Days of suffering of Serbs Croatia for 25 years celebrates as victory: Operation Storm anniversary (Telegraf)
This year like in the previous 25, Serbia and Croatia, each in their own way, are marking the anniversary of the military-police Operation Storm. While Zagreb celebrates this day as Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day, in Serbia it is marked as one of the saddest events in history, by remembering the victims and people expelled from their homes during that action. The military-police action began at dawn on 4 August 1995, and during the next three days, Croatian forces killed at least 1,800 Serbs and expelled 250,000, after which they established control over the territory of then Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK). On that August morning, the Krajina Serbs only had the time to quickly gather their basic belongings, get into tractors and start fleeing the attacks of the Croatian army. As a result of Operation Storm, a wave of refugees started from the territory of RSK, coming under attack by Croatian artillery and air force as they were fleeing toward Serbia and Republika Srpska. During those three days, 250,000 people left their homes and tried to find salvation by reaching Serbia and Republika Srpska. Although they knew that these were civilians, the Croatian artillery and air force carried out constant attacks against the refugee column. The refugees were not allowed to enter Belgrade, but only to pass along Arsenija Carnojevica Boulevard, while only some civilians remained in Krajina, exposed to terror even after the formal end of Operation Storm on 7 August. The military action was carried out despite the fact that the area was under UN protection as sectors “South” and “North” and that RSK representatives in Geneva and Belgrade accepted international community’s proposal for a peaceful solution to the conflict the day before. In the continuation of the operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), called Operation Maestral, Croat and Muslim forces killed another 655 and expelled about 125,000 Serbs from Bosnia and Herzegovina itself.
Tudjman issues order to “inflict such a blow to Serbs, to make them practically disappear”
The military-police Operation Storm was the epilogue of a planned crime of the regime of Croatian president Franjo Tudjman. It was preceded by a meeting that Tudjman held on 31 July 1995 with military officers in Brijuni, where he issued an order to “inflict such a blow to Serbs, to make them practically disappear.” “Close the remaining three doors to them, but don’t give them a way to get out, to escape, force them to fight to the end. To inflict such blows so that Serbs practically disappear,” Tudjman said at the time, according to transcripts from that meeting, which were one of the main pieces of evidence at a later war crimes trial before The Hague Tribunal.
According to official data, 1,861 people died during Operation Storm
The Veritas Documentation and Information Center says that according to their records, 1,861 Serbs were killed or went missing during and after Operation Storm. Most of those killed and missing were civilians – 1,211, while three-quarters of them were over 60 years old. Among the victims were 548 women, of whom about four-fifths were over 60 years old. Out of the total number of victims, the fate of 1,084 people has been clarified so far, while another 777 people are on the Veritas list of missing persons, of which 588 are civilians, including 295 women.
The Hague tribunal first convicts, then releases those who commanded the persecution operation
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal was preparing an indictment against Tudjman for war crimes committed during operations Flash (“Bljesak”) and Storm (“Oluja”), but he died in 1999. Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were put on trial before The Hague for forming a “joint criminal enterprise with with the aim of permanently and forcibly expelling the largest portion of the Serb population from the territory of the former Republic of Serb Krajina in Croatia.” Ante Gotovina, who was the commander of the operation, was in 2011 sentenced to 24 years, and Mladen Markac to 18 years in prison, while Ivan Cermak was acquitted. However, in the second instance verdict, the former Croatian generals were acquitted, and the Croatian authorities denied accusations of carrying out ethnic cleansing, claiming that it was a legitimate military operation against the rebels. The Hague tribunal unsealed the indictment in July 2001, and in November 2012, the Appellate Chamber acquitted the Croatian generals, overturning the first-instance verdict, after which the two were released, with the final explanation that Operation Storm was not a joint criminal enterprise to expel Serbs from the Knin Krajina.
