Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM, Defence Minister Remember Operation Plitvice

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday remembered the first victim of the 1991-1995 Homeland War - police officer Josip Jović who was killed by Serb insurgents near the Plitvice Lakes 31 years ago.

"This is an opportunity for us to once again remember and thank all Croatian defenders, soldiers, police officers and all those who gave their lives for freedom," Plenković said.

In a separate message on this occasion, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said: "We are proud of Josip Jović and all defenders, Croatian police officers and Croatian soldiers, who showed how to fight for the freedom of Croatia and all its people, regardless of the gravity of challenges and despite sacrifices."

Croatia on Thursday commemorated the 31th anniversary of Operation Plitvice and the death of Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer to be killed by Serb insurgents at the start of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The operation was mounted after rebel Serbs set up a police station in Plitvice and the Croatian state leadership decided to restore constitutional order there.

Jović, 22, was killed and nine other police officers were wounded in that police operation after the Serb rebels occupied Plitvice Lakes National Park and blocked the D1 state road that connects the country's north and south. Jović was a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit.

The operation was launched on the morning of 31 March 1991, Easter Sunday, and is also known as Bloody Easter.

According to police reports after the operation, 29 Serb extremists were arrested and 18 were charged with armed rebellion, including Goran Hadžić, a member of the main committee of the Serb Democratic Party, and Borivoje Savić, secretary of the executive committee of the party's Vukovar branch. Although the Croatian police regained control of the local police station, they had to withdraw later and the area remained under rebel control until August 1995 when Operation Storm crushed the Serb insurgency.

Jović has been posthumously promoted to the rank of major and decorated with high state medals.

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Friday, 17 December 2021

Zadar County Succesfully Cleared of Mines Left from Homeland War

December 17, 2021 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović attended a ceremony in Zadar on Friday marking the completion of mine clearance activities in Zadar County. Thirty-five people were killed in the Zadar County by mines left over from the 1991-95 war.

Zadar County head Božidar Longin was presented on that occasion with a certificate showing that the county is no longer among areas suspected of being infested with mines while Civil Protection Directorate head Damir Trut held a presentation on the mine removal project in Zadar County, reports Antena Zadar.

Thirty-five people were killed in Zadar County by mines left over from the 1991-95 war.

"There were more than 18,000 infantry and tank mines on 680 fields in the county and a large number of houses and commercial facilities and infrastructure were in areas suspected of being mine-infested, which slowed down economic growth and posed a threat to local residents who were unable to return to their homes," Longin said.

Mine removal is a priority that is systematically invested in

Minister Božinović said that mine removal was one of the priorities in the field of security and that it was systematically invested in.

"The success is visible. The implementation of our original plan has made us globally recognizable and has even won us a leader status in mine action and humanitarian demining. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Syria have asked for our help and expertise. Mine action in Croatia is still very topical, mines still pose a real threat to the full normalization of life in seven counties, where there are still 15,000 mines on an area of 208 square kilometers," he said.

Around seven billion kuna has been spent on mine removal so far and 204 people have been killed in mine-related accidents, with the latest case happening in Karlovac County in March this year.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.


Thursday, 25 November 2021

Remains of Homeland War Victims Found in Eastern Croatia

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - The remains of at least five persons which, according to preliminary findings, dating back to the Homeland War, were found in the Bobota area in Vukovar-Srijem County on Thursday as part of the tracing of those who disappeared in the 1991-95 war.

The war veterans ministry said it had organized the exhumation of the remains and further search of the site.

The remains will be taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Zagreb for processing and identification.

Croatia is still looking for 1,853 persons gone missing in the Homeland War, including 520 from Vukovar-Srijem County.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Lanterns Floated Down the Danube in Memory of Fallen and Missing Defenders, Civilians

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - Several hundred lit red and white lanterns were floated down the river Danube on Thursday evening in memory of Croatian defenders and civilians killed or gone missing in the defense of Vukovar from the Great Serbia aggression in 1991.

Red lanterns were lit in memory of the missing persons and white lanterns for the fallen defenders and civilians.

According to data collected by the Franciscan monastery in Vukovar, 2,717 persons were killed or went missing in Vukovar in the military aggression of the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitary groups.

