Saturday, 15 May 2021

WWII Bleiburg Victims Commemorated in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 15 May 2021 - A commemoration was held at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery on Saturday on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the Bleiburg and Way of the Cross tragedy, with wreaths laid by representatives of parliament and the government, the Bleiburg Guard of Honour and the City of Zagreb.

Held under the auspices of the Croatian parliament, the commemoration pays tribute to civilians and soldiers of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia killed in the aftermath of World War II by Yugoslav Partisans at Bleiburg, Austria and during subsequent marches back to then Yugoslavia called the Way of the Cross.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković laid a joint parliament-government wreath accompanied by Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman as the prime minister's envoy.

Mass for the victims was said by military ordinary Jure Bogdan, who said Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross were a deep, unhealed wound.

"The cessation of armed conflicts, bombings, destruction and dying on front lines and in the rear was experienced by the peoples of Europe as a great relief, as the establishment of peace and freedom, which the Croatian people expected to. But the month of May 1945 is especially remembered in our country as a month of horrible slaughters of captured soldiers and civilians handed over to the Yugoslav army by Western allies," Bogdan said.

That May, unlike for other peoples, who were given back freedom and democracy, meant for us, with the arrival of the Marxist totalitarian system, a new beginning of the persecution, imprisonment and killing of innocent people, he added.

On the 76th anniversary, we honour all victims, primarily WWII victims, the victims who preceded the war on our territory and all disarmed soldiers, the large number of civilians who fled from the establishment of the communist regime, who were killed without a trial, Bogdan said.

For a long time the Bleiburg and Way of the Cross victims did not have the right to public commemoration in their country, he said, adding that every innocent victim was due equal respect.

"There must be no difference on racial, national, confessional, party or world view grounds," Bogdan said, adding that single and mass executions without a trial or proof of guilt were serious crimes always and everywhere.

A prayer for the Islamic victims was said by Mersad Kreštić, deputy chief imam in Zagreb.

The Bleiburg and Way of the Cross victims were also honoured at Loibach field near Bleiburg, Austria.

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Saturday, 1 May 2021

Milanović: Eternal Praises to Croatian Heroes!

ZAGREB, 1 May 2021 - President Zoran Milanović laid a wreath in the eastern town of Okučani on Saturday in tribute to Croatian soldiers and police officers killed in Operation Flash during the Homeland War 26 years ago.

On this day in 1995, "with their knowledge, patience and courage, Croatian heroes liberated this part of Croatia," Milanović said, adding that Operation Flash, and 1993's Operation Maslenica, had paved the way for Operation Storm in August 1995 that ended the four-year Serb armed insurgency in the country.

"While we others were in Zagreb, Geneva, in administrative services, a small number of men fought here. Eternal praises and glory to the Croatian heroes!" the president said.

Milanović's delegation included the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, presidential adviser on defence and national security Dragan Lozančić, presidential adviser on Homeland War veterans Marijan Mareković and high-level military commanders.

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Saturday, 1 May 2021

Croatia Commemorates 26th Anniversary of Operation Flash

ZAGREB, 1 May 2021 - Croatia today commemorates a combined military and police operation, dubbed Operation Flash, by which it regained control of the Serb-occupied Western Slavonia region during the Homeland War 26 years ago.

In a lightning offensive launched on 1 May 1995, in less than 32 hours about 7,200 Croatian soldiers and police officers liberated about 600 square kilometers of the Croatian territory that had been under occupation for four years.

The commemoration began in the morning at the monument in Okučani, about 130 kilometers southeast of Zagreb, with the reading of the names of those killed in the operation.

Wreaths were laid by President Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and their delegations as well as by delegations of veterans' associations and families of those killed.

For more about the homeland war in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović: "I'm Considering Not Having Army Attend Operation Flash Commemoration"

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he was considering not having the army participate in the coming commemoration of the 1995 military and police operation "Flash" in Okučani, to protect it from politicking, and that he would discuss the matter with Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

"A situation where soldiers have to stand for hours while politicians and government officials successively lay wreaths to comply with epidemiological measures puts in an awkward position the Army Chief of Staff as well as the commander of the land army who, if they do not want to offend anyone, have to be on duty... after arriving with me, they have to wait for (PM Andrej) Plenković, then, I guess, also for (Parliament Speaker Gordan) Jandroković," said Milanović, who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

"So I'm thinking about telling them to stay home, to simply protect them from any politicking... I will talk with the minister," said Milanović while visiting the Gašinci military grounds.

Milanović said that he did not see anything contentious about the fact that on Monday, at a reception he gave for retired officers and wartime commanders of the Croatian Defence Force (HVO) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he also met with retired HVO general Tihomir Blaškić, who was in the HVO delegation. 

Blaškić was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and served a nine-year prison sentence for the cruel and inhumane treatment of Bosniak civilians and POWs from 1992 to 1994.