Brnabic: It was an ethnic cleansing of Serbs and Milosevic cannot change that fact (TV Pink/Tanjug)
The “Storm” was an ethnic cleansing of Serbs, and the presence of Boris Milosevic cannot change that, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stated today. “As for whether Milosevic’s presence at the commemoration will legitimize that operation, nothing can legitimize it. The fact is that 250.000 Serbs were expelled, more than 2.000 killed. The Serbs went through a terrible suffering. Every year when you hear someone from that refugee line, you cry every time,” Brnabic told TV Pink. She added that the Brioni dossiers, i.e. transcripts, state that the then president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman, said that the goal of the operation was to create an ethnically pure Croatia, and reiterated that there was nothing anyone could do to challenge it and say that it was not ethnic cleansing. Brnabic also mentioned that as the Prime Minister of Serbia, it is difficult for her to strongly criticize the moves of the representatives of Serbs in Croatia, stating that she learned from Aleksandar Vucic that Serbs should always be given the greatest possible support, because there can be no lack of unity in the Serbian people no matter where they live, but pointed out that she could not support Milosevic’s decision to attend the commemoration of the operation “Storm”. “We cannot support this, but I would not use this opportunity to condemn a man, I believe that this is not the easiest thing for him to do,” Brnabic said. Today is a difficult day, remembering the crimes against Serbs in Croatia, marking “Storm” in two completely different ways. It is always difficult when you see people who were in that line, many have relatives who did not survive, she emphasised. Nothing can legitimize the “Storm”, it was ethnic cleansing, said Brnabic and announced that tonight she will attend the marking of the Day of Remembrance of all Serbs who died and were expelled in that armed action in Sremska Raca with President Vucic. Operation “Storm” began on 4 August 1995 with an offensive by the Croatian army and police and units of the Croatian Defense Council in the areas of Banija, Kordun, Lika and northern Dalmatia, i.e. the Republic of Serb Krajina. A day later, on 5 August, the Croatian army entered the almost deserted Knin and hoisted the Croatian flag, while columns of refugees in cars, trucks, tractors and other agricultural vehicles entered Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the Veritas Documentation and Information Center, 1.869 Serbs were killed during Operation Storm, 1.220 of whom were civilians. About three quarters of the victims were older than 60, and 551 women were among the victims, which, as they stated in Veritas, represents one of the “black records of the civil war in the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia”. More than 220.000 Serbs were expelled, and data on the number of missing people range from 745 to 1.183.
Serbian associations condemn Boris Milosevic’s possible attendance at Croatian celebration (Tanjug)
Coordination of the Associations of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Serbia and the Association Zavicaj Belgrade assesses that Croatian Deputy Prime Minister from the ranks of Serb people, Boris Milosevic’s possible attendance at the Croatian celebration of “Storm” operation in Knin would legalize ethnic cleansing and pogrom of Serbs in Croatia and be an act of treason, not a sacrifice to improve the status of Serbs.
Brnabic: I am one of the candidates for prime minister, coalition with Sapic probable (TV Pink/B92)
Outgoing Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that she is one of two possible candidates for head of Serbian government, the other candidate is also from SNS. “There are two candidates for prime minister, I am one of the candidates, I know who the other is, but it is not up to me to say who he is. It is a person from the SNS,” she told TV Pink. She refused to name the other candidate, saying that it was someone from the SNS who she would back. “I didn’t ask about myself, it doesn’t matter to me at this moment, I will stay with Vucic, I will stand by the man who, in my opinion, pulled our country out of the abyss,” she said. She added that President Aleksandar Vucic is seriously considering a coalition between SNS and Aleksandar Sapic‘s Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS). When it comes to Aleksandar Sapic, the President believes, according to the Prime Minister, that he still has a lot to learn, but that he appreciates him because of his fighting spirit. “But, I know that he appreciates his will to fight. Sapic showed that he wants and knows how to fight, and he showed that in the moments when our coalition partners, primarily the SPS, did not,” Brnabic pointed out. Because of that fighting spirit in difficult moments, Vucic sees himself as a serious partner, she said. “As far as SPS is concerned, there are certain people in the SPS who are trying to influence which position they will hold through a foreign factor and foreign embassies. That is a sure way not to be in the government,” Brnabic said. She added that anyone who approached Vucic from abroad to nominate someone for a position in the government was rejected.
