Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Croatian Demographic Crisis: Documenting Šibenik's Losses

The Croatian demographic crisis is something that is making all the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, but just how ''new'' is this negative and concerning trend? It would appear that the tap has been trickling for a great number of years. The popular historic Dalmatian city of Šibenik is an unlikely but excellent example of this.

As SibenikIN writes on the 8th of January, 2019, in the face of the Croatian demographic crisis, in his latest blog post, Ivo Jakovljević has written about the gradual reduction of the Šibenik population since the beginning of the Homeland War, the largest reduction caused by the plague back in 1649. All this, as Jakovljević writes in his blog post, has influenced Šibenik's age and education composition with long-term consequences, even in terms of the local surname composition.

The largest demographic changes in 300 years occurred in the area of ​​Šibenik-Knin County during the Homeland War between the years 1991-1995 this was highlighted by the population census taken in 1991, and then again in 2001. Not only did the total number of inhabitants decrease significantly (in part due to deaths on both the Croatian and the Serbian side, and mainly in the face of forced migration), but there were also changes in many other areas, too.

As opposed to the economy being the main driving force for the negative trends the country is experiencing today, war migrations played a huge role in the Croatian demographic crisis back then. During the Homeland War, from the summer of 1991 onwards, a lot of movement could be witnessed. These displaced people were predominantly Croats, and also some Serbs who didn't agree with Greater Serbian politics. Individuals and families were expelled from their places of residence in many cases during the war, and many of these people moved to Šibenik and the unoccupied areas of Šibenik-Knin County, while a smaller number went abroad.

As of mid-1992, amid the continual spread of the war in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, many refugees, made up mainly of Croats and Bosnians, also arrived in the wider Šibenik area. At the beginning of August 1995, a significant number of Serbs left not only Šibenik-Knin County but Croatia as a whole, heading generally in the direction of the Banja Luka area and towards Belgrade, and from those areas they were displaced in all directions, with some even heading towards the north of Kosovo.

Hundreds of them (mostly younger, more mobile and better educated people) then continued moving onwards to Central Europe, with some of them even heading much further afield, outside of Europe to Canada and Australia. During the time of the pre-war crisis in Kosovo, after 1995, many people from Janjevo arrived in the village of Kistanje, and later settled and declared themselves as Catholics.

At the end of this pattern of deep demographic shock, the total number of inhabitants in Šibenik-Knin County during the period between 1991 to 2001 decreased from 152,125 to just 109,799. According to the latest estimates by the Central Bureau of Statistics (due to the chronic low birth rate and the somewhat new trend of economic emigration - predominantly to Zagreb, Germany, and Ireland) in 2019, there may be less than 100,000 in total.

Thus, from 1991 to 2001 the total number of inhabitants in the aforementioned county decreased by 42,326 persons - almost one third! Then, from 2001 to 2019, by about ten thousand. Among the emigrants from 1991 to 2001, almost three quarters (or 74 percent of them) were Serbs.

In Šibenik-Knin County, Serbs once made up as much as 40.7 percent of the population. Just ten years later, Serbs were no longer a majority in any one of the counties. This trend continued, and in 2011, the number of Serbs in the county decreased from 60,800 in 1991 to 11,518 in 2011, and in Šibenik, there were 1,434 Serbs recorded in 2011. On the other side of that same medal, the number of Croats in the total composition the population in the county increased from 58.42 percent in 1991, to 83.80 percent in 2001, and then to 85 percent in 2011.

The same trend changed the confessional composition of Šibenik-Knin County. The number of Catholics increased from 54.9 percent in 1991 to 82.8 percent in 2001, while the share of those of the Orthodox faith decreased from 38.02 to 7.31 percent.

The long-term consequences of war victims, forced and voluntary emigrations, and war and transitional economic damage in the broader Šibenik hinterland, right up to Drniš and Knin, have resulted in some significant changes in the area's surname structure, which - judging from both from the 2001 census and from the much later 2011 census, has seen the apparent disappearance of a subset of traditional Croatian and Serbian surnames from the Šibenik hinterland.

