Montenegrin media start seeing Croatian checkerboard at the Spiro Mugosa airport


Original article (in Montenegrin) was published on 16/11/2022

International aviation standards apply equally to all countries. Yet, in Montenegro – these standards were interpreted as decisions motivated by nationalistic impulses.

The In4s and Borba web portals reported that the bust of the People’s Hero after whom the Spiro Mugosa Airport was named was removed from its pedestal and that the management of the local Aeroclub decided to paint the airport facilities to match the motifs from the Croatian flag.

“Scandal at the Sports airport in Podgorica: Spiro Mugosa Airport painted in Croatian checkerboard motifs, with bust missing.”

The article, which was shared by the regional news portals such as Vaseljenska TV, Srpska 24, as well as by a number of Facebook users, read:

“In addition to the procedural deficiencies in the operations of the Spiro Mugosa Aeroclub, the management of this once exemplary sports club with a decades-long tradition recently made  another provocation by removing the bust of the People’s Hero Spiro Mugoša and painting the airport facility and hangar in Croatian checkerboard colours. There was a practice of painting navigation devices in this way, but never airport facilities themselves. No airport on the territory of Montenegro has ever been painted in this way”.

However, the bust of the People’s Hero of Yugoslavia has not been located at the airport for years, the president of the Aviation Association of Montenegro, Zlatko Vujotic, confirmed for Raskrinkavanje.

“The bronze bust of the People’s Hero Spiro Mugosa was not removed, as claimed the articles of domestic and regional news portals claim – as a matter of fact, it was stolen 15 years ago. In addition to the bust, aviation equipment and a plane engine also disappeared. The Managing Board of the Aeroclub has long wanted to return the bust, but that was not possible since everything depends on the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and legislation,” Vujotic told us.

The media have already written about the missing bust, one of many similar monuments whose disappearance remains an unsolved question. Vujotic stated that, for this reason, the management of the Aeroclub considered it appropriate that the new bust be made of stone.

“Internally, we launched an initiative to install a new stone bust, which is planned to be made by the Montenegrin academic sculptor Milija Stojanovic. In the meantime, the pedestal was restored, and the dilapidated letters were inscribed again,” he said.

The claims of domestic web portals that the management of the Aeroclub painted the facilities to “continue with provocations and pandering behaviour in relation to Croatia” represent a potential lack of knowledge and a malicious interpretation of well-known international standards in aviation.

The President of the Assembly of the Aviation Association of Montenegro clarifies that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandates airport marking guidelines, which have also been observed at the Spiro Mugosa airport:

“The checkerboard has its place in heraldry, and the airport was painted in a red-white combination, in line with international standards. If we did not respect those norms, we could not be part of European aviation. The runway is painted in yellow and black lines, while the airport building is painted in red and white. This is a template that can be observed everywhere around us, on ambulances, fire trucks, and highways, in order to make them more visible. The combination of red and white colours captures the attention of the human eye most effectively,” Vujotic said for Raskrinkavanje.

Vujotic points to the Zemun airport, whose facilities are also painted in red and white, as the best indication that the combination of two colours has nothing to do with nationalism. 

(Our interlocutor asked to have this photo included)

May 13th Airport, Zemun, Serbia

The Convention on International Civil Aviation prescribes norms for marking facilities and individual parts of airports in red-white or orange-white colour schemes so that they can be clearly visible from the air.

Having in mind that there is clear evidence that the bust has not been removed recently, but that it has not been located at the Spiro Mugosa Airport in Podgorica for a long time, and that international airport marking standards are presented as an attempt to pander to Croatia, we assess the articles on web portals and social networks to be fake news.

The “Fake news” rating is given to an original media report (completely produced by the media that published it) that contains factually incorrect claims or information. Content that is rated as fake news can be reliably determined to have been created and disseminated with the intent to misinform the public, that is, to present a completely false claim as fact.