BELGRADE (Reuters) - Several thousand hardline Serbian nationalists gathered on Saturday to commemorate Serb victims of the Yugoslav wars in a defiant gesture ahead of the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims.
Led by the ultra-nationalist Radical Party and the top ranks of the Orthodox Christian church, they packed a convention center on the banks of the Sava river to listen to patriotic speeches and watch a documentary of Serb suffering in the wars.
Seated in the two front rows were well-known defenders of Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic as well as supporters of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serb leader now on trial for genocide in The Hague.
Senior Radical Party official Aleksanadar Vucic read out a letter to the rally from party leader Vojislav Seselj, who is in detention in The Hague awaiting trial on war crimes charges.
"With this film about crimes against Serbs we are showing who were the real victims in this war," Vucic told the Belgrade tabloid Srpski Nacional.
"We are in an absurd situation where no one talks about crimes against Serbs. We offered this film to TV stations but they refused to show it, while they looped film about Srebrenica day in and day out."
The documentary, entitled "The Truth," was a compilation of old images, much of it familiar state propaganda from the Milosevic era. Richard Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' and Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' provided a dramatic musical background.
The event was broadcast live by three television channels, including Belgrade-based BK television which has a nationwide coverage. State television showed nothing.
Serbia was embarrassed internationally in June when parliament failed to adopt a resolution on the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica. Hardliners refused to single out the massacre, insisting the war crimes committed by all sides were equal.
The Radicals dispute the finding of independent historians that Serb forces were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths and atrocities in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo between 1991 and 1999. Some deny a massacre even took place. Former Bosnian Serb 'president' Karadzic and his army commander General Mladic are indicted for the Srebrenica slaughter in mid-July 1995, in the final months of the war.
In Europe's worst atrocity since World War II, Muslim males captured when Serb forces overran the U.N. "safe area" in eastern Bosnia were executed systematically over a period of several days and bulldozed into mass graves.