Want to find out more about the Croatian demographic crisis and much more? Give our dedicated lifestyle and politics pages a follow.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Anniversary of Deaths of Five European Peace Monitors Commemorated

ZAGREB, January 7, 2019 - A commemoration was held in Podrute near the northwestern Croatian town of Novi Marof on Monday for five European Community peace monitors – four Italians and a Frenchman – whose unarmed helicopter was shot down there by a Yugoslav Air Force MiG-21 on 7 January 1992.

On board the helicopter were Italians Colonel Enzo Venturini, Lieutenants Marco Matta, Silvano Natale and Fiorenzo Ramacci, and French Lieutenant Jean Loup Eychenne.

Attending today's commemoration, presidential envoy Mate Granić, a former foreign minister, said the sacrifice of European peace monitors was incorporated in the foundations of the present-day Croatian state.

Croatian Foreign Ministry's State Secretary Zdravka Bušić said that the shooting down of the unarmed helicopter was an act of shooting at innocent civilians who were seeking a peaceful resolution.

Novi Marof Mayor Siniša Jenkač said that the attack against the helicopter of the European Community observer mission clearly pointed to the fact who the victim was and who the aggressor was in the Homeland War, and this is why that tragic event is so important.

Military envoy of the Italian Embassy in Zagreb, Angelo Malizia, said that remembering the event that occurred 27 years ago was sorrowful, yet "a feeling of pride exists, because the sacrifice of four Italian soldiers and a Frenchman was not in vain."

Fabrice Duda of the military envoy of the French Embassy also attended today's commemoration.

More news on the Homeland War can be found in our Politics section.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Former JNA Officers Accused of Targeting Croatian Government Building

ZAGREB, December 30, 2018 - Former Yugoslav army JNA officers, accused in Croatia of shelling the Croatian leadership's HQ in Zagreb in 1991, were heard, at Croatia's request, by the Belgrade High Court's war crimes chamber but did not testify, saying they were not free to reveal state secrets, their lawyer Dušan Bratić said on Sunday.

"They all cited the obligation to keep military secrets because at the time of the acts they are charged with, they were senior officials of the then JNA or were bound by oath as commissioned officers," Bratić told Hina about last week's hearing.

The hearing was held at Croatia's request, based on the Croatian-Serbian agreement on international legal aid. It was attended by general Ljubomir Bajić and colonels Slobodan Jeremić, Đuro Miličević, Ratko Dopuđa and Čedo Knežević. The sixth accused, pilot Davor Lukić, is unavailable to both Serbian and Croatian authorities. He has both countries' citizenship and lives in Johannesburg.

According to Croatian prosecutors, they shelled Banski Dvori, on Bajić's order, during a meeting of Croatia's then president Franjo Tuđman, the then chairman of the former Yugoslav presidency Stjepan Mesić, and former Yugoslav prime minister Ante Marković, with the objective to kill Tuđman, whereby they committed a war crime.

The defence says the investigation findings are incorrect, claiming, as reported by Belgrade media today, that the explosion at Banski Dvori was caused by former Yugoslav general Petar Stipetić on Tuđman's orders.

In 2017, Croatian police pressed charges against the six former JNA members for planning, organising and carrying out the attack on Banski Dvori, accusing them of a war crime against civilians and attempted assassination of senior state officials.

In December 2017, Bajić told Serbian media that he ordered the targeting of Banski Dvori in 1991. He said he ordered the attack without consulting the state leadership of the then Yugoslavia.

More news on the Homeland War can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 21 December 2018

NGOs Present Map of War Victims in Former Yugoslavia

ZAGREB, December 21, 2018 - The Initiative for RECOM and the non-governmental organisation Documenta - the Centre for Dealing with the Past on Friday presented an interactive map of war victims in former Yugoslavia, from Croatia's 1991-1995 Homeland War to the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia.

The acronym RECOM stands for the Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia from 1 January 1991 to 31 December 2001.

Long-lasting research and documenting of human losses is a result of efforts and cooperation between regional documentation centres - Documenta from Zagreb, the Humanitarian Law Centre from Belgrade, the Humanitarian Law Centre from Pristina, and the Sarajevo-based association Transitional Justice, Responsibility and Memory.

The map contains the victims' names and characteristics because we believe that it is important for people to remember people, Documenta head Vesna Teršelić said, adding that the initiative was designed to contribute to reducing and stopping the manipulation of victims.