"Had Blaškić been responsible for something that, let's say Ratko Mladić was responsible for, I would not have received him," he said.

He announced that he would also receive General Milivoj Petković when he is released from prison "because he isn't a war criminal."

The convictions against Blaškić and Petković were political convictions, he added.

The ICTY convicted Petković of crimes committed in 1993 against Bosniaks in the territory that was under the control of the Croat authorities of Herceg-Bosna

Asked if he would attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of the establishment of the 4th Guards Brigade in Split, Milanović said that he would attend the ceremony in Knin.

"I'm going to Knin, not Split, that brigade is in Knin and the army will conduct such events in barracks," the president said.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

No Joint Ceremony to Pay Tribute to Jasenovac Victims

ZAGREB, 20 April, 2021 - There will be no joint commemoration for victims of the World War II concentration camp Jasenovac on Thursday, representatives of the victims will lay wreaths separately from the state leadership while President Zoran Milanović will do so separately from the prime minister and parliament speaker.

President Milanović's spokesman Nikola Jelić confirmed to Hina that Milanović and his delegation will lay wreaths at the Stone Flower monument at Jasenovac at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Office of the President did not receive reply from gov't, parliament

"President Zoran Milanović and his delegation will pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims on 22 April, at 11 a.m., as agreed with the organiser, the Public Institution Jasenovac Memorial Area," Jelić said.

He added that the Office of the President had not received a reply from the government or the parliament to its invitation to pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims together.

"As early as last Friday the President of the Republic proposed to the Prime Minister and the Parliament Speaker that they all pay tribute to the Jasenovac victims together, but we have not received any reply," Jelić said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that a government delegation would lay a wreath at Jasenovac at 9 a.m., again dismissing the possibility of paying tribute together with Milanović, noting that "there is no reason for us to put on an act."

"As regards any joint laying of wreaths or flowers, I said yesterday.... there will be no putting on an act," he told reporters during a visit to Rijeka.

Plenković: We were not the ones to start with insults

"The President of the Republic or his staff are now launching an initiative for the Parliament Speaker and myself to lay a wreath with him in Jasenovac. We were not the ones to start with the 'animal farm', we were not the ones to start with insults or a number of other things that are most inappropriate, so there is no reason to put on an act, let that be clear to everyone," said Plenković.

He added that the organiser of the commemoration was the Jasenovac Memorial Area, not the government or anyone else, and that this year's commemoration would be held in line with epidemiological restrictions.

The government's delegation will arrive at 9 a.m. and the parliament's delegation at 10 a.m., he said.

"This has nothing to do with representatives of the victim ethnic groups. We met with them last week, we hold meetings regularly, we respect the victims and went to Jasenovac in the past four years as well. We will go this year again, next year, in 2023, 2024. This has to do with the protocol, but putting on an act is out of the question," he said.

Reporters asked Plenković if he should ignore his relationship with Milanović, regardless of how bad it may be, in situations such as commemorations, to which he said: "No, there's no need for that. In this case it is not envisaged and is out of the question."

Representatives of Serbs, Jews, Roma and antifascists to form separate delegation

The Serb National Council (SNV) said earlier in the day that representatives of ethnic groups that were victims of the Ustasha terror would have a separate, four-member delegation in Jasenovac.

SNV president Milorad Pupovac, the leader of the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities of Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, Roma association "Kali Sara" representative Veljko Kajtazi, and the leader of the SABA association of antifascist fighters and antifascists, Franjo Habulin, will lay a joint wreath at the Stone Flower monument at noon on Thursday.

Kraus confirmed to Hina that this decision was made yesterday, after it became evident that there would be no joint delegation comprising top state officials.

"After we realised that there would be separate delegations, we decided on a separate delegation as well. As you can see, a single delegation does not depend on us. We cannot support the use of commemorations for political one-upmanship," said Kraus.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 22 January 2021

President Cancels Attendance at Commemoration of Operation Maslenica

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Friday cancelled his attendance at an event commemorating the 28th anniversary of the combined military and police operation "Maslenica 93" in Zadar after he learned that two persons wearing clothes with Ustasha symbols were participating in the event.

Nikola Jelić, spokesman for the Office of the President told Hina that President Milanović arrived in Zadar for the ceremony marking the 28th anniversary of Operation Maslenica 93 and that "after it was noticed that among the participants in the event there were people wearing Ustasha insignia and the Ustasha salute, the President phoned Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and warned him that that was unacceptable."

"Since after that it was established that persons wearing clothes with Ustasha symbols, including the Ustasha salute, would take part in the official part of the event, the President cancelled his attendance," Jelić said.

Acting on orders from President Milanović, who is the Armed Forces' Supreme Commander, the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, Admiral Robert Hranj, and all other military commanders left the event after the first part of the ceremony, Jelić added.

