2 freed Yugoslav POWs 'in good health'
May 18, 1999
HORGOS, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Two Serb soldiers held as prisoners of war by the U.S. military in Germany were freed Tuesday and turned over to Yugoslavia.
The two men, both privates, entered Yugoslavia from Hungary just before 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT/1300 GMT).
Dressed in green uniforms, Boban Milen Kovic and Sesko Tairovic "looked in good health," said a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In Belgrade, the Yugoslav government thanked the ICRC, which organized the handover. "We have been informed by the ICRC and we appreciate the work of the ICRC on that matter," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The trip home began with the soldiers being taken from Mannheim Air Base to Heidelberg, Germany, where they boarded a U.S. military plane for a flight to Budapest, Hungary.
From there, they were taken by land to the border town of Roszke in southern Hungary where they crossed into Horgos, Yugoslavia.
Throughout the process, the Serb soldiers were accompanied by ICRC representatives but remained in the custody of the U.S. military until the handover to Yugoslav authorities took place.
Before the trip from Germany, a Red Cross official met in private with each soldier and confirmed that they wanted to be released and go back to Yugoslavia, ICRC spokesman Urs Boegli said in Geneva.
That is standard procedure.
The freeing of the Serb soldiers followed the release earlier this month of three U.S. Army soldiers captured March 31 along the Kosovo-Macedonia border, but the Pentagon says there is no link between the two releases.
The two Serbs were turned over to the U.S. military authorities in Albania by the Kosovo Liberation Army.
They were flown from Albania to Germany where they were visited by ICRC representatives, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on treatment of POWs.
U.S. officials have frequently contrasted their strict compliance with the Geneva Conventions with the actions of Yugoslav authorities who held the three U.S. soldiers as POWs for 32 days in Serbia.
The Americans were denied access to Red Cross officials for weeks and were not allowed to communicate with their families.
One of the Serbs was taken prisoner April 16, the other about two weeks later, according to Sgt. Beth Alber, a spokeswoman for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.
Correspondents Carl Rochelle and Chris Burns contributed to this report.
Release of 2 Serb POWs may come Tuesday
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