The human rights associations working on the research as well as the organisations involved in the RECOM coalition established that around 130,000 people had been killed or had gone missing in all the former Yugoslav wars but not all names have been entered in the map because the research is ongoing.

In Croatia, 17,007 war victims have been recorded, and the map contains the names of slightly more than 4,000 victims because only victims verified by several sources are entered in the register.

Nataša Kandić, the founder of Belgrade's Humanitarian Law Centre, said that they expected Croatia to be among the countries that would compile the first regional list of war victims in former Yugoslavia and to join, as a member of the European Union, in the European Commission's open support to the RECOM initiative.

Nives Jozić, human loss research coordinator at Documenta, said that while researching human losses in Croatia since 2009 they had interviewed more than 2,900 members of victims' families, acquaintances and witnesses and gathered more than 27,000 documents, registering 17,007 victims.

Documenta's map also contains data collected by the Humanitarian Law Centre on the human loss of Serbian and Montenegrin nationals, namely the names of 2,200 members of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and the army and police forces of Serbia killed in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Information for Kosovo shows that from early 1998 to late 2000, 13,549 people went missing or were killed there.

The project was presented in the context of a campaign to establish a regional commission to determine facts about the victims, perpetrators and war events.

The need for such a commission is greater than ever because a year after the completion of the work of the Hague war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which documented more than 18,000 victims during its work, we can see how important it is, aside from administering justice, to make an additional step towards establishing facts about war victims in former Yugoslavia and building trust, Teršelić said, warning that regional cooperation in that regard is growing weaker and weaker.

More news on the activities of NGOs can be found in our Politics section.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Proposal for Monument to Serb Victims in Vukovar Causes Debate

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - During a session of the Vukovar Town Council on Tuesday, a representative of the Democratic Serb Party (DSS), Borislav Nikolić, asked Mayor Ivan Penava about a possibility to raise a monument to Serb victims in Vukovar, and Penava replied that he would have nothing against such an idea, provided that the DSS admitted that Croatia's Homeland War was a consequence of aggression which the protagonists of the Great Serbia policy launched against Croatia.

During the session, Nikolić wondered about the reaction to a possible initiative of the Serb NGO called "Protiv Zaborava" (Against Oblivion) that a monument be erected in Vukovar to local Serb civilian victims.

Penava said that he would have nothing against that if the DSS party was ready to acknowledge that the war of independence was a consequence of the Great Serbia aggression.

After the council's heated debate on that issue involving DSS leader Srđan Milaković, who said that he believed that the 1995 Operation Storm was ethnic cleansing, Mayor Penava told a news conference that Milaković was actually manipulating the public and showing disrespect for history and the Croatian Constitution as well as for judgements of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) that "expose the Great Serbian regime led by Slobodan Milošević."

Penava recalled that the relevant verdicts of that UN tribunal also rejected the thesis about Operation Storm as a criminal enterprise.

"Milaković is implementing the Great Serbia programme also known in public as SANU's memorandum 2," Penava said, alluding to the continuation of a policy based on ideas promoted in a document known as the SANU memorandum.

The first memorandum of Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), drawn up by a group of Serbian academicians in the 1980s, is perceived in the public as a document that lay the ground for inciting Serb nationalism and the tenets of Milošević's Great Serbia policy.

Penava went on to say that Milaković falsified history by claiming that "the alleged killings of Serb civilians" paved the way for the wars in the 1990s. The Vukovar mayor said that he had asked Milaković to give him the names of such victims.

The mayor said Serb civilian victims had been a result of the aggression to which Vukovar had been exposed and shelling by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). "Milaković seems to forget the well-known plans of the JNA in the mid-1980s, the delivery of arms to Serb extremists, road blockades, the massacre in Borovo Selo on 2 May 1991," said Penava.

"We in Vukovar will, of course, call on all citizens who love this country to be with us, who defend the right of each Serb who has decided with their families to live and work here and help develop this city and society."

"We won't let the defeated forces from the past whom Milaković is obviously promoting to strike against the foundations of this country," Penava said.

He also called on the DSS to show publicly its platform and on its officials to say publicly what they think about the developments in Vukovar and about Serb victims who died in the shelling by the JNA and Serb rebels.

