The former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said he should be praised as a peacemaker as his trial began for his alleged role in the siege of Sarajevo and the murder of 8000 men and boys in Srebrenica.
Karadzic, switching from Serbo-Croat to English and back, told The Hague war crimes tribunal: ''Sarajevo is my city, and any story that we would shell Sarajevo without any reason is untrue.''
The 67-year-old said he would be claiming - as other Serb officials have unsuccessfully tried to do - that the Bosnian government was the aggressor in the war, shelling and sniping at its own civilians.
''Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I've done.
''I did everything in human power to avoid the war. I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians,'' Karadzic told the court.
''I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containment. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory.
''Everybody who knows me knows I am not an autocrat, I am not aggressive, I am not intolerant. On the contrary, I am a mild man, a tolerant man with great capacity to understand others.''
Karadzic was arrested in 2008, after years in hiding, living in Belgrade in the guise of a new age health guru.
His remarks drew shouts from watching Muslim survivors of the war, who accused him of lying.
''It is difficult to even describe how I felt when I heard him saying this,'' Kada Hotic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre who lost 56 male family members, told Reuters after listening to his opening statement.