Croatia Celebrating Victory Day - Live Updates

By 5 August 2018

Croatia marks the 23rd anniversary of Operation Storm.

The central celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Croatian War Veterans Day and the 23rd anniversary of Operation Storm started in Knin on Sunday morning with wreath laying and candle lighting ceremonies in that southern town.

Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day is observed on 5 August in memory of Operation Storm, a joint military and police operation that ended a Serb armed rebellion in August 1995 and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, enabling peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.

Operation Storm was launched at 5am on August 4, 1995, and within the next 84 hours 10,400 square kilometres or 18.4 percent of Croatia's territory was liberated. A 20-metre-long Croatian flag was displayed at the fortress in Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, at noon on August 5.

About 200,000 soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War, of whom 174 were killed and over 1,400 wounded. Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, spared the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihac from the fate of Srebrenica, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.

11:00 - Mass is about the start, which will mark the end of the official ceremonies in Knin.

10:30 - The official military aerial programme has begun, with Kiowa helicopters, Croatian MiGs 21 and Israeli F-16s.

10:10 - Minute of silence for the people who lost their lives.

09:50 - Names of soldiers killed during the Operation Storm, as well as those who are still considered to be missing, are being read.

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09:40 - The state flag is being hoisted on the Knin fortress, and the national anthem is played.

09:30 - The ceremonies have now moved from the Knin town centre to the Knin fortress, where a large state flag will be hoisted and then the names of the killed and missing Croatian soldiers will be read.

08:50 - President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović: “It is a special honour to be back in the Croatian royal town of Knin. I express my special gratitude to everybody. With special respect, we remember the first Croatian President Franjo Tuđman, who led the people to fulfil their historical aspirations. The Storm has become an example of a successful operation. We must not forget the Homeland War and the Croatian defenders, and we have to pass their values ​​to future generations. Our victory was glorious and the aggressor was totally defeated. The peace was also brought to Bosnia and Herzegovina which has lasted all this time. Members of the Bosnian Croat forces also gave their huge contribution. The values ​​of the patriotic unity are key to our future generations, and spending for defence and security is not an expenditure, but investments for the future. Croatia will support the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that includes the support for all Croat refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia.

08:40 - Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković: “I am honoured to be able to share the joy of this day with you, below the old fortress where 23 years ago the Croatian flag was proudly hoisted. The dream of a free and sovereign Croatia was achieved with great difficulties. We should always be grateful for every sacrifice and our young people must know in what kind of circumstances our country was born. We won the war because we had a strong national consciousness and a vision of what country we want to live in. We were united in the homeland and in the world. It was patriotism that was crucial to victory in the Homeland War.

08:30 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković: “With pride, I congratulate you on the 23nd anniversary of the Operation Storm and the achievement of the lasting peace. Thanks to our great commanders and defenders and President Franjo Tuđman, a substantial part of Croatia was liberated in only four days. The memories of the Storm bring tears of joy to us because it meant the end of the war and occupation. The Storm defeated Serbian President Milošević’s policies and enabled the peaceful integration of Eastern Slavonia. It also enabled the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We remember all our victims today with sadness, gratitude and pride. Today, we advocate for good-neighbourly relations. However, the fact that some are unready to face the past is preventing the real reconciliation. We are building Croatia in which we guarantee the rights to all national minorities and we want to replace divisions with dialogue. Let the Storm and patriotism be the lasting inspiration in the construction of Croatia we dream of.”