Another 386 persons are on the list of persons detained or gone missing in the Homeland War, having disappeared without a trace in wartime Vukovar.

On the occasion of Vukovar Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of persons from Croatia and Bosnia, and Herzegovina passed through the city in the Remembrance Procession on Thursday on the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the city's defense, police estimates.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

NGOs Hold Commemoration of Vukovar Victims in Belgrade

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - The Women in Black association organized a commemoration of Vukovar victims in the center of Belgrade on Thursday, standing in silence with the banner "We'll never forget the war crimes in Vukovar".

Representatives of the Civic Democratic Forum (GDF) joined the Women in Black, and the rally was secured by police, which is seldom when it comes to the association's demonstrations, commemorations, or peace actions.

In addition to remembering the victims of Vukovar, members of the Women in Black pointed out the existence of camps for Croats, who were brought to the territory of Serbia, to Sremska Mitrovica, Stajićevo near Zrenjanin and Begejci in Žitište since the beginning of the conflict, asking for memorial plaques to be placed in those places.

"Serbia and its institutions should grant the request the Women in Black and the Art Klinika association have been making for 15 years, with the support of more than 30 civil society organizations, that a memorial plaque be placed at the location of camps in Stajićevo, Begejci and elsewhere," said members of the Women in Black, seeking support for other forms of symbolic compensation to victims and their families, as well.

According to the Women in Black, Serbia and state institutions should establish the responsibility of the top of the former Yugoslav People's Army for the armed attack on Croatia and initiate court proceedings for the crime of urbicide in Vukovar.

GDF: Serbia doesn't have the strength to face the past

The Civic Democratic Forum said on the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar that not only Vukovar but the entire Yugoslavia had fallen on 18 November 1991.

GDF leader Zoran Vuletić told Hina that "Vukovar is indelible proof of the criminal policy which united the Yugoslav People's Army and bloodthirsty paramilitary groups with its manipulation about the defense of Yugoslavia and incitement of revanchism and nationalism".

"And what must not be forgotten in this shameful chronology of evil, the destroyers set out from Serbia for Vukovar, as the executors of the policy of Slobodan Milošević and like-minded people. The vengeful rampage of the destroyers lasted for months until the city stopped looking like itself, and thousands of people were killed, wounded, or forced to leave, not knowing where to go," the GDF said.

Even today, Serbia does not have the will, strength, or desire to face this memory, Vuletić said.

With occasional heckling and verbal provocations by some passers-by, today's commemoration in the center of Belgrade passed without incidents.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Tens of Thousands of People Attend Vukovar Remembrance Day Procession

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - Tens of thousands of people joined the commemorative procession in the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar on Thursday to pay their respects to the defenders and civilians killed or gone missing at the start of the Homeland War in 1991.

The country's most senior officials, President Zoran Milanović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković attended the procession. They were accompanied by several cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, representatives of political parties, and many public figures.

The procession passed through the main street near the city landmark, the Water Tower, which now serves as a memorial center. During the war, it was damaged by 640 mortar shells.

As the procession passed in front of the building of Croatian Radio Vukovar, its staff played the last report by its wartime reporter Siniša Glavašević who was killed at the Ovčara farm on 20 November 1991 along with 199 other victims.

As the procession walked through the city, the bells of St. Phillip and Jacob's church rang the entire time.

Upon arriving a the Memorial Cemetery, the state delegations laid wreaths and lit candles in tribute to the war victims, while a memorial Mass was celebrated by Zagreb Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Šaško.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

I Would Like Us to Think Only About Vukovar These Days, Mayor Says

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - The Mayor of Vukovar, Ivan Penava, said on Thursday that Vukovar and the sacrifice of its defenders in the Homeland War 30 years ago should dominate media reports in Croatia today.

"I would like us to think only about Vukovar these days, for our thoughts to be with those who are no longer with us, and to pay respects to everyone who helped in the defense of Vukovar and Croatia," Penava told reporters before a commemorative gathering outside the Vukovar hospital.

"We should also recall that the city was razed to the ground, that thousands of its residents were killed, that the JNA General Staff were never brought to justice as those who issued orders. This is a huge shame, which only shows what kind of people we are and how we respect the people who were killed in this city. This sends an ugly message about us because we are all responsible for this situation," he added.

