Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Milanović Meets With New Leaders of Association of Retired Generals

ZAGREB, 22 Feb 2022 - President Zoran Milanović on Tuesday spoke with the new leadership of the Croatian Generals Corps (HGZ), an association of retired Croatian Army generals and brigadiers from the Homeland War, with the association's president announcing the establishment of the Council for Strategic Affairs.

Present at the meeting were Marinko Krešić, who was elected as the association's president on 22 January 2022, vice presidents Ljubo Ćesić, Mladen Kruljac and Frane Tomičić, the president's office said in a press release.

The new leadership of the association presented President Milanović with its work plan and activities, including the opening of a war museum in Zagreb, establishing branches in Osijek and  Split, and preparing a lexicon of Croatian generals, which is expected to be published for this year's Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day.

The association said it would continue to work on protecting the reputation and dignity of Croatian Homeland War veterans and commemorating anniversaries.

HGZ president Marinko Krešić said that the association is not involved in daily politics but in preparing expert military and security analyses that can be of use to state institutions. In that context, he announced the establishment of the Council for Strategic Affairs and expert conferences and round tables, the press release said.

The President was accompanied by his defence and national security adviser Dragan Lozančić and special adviser on Homeland War veterans Marijan Mareković.

Friday, 11 February 2022

MP Deplores Rejection of Criminal Report for Wartime Murder of 4-Year-Old Girl

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - Željko Sačić of the Croatian Sovereignists party (HS) said on Friday the State Attorney General and the justice minister should demand an explanation of the decision of the Osijek County State Attorney's Office to scrap a criminal report against the murderers of a small girl in Borovo Selo in 1992.

The county office has dismissed the criminal report filed by an association of war veterans against the perpetrators of the March 1992 war crime in Borovo Selo where four-year-old Martina Štefančić and her grandmother were killed and her uncle was seriously wounded when there were no war operations there.

Sačić told the parliament that the explanation sent to the association read that of the seven perpetrators, some were amnestied and five were outside Croatia, and that the testimonies of the witnesses, who were 12 and 14 when the crime happened, could not be treated as credible.

Therefore, the HS party insists that State Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj Šipek and minister Ivan Malenica must demand an explanation in greater detail.

He said that this party would request convening the parliamentary committees on war veterans and on national security to discuss this matter.

Željko Štefančić, whose niece and mother were the victims killed during the occupation of the village, told Vukovar County Court in 2004 while testifying at a war crimes trial of eight former Serb paramilitaries, that one evening somebody had opened fire at his house and that he had been wounded. The witness did not see who or how many people entered his house. His mother and niece were taken to another room, where they were killed, according to his testimony.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

President Decorates Pilot for Flying First MIG to Croatian Side

ZAGREB, 3 Feb 2022 - President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović on Thursday decorated retired Colonel Danijel Borović, who was the first to fly a Yugoslav People's Army MIG over to the Croatian side in February 1992, for the bravery and heroism displayed in the Homeland War.

On the 30th anniversary of that flight, the president thanked Borović for his brave act, saying that in the history of the Croatian war some names were rightfully and respectfully known to the wider public and children.

"One of the names that, without reason or justification, is not as well-known is your honourable name, Danijel Borović, colonel of the Croatian Army and the Croatian Air Force, the man who was the first to bring a supersonic fighter jet into Croatian ownership," the president said.

He recalled that in February 1992, after his fellow fighter Rudolf Perišin flew across the border, Borović landed a MIG-21 at the Pula airport in the dark after "dangerously, skillfully, heroically and riskily" separating from a fighter duo, putting the aircraft "into the functional use of the Croatian Air Force, which was just being created."

Great heroic act

"That's a great heroic act because heroism, and only then ownership, is reflected in the choices you had and how you could have acted but did not. You could have left, you could have simply come one day to one of our Croatian commands and registered. What you did surpasses that first option many times," Milanović said.

He said Borović had risked his life not only to bring Croatia a fighter jet but also to make that a very significant and visible way of lifting Croatia's morale at that time.

Thanking the president for the decoration, Borović said it was in a way compensation for what he should have received 27 years ago when many people were decorated in the president's office.

He said injustice was done at that time not just to him but also to his wife and five-year-old son Vanja who had been involved in months-long preparations. "We have made it and this award has found its place after 27 years. I thank you for that."

Borović said that despite the disappointment at that time, he and his wife Snježana wrote a book, "Flyover for Croatia", which he said could be used as a textbook because it described what had been happening in 1992.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Minister Medved: Operation Maslenica Showed Our Ability to Free Homeland

ZAGREB, 22 Jan 2022 - Croatian War Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved said on Saturday that the Operation Maslenica in 1993 was a turning point in the Homeland War and that it had sent a strong message of the capability of the Croatian armed forces to free their country from the enemy.