Vulin: Greater Albania notion is major security threat (TV Pink/Beta)
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on 3 August that the idea of a Greater Albania was the most serious security threat to the region, but that Serbia “monitors the situation carefully.” In an interview with the TV Pink he said the establishment of the Kosovo army was unacceptable, describing as “madness or impertinence” a decision to “give heavy weapons to unconvicted war criminals and hope for peace.” In a comment on a report that a representative of the Serbs in Croatia, vice-president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party, Boris Milosevic, would be attending the upcoming Operation Storm celebration in Knin, Vulin said he still didn’t believe it would happen, hoping that Milosevic “will listen to his Serbian people and refuse to go.” Speaking of a honorary aviator badge he received on the Serbian Aviation Day, the defense minister said it was a great honor, explaining that you didn’t need to be a pilot or know how to fly a plane to get one. “It’s given for a contribution to equipping the aviation, to making pilots’ lives easier and increasing their salaries, for making a mark in that field, as much as an individual can,” Vulin said.
The first Serbian MP under the hijab: My appearance stirred attention (B92)
My appearance in the Assembly caused a lot of attention, but there was no inconvenience, the first Serbian MP under the hijab Misala Pramenkovic told B92.net. Pramenkovic, who entered the parliament as the third on the list of the Party of Justice and Reconciliation of Muamer Zukorlic, otherwise works as a professor of Islamic sciences in the Gazi Isa-beg Madrasa.
She also said for b92 net that the best way to have the right attitude about someone or something is to get to know it. “Often prejudices and stereotypes are caused by ignorance,” said Pramenkovic. When asked what she expects from her parliamentary mandate, Pramenkovic said that she expects that with her actions and efforts in the parliament, she will justify the trust that was shown to her. “We will continue what our deputies started in the previous mandate, we are a party of continuity, but I will especially advocate for the rights of women, children, the status of the family and family values,” she noted. Pramenkovic added for B92.net that there should have been a Bosniak MP in the Serbian parliament before. “But it’s also significant that I’m not the only one,” she concluded. The Justice and Reconciliation Party will have four deputies.
Official Gazette of B&H publishes decision on local elections in Mostar on 20 December (Vecernji list)
The Official Gazette of B&H has officially published the decision on calling the local elections in City of Mostar, which are scheduled for 20 December. According to the daily, the decision to call the elections in Mostar for 20 December, and not for 15 November like in rest of the country, caused many negative reactions, especially from Croat political representatives, who believe the decision was taken by illegally appointed Central Election Commission of B&H.
Komsic: I am sorry that Milanovic is unnecessarily raising tensions (Oslobodjenje)
B&H Presidency member Zeljko Komsic reacted to the announcement that Croatian President Zoran Milanovic will present a medal to the former Croat Defense Council (HVO) General and war crimes suspect Zlatan Mijo Jelic. “I am sorry that Milanovic is raising tensions in the region with such unnecessary acts, because this does not contribute to good neighborly relations”, said Komsic.
Stevandic: Operation “Storm” – crime and shame (Srna)
United Srpska President Nenad Stevandic has said that the Croatian military-police operation “Storm” is a shame and a crime which aim was to destroy Serbs, without choosing means, and stressed that it is a warning for Serb people for the future, with an obligation to constantly tell the whole Western world that it is their disgrace too. Stevandic has emphasized that 4 August is the day of the greatest Serb’s sorrow and piety for the greatest ethnic cleansing and pogrom since the World War II, which was carried out against Serbs, whereby the children in the refugee column were not spared either or people in the home for special care. “But, regardless of what others think about this crime, we must be persistent in the culture of remembrance that we will pass on to future generations,” Stevandic told Srna on the occasion of the day of remembrance of the killed and exiled Serbs in the military-police operation “Storm”. Operation Storm began on 4 August 1995, with an offensive by the Croatian army and police and units of the Croatian Defense Council in the area of Banija, Lika, Kordun and northern Dalmatia. A day later, on 5 August, the Croatian army entered the almost deserted Knin and put up the Croatian flag, while convoys of refugees marched through Serb territories in B&H towards Serbia. According to “Veritas”, during the Croatian military-police operation “Storm”, more than 220,000 Krajina Serbs were expelled from their homes, and the records show the names of 1,869 killed and missing Serbs, of which 1,220 were civilians. In a verdict from February 2015, the International Court of Justice qualified Operation “Storm” as ethnic cleansing, but not as genocide, although world experts in that field claim that “Storm” had all the characteristics of genocide.