"I hope that those who were killed still have their families to remember them, and if not, we are here for them," the mayor said in an emotional statement.

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

30th Anniversary Commemoration of Škabrnja Massacre Begins

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - The 30th anniversary of the massacre committed in Škabrnja by the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitary forces on 18 November 1991 began at 10 am on Thursday morning with a memorial procession.

The procession headed towards the monument built on the site of a mass grave where the victims of the massacre were buried.

Ministers Oleg Butković, Ivan Malenica, Marija Vučković, Vili Beroš, and Nina Obuljen Koržinek are attending this year's commemoration on behalf of the government. Also present are Deputy Parliament Speaker Ante Sanader, representing the Sabor, and the president's special envoy Dragan Lozančić.

Škabrnja fell into the hands of occupying Serb forces on 18 November 1991 following air and artillery bombardments by the Yugoslav People's Army under the command of Ratko Mladić. The village, located 25 kilometers east of the coastal city of Zadar, was completely destroyed in the attack, and 48 Croatian civilians and 15 soldiers were killed on that day.

During its subsequent occupation and until its liberation in the August 1995 Operation Storm, the number of Skabrnja victims rose to 86. Another six villagers were killed by leftover mines after the war. Two thousand people were forced to leave their homes during the occupation.

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Sunday, 31 October 2021

Delegation of Ministries and County Lays Wreath at Vukovar Memorial Cemetery

ZAGREB, 31 Oct, 2021 - A joint delegation of the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the War Veterans Ministry and the Vukovar-Srijem County on Sunday laid a wreath and lit candles at the Memorial Cemetery of Homeland War Victims in Vukovar on the occasion of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.

The delegation was led by Defence Minister Mario Banožić and included Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanić, who called for unity.

"With a joint wreath we send a message of unity, a message that no one can joke with or belittle those who gave their lives for Vukovar, Vinkovci, the entire Slavonia, a message to all authorities in Croatia that we must keep together if we want to resist challenges which await us in the coming period, especially in terms of keeping people in this area," said Dekanić.

Asked by reporters why there were no representatives of the City of Vukovar in the delegation, Dekanić said that "it is simply a joint agreement and a joint message from the ministries and the county" and that he, as well as other county representatives, would attend protocol celebrations of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day wherever they manage to.

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Monday, 18 October 2021

30 Years of Minefield War Crime Commemorated in Lovas

ZAGREB, 18 Oct 2021 - The people of Lovas on Monday laid wreaths and lit candles at a monument to 21 locals forced into a minefield by Serb paramilitaries and the former Yugoslav Army 30 years ago today.

On 18 October 1991, a few days after entering Lovas, aggressor forces chose a group of 51 residents and forced them into a minefield, where 21 were killed and 14 wounded.

"I hope that those responsible will be brought to justice one day," said Vukovar-Srijem County head Damir Dekanić.

Lovas Municipality head Tanja Cirba said 89 Lovas residents were killed in the Homeland War and that one of the most horrific crimes took place in that minefield. "On that day, another 23 Lovas residents were killed in their houses, garages, and basements."

Justice for the Lovas crimes is far from being served because those who organized and ordered them have not been punished, said Staša Zajović of the Women in Black association from Belgrade.

"We are very worried because dealing with the past in Serbia has been stopped and strong propaganda glorifying war criminals is at work," she said.

In 2007, the Belgrade District Court opened an investigation into 14 people suspected of war crimes against 69 Lovas civilians and an indictment was filed.

In 2012, 14 were found guilty for the deaths of 41 civilians and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 20 years. An appellate court quashed the sentence in 2013. A new indictment covered 32 civilian victims due to the deaths of five defendants and a lack of evidence.

In the retrial, the Belgrade Appellate Court acquitted Željko Krnjajić and Milan Devčić and reduced the sentences against Saša Stojanović, Darko Perić, Radovan Vlajković, Radisav Josipović, Jovan Dimitrijević, and Zoran Kosijer. The sentences were reduced to three to six years.

The victims' families and the Lovas municipal authorities are dissatisfied and bitter at such low sentences.

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