The Serbian weekly magazine Nedeljnik has retracted an article reporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had apologized for the U.S. role in the 1999 bombing of the former Yugoslavia.
Nedeljnik said in a statement it was either "caught in the middle of the presidential election campaign, or was duped by Vladimir Rajcic," the man that was the paper's "contact" for an interview with Trump.
"Nedeljnik has been trying to get an interview with Donald Trump for over a year now, ever since the businessman decided to run for the election," the statement said. "It turned out, as it often goes in the American politics, that we did not accomplish much via formal channels, but we did through personal contacts. Vladimir Rajcic, Serbian producer and actor living in the United States, who has repeatedly given us proof of his close relationships with people close to Mike Pence, the vice presidential candidate, offered to help Nedeljnik get this interview."
The magazine published an article Thursday, which it retracted within hours, saying that Trump had answered five questions, one of which was about his view toward the Balkans, Serbia and the NATO bombing. In response to that, Trump allegedly said that "Serbs are very good people, the bombing was a big mistake, and the Clinton administration created chaos on the Balkans."
The Trump campaign quickly challenged the story, calling it a "hoax." It was, however, picked up by U.S. media covering the presidential campaign.
Even U.S. presidential contender Hillary Clinton's campaign sharply reacted to Trump's view of the bombing.
"Mr. Trump never gave an interview to the Serbian weekly magazine Nedeljnik, as falsely reported by the discredited Newsweek, nor was such an interview conducted through our Indiana state director [Suzanne Ryder Jaworowski]," said Jason Miller, the Trump campaign's senior communications adviser.
"Regarding the article about a media interview with a Serbian politician and Mr. Trump via my email, this is completely false. I have never served as a conduit to interview Mr. Trump for anyone," Jaworowski said.
Ethnic Serb militias in the former Yugoslavia under President Slobodan Milosevic were accused of carrying out widespread massacres of Muslims as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing.
The U.S.-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia brought the Kosovo war to an end, when Bill Clinton, husband of Trump's Democratic rival, was president.
NATO's bombing campaign killed hundreds of civilians but also ended ethnic cleansing campaign in parts of the former Yugoslavia.