Milaković, who is Vukovar's deputy mayor from the Serb electorate, said at a news conference that a half of the overall Serb population in Croatia used to live in the area where Operation Storm was conducted in August 1995. "Operation Storm could be described in various ways, including ethnic cleansing," he said, adding that 200,000 Serbs who left that area did not do so voluntarily.

Operation Storm was launched at 5am on August 4, 1995 and within the next 84 hours 10,400 square kilometres or 18.4 per cent of Croatia's territory, which used to be under control of Serb rebels since 1991, was liberated.

Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, spared the north-western Bosnian town of Bihać the fate of Srebrenica, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.

The legitimacy of Operation Storm has been proved before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. On November 16, 2012, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber's convictions of General Ante Gotovina, commander of the Split Military District, and General Mladen Markač, special police commander, and ordered their immediate release. The generals were in the ICTY's custody on charges of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise and excessive shelling of Knin, Gračac, Obrovac and Benkovac.

More news on Vukovar can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Pavle Strugar, War Criminal Who Shelled Dubrovnik, Dies in Belgrade

Pavle Strugar, the war criminal who shelled Dubrovnik, causing not only wanton destruction and horrific damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also a terrible loss of life, has passed away in Serbia.

Strugar was born on the 13th of July, 1933 in Peć, in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia, now Kosovo. The Montenegrin general served in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), undertaking various different roles, and eventually becoming the commander of the Second Operational Group of the JNA, which operated in southern Croatia, in 1991.

Under his command, the JNA monstrously attacked Dubrovnik in 1991, in a siege which caused tremendous damage to the city, and took the lives of both veterans and civilians. The terrible siege of Dubrovnik lasted until 1992, with Strugar retiring one year later, in 1993.

As Jutarnji reports on the 13th of December, 2018, the retired General Pavle Strugar has died in Belgrade following a short but serious illness.

Strugar was tried and sentenced for his actions, as well as for the deaths of civilians at the Hague tribunal, this was coupled with the fact that in 1991, he did nothing to prevent the horrendous war crime of the shelling of Dubrovnik. The Montenegrin initially attempted an appeal to his sentence, but that was later withdrawn.

Strugar voluntarily handed himself over to the Hague Tribunal in 2001, making a name for himself as the first Serb or Montenegrin to make such a move. Because of his part in the criminal shelling of Dubrovnik, a beloved UNESCO World Heritage Site, he was sentenced to a pitiful 7.5 years in prison, and of course, he didn't even serve that, after serving a mere two-thirds of his sentence, he was released back in 2009. 

Strugar will be buried this Saturday at the Bežanijska cemetery in the Serbian capital, according to a report from Mondo.rs.

Make sure to stay up to date with our news page for much more.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Dubrovnik - A Scarred City Exhibition to be Staged at UN

ZAGREB, December 9, 2018 - A multimedia exhibition called "Dubrovnik - a Scarred City, 1991-2000" will be staged at the UN on December 17 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Dubrovnik's inclusion of the World Heritage List and the 20th anniversary of its removal from the List of Endangered Sites.

Mayor Mato Franković said this would be the first exhibition at the UN focusing on Croatia's 1991-95 Homeland War. "We want to show the world how Dubrovnik suffered in the Homeland War, but also how it was rebuilt after the war."

Julijana Antić Brautović, one of the authors of the exhibition together with Mato Brautović and Goran Cvjetinović, said two historic precedents were related to Dubrovnik. "For the first time in history, UNESCO sent envoys to a war-affected area and they arrived in Dubrovnik in November 1991, recording the damage. Thanks to them, Dubrovnik was included on the List of Endangered Sites six days after extensive destruction on 6 December 1991. Together with Croatian experts, they developed a reconstruction methodology and priorities and oversaw everything," said Antić Brautović.

The other precedent was that Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) General Pavle Strugar and Vice Admiral Miodrag Jokić were the first people to be convicted by an international tribunal of crimes against the cultural heritage as crimes against humanity, she said.