Shameful act (Avaz)
The daily’s ‘Person of the Day’ is Croatian President Zoran Milanovic who is harshly criticized for the decision to decorate former Croat Defense Council (HVO) General and war crimes indictee Zlatan Mijo Jelic with a medal. The daily describes Milanovic’s decision as shameful and notes that tens of thousands of Bosniak from the Mostar region suffered because of Jelic. According to the daily, such acts can only harm relations between B&H and Croatia. The daily notes that each side in the Balkans will have to face their own past and concludes that by electing Milanovic, Croatia has failed to give up on its fascist heritage which started in World War II with Ante Pavelic and continued in the 1990s war with the likes of Jelic.
B&H parliament starts collective vacation in August (BHT1)
The B&H parliament started their collective vacation on Monday. The B&H parliament adopted the budget for B&H institutions in 2020 only recently and worked very little in the past year due to the blockade of the B&H parliament.
Medved: Entire gov’t in Knin is message calling for united approach (Hina)
Veterans’ Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved attended the opening of an exhibition of photographs in Rijeka entitled “25 years later” as part of the 25th anniversary of the Storm military operation. “Croatian Veterans’ Day is the day in the year that the entire society stops for a moment to recall the defenders who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of the homeland. We show our respect to all those who contributed so that we can have an independent and sovereign Croatia and together create a prosperous and even better Croatia,” said Minister Medved. He underscored that he was proud of the cooperation with all Homeland War associations from Rijeka and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. “Croatia has achieved the majority of its strategic objectives and let’s be proud of what we have done as a nation,” Minister Medved said and called for new challenges that life brings to be accepted with optimism as Homeland War defenders did.
Important to mark 25th anniversary of Operation Storm with dignity
Medved reiterated that the message he wishes to send by attending the commemoration in Grubori is that now the most important thing is to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm in a dignified manner and that later commemorations and activities will be discussed after that.
“We all know what the summer and autumn time brought Croatia, how much suffering and commemorations are ahead of us. As we have done so far, we will pay our respects with dignity both to Croatian defenders who died and to all the civilian victims,” he said and added that now “we are concentrating on remembering those courageous defenders, the days of pride and glory.”
We will mark the anniversary of Operation Storm on 5 August with dignity with the main program in Knin as well as in other counties, cities and municipalities, which pleases us. The celebration will be different due to measures related to the coronavirus pandemic and foremost to protect the lives and health of citizens, Medved said. Asked what deputy prime minister Boris Milosevic’s attendance at the anniversary of Storm in Knin means, Medved reiterated that he was glad that the entire government would be there. “That is a strong message that calls on everyone to have a united approach, aimed at creating an atmosphere of normalization and closure of many chapters that, in a certain way, burden Croatian society,” he said.
Remembrance ceremony for 100 Serb civilians killed in 1995 held in town of Dvor (Hina)
A commemoration for about 100 Serbs killed during and in the immediate aftermath of the 1995 military Operation Storm was held in Dvor on Monday, organized by the Serb National Council (SNV). “We came to honor the victims who we must not forget until we hear the words which will comfort those who remain and until those who committed the crime are tried,” said SNV Council chairman Milorad Pupovac. That is expected also by Croats whose dearest ones were killed as well as by Serbs in Croatia, where their fellow countrymen were killed, he added.
Commemorated at the local cemetery were the 64 victims from a mass grave who, Pupovac said, were mainly killed in a refuge column, and those whose bodies have not been found. A crime committed after military operations have ended represents a gross breach of international humanitarian laws, he said, adding that an SNV delegation visited 15 villages in which 200 innocents had been killed. Particularly serious was the killing of psychiatric patients, he said.
