Greek Navy Captain Marinos Ritsoudis became famous internationally after he refused to participate in a NATO mission as the organization conducted bombings in Yugoslavia in 1999.
In that year, NATO countries, including the US, conducted an aerial bombing campaign on what is now Serbia, and was part of Yugoslavia then, during the Kosovo War.
Human Rights Watch estimates that nearly 600 civilians were killed in the bombings, while Yugoslav estimates at the time numbered in the thousands.
The ship was meant to assist in preventing Serbia from receiving any assistance by sea, therefore it would be indirectly participating in the bombings.
Ritsoudis and his crew did not agree with the bombing, however, and refused to follow through with the mission and returned the ship to port.
Although the ship itself wasn’t directly involved in the bombing campaign, Ritsoudis and his crew were morally opposed to assisting in it in anyway.
Greek Sailor received suspended prison sentence for refusing to participate in bombings of Yugoslavia
The Greek ship captain who refused to bomb Yugoslavia was expelled from the Navy for defying the order, and was even sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
The Greek sailor refused to participate in the bombings of Yugoslavia due to his strong Greek Orthodox faith, which teaches against violence.
In the courtroom, Ritsoudis stated: “I had two paths to choose from. I chose the one you have above you,” and pointed to an icon of Christ. “Which I put above all, because the law of God is above all.”
Ritsoudis stuck to his belief, and even refused financial support that Serbia offered to him afterword. Now, the Greek works as a yacht captain, and is still heralded as a hero in Serbia. There is even a portrait of him in Belgrade, the country’s capital city.
Although a member of NATO, Greece refused to directly participate in the bombings of Yugoslavia at the time due to its close connection with the Serbian people, as both people are Orthodox and have many cultural and historic connections.
Despite the country’s insistence that it would not participate directly in the bombings, its presence in Yugoslavia was very controversial in Greece, where support for the Serbian people was high.
Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, head of the Church at the time, was vehemently opposed to the bombings, and Greeks protested the campaign.