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Serbia: Ex-officer convicted of war crimes gets book event

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia's defense ministry on Wednesday promoted a book by a former army chief of staff who is serving a 22-year prison sentence for war crimes committed by Serbian troops in Kosovo during the late 1990s.

A video recording allowed former Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic to address participants at a ministry ceremony from his prison cell in Finland. He said his book, parts of a diary he kept during the war in Kosovo, represents "a heroic testimony" of Serbia's defense from "NATO aggression."

A 78-day NATO air war that started in March 1999 stopped a Serb crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists and civilians that led to more than 10,000 deaths and forced nearly 1 million people from their homes.

A U.N. war crimes tribunal convicted Pavkovic of deportation, forcible transfer, murder and persecution of ethnic Albanians in 2009. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade doesn't recognize its former province as a country, and continued tensions between the two has been an obstacle in the path to European Union membership.

Serbia has been marking the NATO air campaign with ceremonies that mostly fuel anti-Western sentiments also powered by pro-Russia propaganda in the local state-run media. The former army chief's published diary is titled "Merciful Angel's Embrace for 78 Days", which is based on Serbian propaganda that falsely claimed NATO gave the Kosovo campaign the code name "Merciful Angel."

Since Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic started his political rise in 2012, Serbian authorities have welcomed convicted war criminals and helped them become active participants in public and political life.

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