The commemoration heard that on 8 August 1995, in the Dvor elementary school, ten infirm, ill and abandoned Serbs brought from a psychiatric hospital and retirement home in Petrinja were killed before a Danish UNPROFOR battalion. The Danish soldiers only recorded that a group of soldiers in uniforms without insignia broke into the school and committed the massacre, which still hasn’t been cleared up, it was said. The head of the Documenta Centre for Dealing with the Past, Vesna Terselic, said she was concerned because that massacre had not been fully investigated. In the spirit of developing trust and peace, she called on Croatia’s judiciary, executive and legislative authorities as well as the department for POWs and the war missing to intensify investigations and the prosecution of war crimes committed during and after Operation Storm as well as the identification of missing Serbs and Croats. Terselic said the crime in Dvor should receive more media coverage. She said that neither Croatian nor Serbian prosecutors “have managed to establish if the perpetrators were from the Croatian army or Arkan’s units, i.e. the Serb army or B&H. We must hear those stories and that says there is still a lot to be done.”
After the commemoration, Pupovac told press that the fact that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic would attend the Operation Storm anniversary in Knin and Veterans Minister Tomo Medved the Grubori commemoration were important events of which much was expected.
“That’s the beginning of the creation of a culture of peace, a policy of remembrance in which there will be room for both Croat and Serb victims. It’s equally important that those gestures will be made by two men who lost their next of kin in the last war. They have decided to take that path, which I consider to be an extremely important and significant message.” It is necessary to distinguish between those who suffered and lost everything, because everyone must understand their anger, and those who are trying to exploit that suffering and justified anger for political gain, and not accept them, Pupovac said. Milosevic’s and Medved’s gestures “are aimed at stopping the use of the suffering on both sides against others 25 years after the war. Everyone must hear a word of sympathy and a word of regret which the largest number of people will understand.”
Even the Russian Orthodox Church shows interest in the elections in Montenegro (CdM)
The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry denied on Monday allegations from Metropolitan Ilarion that the Montenegrin government has tried to convince him of the validity of the Law on Freedom of Religion. “As election day is approaching, meddling of interested factors is becoming wider. This time, Russian Orthodox Church has interfered through its president for external affairs, Metropolitan Ilarion, stating that Montenegrin Ambassador to Moscow tried to convince him of the validity of the Law on Freedom of Religion,” the Ministry reported. The Montenegrin Ambassador to Russian Federation acquainted representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church with the law in question in a professional and diplomatic way. “The fact that metropolitan Ilarion is trying to imply something more than this just shows unification of the campaign of the patriarchy in Moscow and Belgrade in their goals and instruments they use to achieve those goals,” the Ministry said. They state with regret that his views are colored more with politics than spirituality. “The target of such statements is always the same – bringing Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic orientation to an end by committing to changing relationship of political forces in our country,” the Ministry said.
Djelosaj heads list of Albanian coalition (In4S)
At Monday’s session in Tuzi, the presidency of the Albanian Alternative (AA) determined the electoral list for the upcoming parliamentary elections within the large Albanian coalition agreed by the AA with Forca, the Democratic Alliance of Albanians, the political movements Perspektiva and the Union for Tuzi. “According to the agreement, AA is the first on the joint list of the great Albanian coalition and appointed its leader Niko Djelosaj to lead the list of the great Albanian coalition called ‘Albanian list Genci Nimanbegu – Nik Djelosa’,” the party stated.
SNP: Single opposition appearance formula for success whereby current government is being sent to political past (In4S)
At Monday’s electronic session of the Main Board of the Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro (SNP), the Decisions on the appearance of the municipal boards of the SNP CG in the municipalities where the local elections are held were adopted by a huge majority, as well as the Decision on the appearance of the SNP CG in the parliamentary elections in coalition with the Democratic Front (DF), Narodni Pokret (People’s Movement), Prava Crna Gora (Right Montenegro) and non-partisan personalities. By accepting the decisions, the Main Board of the SNP of Montenegro has shown readiness to take power and a responsible socio-economic policy. Also, we confirmed our commitment from the beginning of the story about the elections, for a single opposition list, believing that a single opposition appearance is a formula for success by which the current government is being sent to the political past, the SNP said in a statement.