Dubrovnik lived under siege for 240 days, mostly without electricity or fresh water. The JNA swept through surrounding villages looting houses and razing them to the ground. December 6, 1991 will be remembered as one of the worst days in Dubrovnik's history, when Serbian and Montenegrin soldiers targeted the medieval walled town with all types of weapons weapon, killing 19 defenders and civilians and wounding another 60 people. Thousands of shells fell on the historical centre, nine palaces were burnt to the ground and 461 buildings were severely damaged that day.

During the war in the area, 116 civilians and 430 Croatian soldiers were killed and several hundred were injured.

The exhibition is organised by the City of Dubrovnik and Croatia's Permanent Mission to the UN under the auspices of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and the government. After New York, the display will be staged in Dubrovnik's twin cities.

For more on the Dubrovnik news, follow Total Dubrovnik.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

War Crimes Suspects Arrested in Vukovar

ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said in Brussels on Thursday that several persons had been arrested as war crimes suspects in the Vukovar area, but added that he was not familiar with the details.

"As minister, I don't know nor can I know the details but what I can confirm is that several people were arrested today for war crimes and a criminal investigation is underway. That is all I can say for the moment," Božinović said in Brussels where he was attending a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting.

A spokeswoman in the ministry, Marina Mandić, confirmed to HINA that a criminal investigation was underway related to war crimes committed in 1991 in the Vukovar area. She said that several people were under investigation and that more details would be made public upon the completion of the investigation.

Media outlets have reported that an investigation has been launched against five ethnic Serbs from Vukovar who were taken in for questioning early on Thursday morning on suspicion of committing war crimes in Vukovar in 1991.

Minister Božinović underscored that he wished to recall that the chief police director had in February, "prior to some processes and protests in Croatia, set up a task force that began to intensively investigate war crimes in the Vukovar area. So far, the task force has filed criminal charges in three cases of war crimes as well as for four crimes committed on the Ovčara farm" (the site of a 1991 atrocity near Vukovar).

"The task force is working very seriously and thoroughly. As you know, investigating war crimes committed 27 years ago isn't easy. It is very complex and it would have been much better if investigations had been launched sooner. This government and the interior ministry began working on that as soon as they were given the mandate. The results are visible and we will continue on that path," said Božinović.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković dismissed on Thursday speculation that the arrest of several people from Vukovar, suspected of war crimes committed in 1991, had been made due to pressure by Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, noting that the police and prosecutorial authorities were doing their job in line with the law and autonomously.

"No. The police are doing their job, as is the special task force for war crimes, which has been dealing with war crimes in Vukovar and at Ovčara in such a way that has resulted in these steps and procedures. It has been working since February. This has nothing to do with political pressure. The police, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) are doing their job lawfully and independently of any institution," Plenković said after a cabinet meeting in Karlovac.

The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and the Joint Council of Serb-majority Municipalities (ZVO) expressed concern on Thursday after police arrested five ethnic Serbs in Vukovar early in the morning and took them in for questioning as part of a war crimes investigation.

"Without wishing to question police work or obstruct an investigation into war crimes, our concern is based on the fact that the latest police action comes after a political campaign launched at national and local level to exert pressure on the police and investigators," the SDSS and ZVO said in a joint statement.

They said that this campaign and the latest police action caused fear in Vukovar's Serb community and doubts of impartiality of the necessary investigation into war crimes. They said that the individuals brought in for questioning had regularly responded to police summons for questioning and had never shown a readiness to obstruct or avoid cooperation with the police.

"We fear that the purpose of their detention is to please the campaign actors who created such an atmosphere in society and who spread intolerance towards the Serb community," the statement said. It warned that war crimes committed against Serbs in Vukovar and elsewhere during the 1991-1995 war remained unprosecuted, while the campaign to prosecute Serbs continued.

For more news about war crimes in Croatia, click here.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Homeland War: Barbaric Yugoslav Attack on Dubrovnik Remembered

Back in the 90s, Dubrovnik, best known today for being the Pearl of the Adriatic, was an entirely different place. Ravaged by war and under attack from the JNA (Yugoslav People's Army) and their Serbian and Montenegrin helpers, who made sure to not only burn houses, but to steal from them too, Croatia's southernmost city suffered one of its most devastating attacks on this very day, back on the 6th of December, 1991.

