and four other Yugoslav officials for crimes against humanity. They are accused of being responsible for the deportation of 740,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo this year as well as the murder of more than 340 identified victims. NATO fears that the indictment may complicate the process of negotiating a peace plan.
June 1999
Milosevic and the Serbian parliament accept a proposal drawn up by representatives from Russia, the EU, and the US.

Yugoslavia and Western nations sign a formal agreement calling for the withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo and a subsequent halting of NATO's air campaign. An international peacekeeping force headed by NATO is to monitor Kosovo and the return of the refugees. Russia's role in the operation remains ambiguous.

The UN Security Council approves a resolution that authorizes the plan for peace in Kosovo by a vote of 14-0. China abstains.

As peacekeeping forces prepare to enter Kosovo, an uninvited Russian convoy also heads to the region. The move creates heavy tensions as Western officials try to figure out how to maintain control over the peacekeeping efforts without stirring up further conflict with Russia.

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