Krivokapic: We’ll win at least 26 seats (Dan)
According to latest research of the public opinion, the great people’s coalition ‘For the Future of Montenegro’, comprising the Democratic Front (DF), the Socialist People’s Party (SNP), the Workers’ Party, the Real Montenegro and the United Montenegro, might win at least 26 seats on the elections on 30 August, which would be enough to overthrow the decade-long ruling of Milo Djukanovic if they unite with the coalition of the Democrats and the URA Civic Movement after the elections, said the leader of the newly-established coalition, Zdravko Krivokapic. Speaking in a TV show titled Svijet sa Sputnjikom, Krivokapic said that the great people’s coalition would try to change Montenegro and return it to its traditional and universal values. “Right now, there’s no final agreement. I believe in our coalition with the Democrats and the URA Civic Movement. That would be a win-win situation. We are ready to make all exceptions just to change the government in Montenegro,” he said. On possible irregularities in the elections, Krivokapic says that their coalition is ready to do its job responsibly in all polling station across Montenegro.
He further emphasizes that people are not afraid of the regime, and that religious processions and the Serbian Orthodox Church liberated every man in Montenegro. “Religious processions liberated people of Montenegro. We were walking quietly and with dignity, but one could hear our voice telling ‘We won’t allow anybody to take our shrines’ and ‘You can’t do this anymore’.” Beside the leaders of the DF, Milan Knezevic and Nebojsa Medojevic, candidates on the electoral list are Slaven Radunovic, Predrag Bulatovic and Strahinja Bulajic.
No parliamentary majority: First constitutive session ends, parliament speaker not elected (Republika)
The first constitutive session of the new parliamentary composition ended. The mandates of the new were verified and Goran Misovski and Florian Bisimi were elected Vice Presidents of parliament. The election of speaker of parliament was not on the agenda as a parliamentary majority of 61 MPs has not been secured yet. The next session will be additionally scheduled and until the election of a new parliament speaker, the parliament will be chaired by Talat Xhaferi.
Buckovski expects that Zaev will split the AA/Alternative coalition in an attempt to form a short-lived government (Republika)
Former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski predicts that his SDSM party will form a new ruling coalition together with DUI and by splitting the Alliance of Albanians – Alternative coalition.
SDSM and VMRO are evently split after the elections, with no clear shot at forming a government. SDSM (42 seats) could in theory form a government with its coalition partner BESA (4 seats) and DUI (15 seats) but Buckovski says that it could add votes by dividing the coalition led by Ziadin Sela that won 12 seats and which opposes a coalition with DUI. Sela is in coalition with Afrim Gashi’s Alternative party. With the votes provided by Alternative, SDSM can get to 66 seats. Alternative is already part of the outgoing ruling coalition, it holds the Culture Ministry, Buckovski said. The disgraced former Prime Minister says that this stitched up coalition could rule until the Autumn of 2021, when municipal elections are held and a possible win by VMRO-DPMNE, which won almost twice more municipalities across the country than SDSM did, could reignite the talk of another early election.
Opposition sues Interior Minister (ADN)
Democratic Party (DP) Parliamentary Group has reported to Special Prosecution against Organized Crime and Corruption (SPAK) the Interior Minister, Sander Lleshaj for the scandal of the tender of the State Police uniforms. In the report made by DP Parliamentary Group, it is said that Lleshaj has committed a series of criminal offenses, related to abuse of office, therefore he should be prosecuted by SPAK. Lleshaj is accused of: “Active corruption of senior state officials or local elected officials” provided by Article 245; “Abuse of duty” provided by Article 248; “Violation of the equality of participants in public tenders or auctions” provided by Article 258; “Passive corruption of persons exercising public functions”, provided by Article 259; “Passive corruption of senior state officials or local elected officials” provided by Article 260.