Last year Milanović left a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1995 military and police operation "Flash" in Okučani, the reason again being persons who participated in the official part of the event and who wore T-shirts with the sign "For the homeland ready", the Ustasha salute used in Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Milanovic: It is People, not Political Elites that Make up Remembrance Procession

ZAGREB, Nov 14, 2020 - The President's Office issued a press release on Saturday ahead of the Remembrance Day commemoration in Vukovar on November 18, saying that it is people and not political elites that make up the Remembrance Procession.

President Zoran Milanovic is of the view that the commemoration of people killed in Vukovar and Skabrnja during the Homeland War "has true significance only if it is open to all citizens wishing to pay their respects and gratitude to those killed and gone missing, and not just to those selected and to the political elites. The Remembrance Procession in Vukovar is made up of people and not political elites," the press release said.

"In the present situation, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the arrival of a large number of people in Vukovar to join the procession may be dangerous to their health and cause further spread of the pandemic. Double standards, obviously politically motivated, which allow a gathering of a large number of people in Vukovar while banning such gatherings elsewhere in Croatia, are irresponsible both to Vukovar and to the citizens," it added.

"In this situation, the victims of Vukovar can and must be honored in a dignified manner, without political calculations, double standards and putting the health of citizens at risk. The President of the Republic will pay his respects to the victims of Vukovar in a manner befitting the situation," the President's Office said.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Milanovic Calls Grubori Commemoration Debt of Honour

ZAGREB, Aug 25, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday that the commemoration in Grubori for Serb civilian war victims was a debt of honour to what had happened 25 years ago, adding that it had then provoked in him a sense of moral horror.

"It is easy to say now, 25 years later, that no one has personally been called to account for this. It is well-known... which unit was here that day," Milanovic said.

He added that the murder of six innocent elderly residents of Grubori was a moral disaster and that it also caused harm to Croatia.

It tarnished the reputation of a country that had been attacked and that had not been bad until then, he said.

"... Enough of what marked the relations between the two peoples, two nations so alike that it is difficult to find in Europe two that are more similar to each other. These are not the Czech and Slovak peoples, nor Swedes and Norwegians. It is us, Croats and Serbs, our neighbors," Milanovic underscored.

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Sunday, 23 August 2020

Day of Baranja's Occupation Commemorated

ZAGREB, Aug 23, 2020 - The Osijek branch of the Croatian Association of Returnees (ZPH) on Sunday commemorated August 23, the day of the Great Serbian aggression, occupation of the Baranja region and the expulsion of the non-Serb population.

Branko Pek, president of the ZPH Osijek branch, said that after the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) Novi Sad Corps on 3 July 1991 crossed into Baranja over the bridge at Batina, local extremists started intimidating local residents, which culminated on August 22-23, when local Serbs, with the help of the JNA, expelled all non-Serb residents towards Osijek and Hungary.

"Those who would not leave, mostly the elderly, paid for it dearly. The occupying forces used them as slaves for the most difficult kinds of work, and more than 200 people were killed during the occupation from 1991 to 1998, when the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region was completed," Pek said.

He said that Baranja had been under the protection of UN peace keeping forces since 1992 and that they, too, were resposible to some extent for the crimes committed against civilians as they did not do anyhting to prevent them.

"Those who ordered and committed crimes against innocent civilians are well-known to the authorities, some continue to move freely in the area, and nobody has been called to account for the crimes committed. We expect a just punishment for them," said Pek.


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Sunday, 23 August 2020

Commemoration for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes Held in Macelj

ZAGREB, Aug 23, 2020 - On the occassion of the European Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes - Nazism, fascism and communism - and in memory of the victims of the communist massacre in Macelj, a holy mass was said on Sunday in a church in Macelj.

The mass was followed by a commemoration in the graveyard next to the church in the northern Croatian village close to the border with Slovenia.

Thousands of victims died in Macelj, and with the 1,250 exhumed victims, including 21 priests, it is so far the biggest site of Communist crimes in Croatia.

Damir Borovcak, vice-president of the Macelj 1945 NGO, which organised the commemoration this year again, recalled the NGO's principle: "No to hate, no to revenge, we only want the truth available to the public."

He said that after the 1992 exhumations, the search around Macelj forests and mountains finally resumed, after 28 long years, during the term of the previous government.

"In May this year 82 new victims were found," he said.

Zdravko Cepo, president of the Macelj 1945 NGO, said that there were many graves around Macelj that needed to be thoroughly searched.

"We hope that we will manage to do that, that we will have the time and resources to find them and give them all a dignified burial," he said, adding that the search will continue in cooperation with the Veterans' Affairs Ministry.

As a delegate of Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic, MP Zdravka Busic also attended the commemoration. She called the Macelj area a sacred place that deserved to be respected and revered.

"Civilians, priests, nuns were killed here, and you see how many graves, mass graves there are here, still hidden in these forests. But let us be grateful for everything that the Croatian government has been doing, we have had an exhumation this summer, and I hope we are on the right path, a path of reconciliation," said Busic, undescoring that she hoped everyone will realise that every victim is equal.


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