As Morski writes on the 6th of December, 2018, today will remain scarred into history's bloody memory as the day when the City of Dubrovnik was defended. The attack, which began on Friday, December the 6th, 1991, at 5:50 am, saw the JNA put its weight behind its senseless and barbaric attack on the Croatian city of the arts. The aggressors launched a horrendous assault on the beloved UNESCO World Heritage site, showering the city with blows from the sea and the land, assisted by heavy weaponry including cannons, mortars, and tanks.

The JNA's end goal was to weaken and break Dubrovnik's last line of defense from the former Hotel Belvedere, which now lies in ruin as a star reminder of this shameful assault, to Sustjepan, located along Rijeka Dubrovačka. On just that day, more than 600 Yugoslav Army grenades rained down on the city's historic core, killing and injuring along their way. The JNA, Serbia and Montenegro were quickly met with international condemnation following this act of terrorism, with Serbia and Montenegro ostracised by the European Community, and by the world.

As the fires caused by the attack didn't take long spread across the city, a group of veterans located at Srđ's Fort Imperijal, a Napoleonic building at the very top of the mountain, managed to fend off the brutal and relentless Yugoslav attacks and prevent the defeat of Dubrovnik's last defense, today marks the solemn anniversary, and we honour and celebrate Dubrovnik's War Veterans Day, as Dubrovniknet reports.

During this primitive and unjustifiable attack, nineteen people lost their lives, and sixty were injured, some very seriously. Nine of Dubrovnik's buildings burned, and the damage to the UNESCO World Heritage site's historic core was vast, as it was throughout the rest of the city. At 16:00, the relentless attack ended, with the JNA accepting defeat and finally withdrawing. The courage and the enormous sacrifice of Dubrovnik's war veterans is the reason the city is as it is today.

Pavle Strugar, a former JNA General, was sentenced and rightly put behind bars at the Hague International Tribunal for failing to take command of responsibility during the horrific JNA attack on Dubrovnik on this day back in 1991. Miodrag Jokić also pleaded guilty to six counts of the charges against the JNA for the attack on Dubrovnik, he was also sentenced and jailed.

Make sure to follow Total Dubrovnik for more on the Pearl of the Adriatic.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Wreaths Laid, Candles Lit at Vukovar Memorial Cemetery

ZAGREB, November 19, 2018 - State and other official delegations on Sunday laid wreaths and lit candles at the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery in Vukovar, on the occasion of Vukovar Remembrance Day and the 27th anniversary of the town's fall into the hands of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries on 18 November 1991, after a three-month siege.

Tribute to the victims was paid at the town's memorial cemetery by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who walked to the cemetery in a procession from the hospital, together with tens of thousands of other people who arrived in the town from all parts of the country.

Wreaths were also laid and candles lit by a delegation of defenders and war victims' associations, led by the last commander of the town's defence forces, Branko Borković, and a delegation of the town authorities, led by Mayor Ivan Penava.

A prayer for the Vukovar victims was led by Đakovo-Osijek Archbishop Đuro Hranić and a mass was said by the Bishop of Eisenstadt (Austria), Egidije Ivan Živković.

Several hundred lanterns were floated down the River Danube at Vukovar on Sunday evening as part of events commemorating Croatian soldiers and civilians killed or gone missing during the defence of this eastern town 27 years ago, at the start of Croatia's 1991-1995 war of independence.

This year the victims of Vukovar and other war victims were also commemorated by the tolling of church bells across the country at 6.11 pm. This initiative was launched by the Franciscan monastery in Vukovar and was accepted by Croatian bishops.

The Remembrance Day ceremonies will continue on Monday with commemorations for Croatian soldiers and civilians killed or gone missing in the town's Borovo Naselje neighbourhood.

The battle of Vukovar started on 25 August 1991, when members of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries launched an all-out tank and infantry attack on the town. The town was defended by around 1,800 members of the National Guard Corps, police and volunteers of the self-organised Croatian Defence Force (HOS), organised into the 204th Croatian Army Brigade.

The town's defence lines were broken after a three-month siege on 18 November 1991.

According to data from war victims' associations, 1,664 Croatian soldiers and civilians were killed in the aggression on Vukovar and 308 people gone missing in Vukovar remain unaccounted for.

For more on Vukovar, click here.

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