Addressing the central ceremony marking the 29th anniversary of the Operation Maslenica in Zadar, the minister expressed gratitude to the participants in the operation and particularly to the families who lost their members in that liberating action.

Operation Maslenica was launched in the early morning hours of 22 January 1993, with Croatian forces regaining control of the Serb-occupied Zadar hinterland, the straight of Maslenica, the Zemunik airbase and later on the Peruca dam. Within 72 hours, nearly 100 square kilometres of occupied territory was liberated. Croatian forces regained control of key strategic points from Serb insurgents and re-established transport connections between the country's north and south. In the first three days of the operation, 19 Croatian soldiers were killed and 70 were wounded. However, by 31 March 1993 the number of Croatian fatalities rose to 127 as Serb forces fought back.

Minister Medved said that the Operation Maslenica sent a strong message that the Croatian armed forces and police were capable of liberating every occupied inch of the occupied territory, as it was later shown in the military and police operations in 1995.

Medved also pointed out the importance of commemorating this operation and other events from the 1991-1995 Homeland War as a reminder that freedom in the present-day Croatia should not be taken for granted and that the defenders and the Homeland War were the strongest pillar of the independent and sovereign Republic of Croatia.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Pupovac: Peaceful Reintegration Helped Restore Inter-Ethnic Trust

ZAGREB, 13 Jan 2022 - Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac said on Thursday that the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region on 15 January 1998 marked "the peaceful end of the war in Croatia" and helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

The peaceful reintegration was based on two peace agreements - the Erdut Agreement, adopted as part of a wider package with the Dayton Agreement, and a document adopted on this date in which the UN Security Council approved the mandate of the UN transitional administration for the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia and defined the status and rights of Serbs in Croatia and their institutions, Pupovac said in Vukovar.

He said that the peaceful reintegration had not only brought peace but had also helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

"The restoration of trust between the majority Croats and the minority Serbs was a prerequisite, then as it is now, for the democratization of the country, emergence from the war and ethnic conflict, and the return of displaced Croats and Serb refugees," Pupovac said, noting that these achievements were sometimes valued too little.

He said that the peaceful reintegration, the Erdut Agreement, and the Letter of Intent had also laid the ground for mutual recognition of and cooperation between Croatia and Serbia. "That is very important for Croatia and the Serb community and for the relationship between Croatia and Serbia."

Those who have in the past years been hoping for "a peacetime Storm", trying to deprive the Serbs of their right to use Cyrillic alphabet and expel them based on criminal prosecution for war crimes, are actually working against the peaceful reintegration and the commitments arising from that process, Pupovac said.

He noted that Croatia, unlike some other countries of the former Yugoslavia, had emerged from the war as a reintegrated country thanks in part to people who led the peaceful reintegration process on behalf of the Serb community, such as the former Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Vojislav Stanimirović, for which he said he never received due recognition from some political circles, except President Tuđman.

Speaking of the anniversary of Croatia's international recognition, which is also marked on 15 January, Pupovac said that it was firmly connected with the issue of minority rights, especially the rights of the Serb minority.

He recalled that international recognition was preceded by the adoption of the constitutional act governing the rights of ethnic minorities, adding that all countries that had been advocating the international recognition of Croatia had demanded the adoption of an appropriate mechanism for the protection of minority rights.

The head of the Joint Council of Serb-majority municipalities (ZVO), Dejan Drakulić, said that the peaceful reintegration process was still ongoing because some issues of importance to the Serb community remained unresolved, citing autonomy in education and certain status issues. 

"Our task is to emphasize the importance of peaceful reintegration and the need to develop a more democratic and more tolerant society," Drakulić said.

The SNV and ZVO held a meeting in Vukovar to mark the anniversary of the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region and the international recognition of Croatia.

The peaceful reintegration process began on 15 January 1996 when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1037, establishing a transitional administration for Eastern Slavonia. Retired US general Jacques Paul Klein was appointed transitional administrator. The process formally ended on 15 January 1998 with the UN handing over the administration of the region to Croatia.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 10 January 2022

PM Condemns Banja Luka Authorities' Decision to Put Up Plaque in Tribute to JNA Major

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he was "appalled" by a decision by the Banja Luka city authorities to put up a plaque in tribute to JNA Major Milan Tepić, who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in 1991, killing 11 members of Croatian defense forces.

"We are all appalled considering (the incident) and the number of people killed at the time. Therefore we consider any memorial plaque inappropriate and condemn it," Plenković said during a visit to Split.

When Croatian forces liberated the JNA barracks in Bjelovar on 29 September 1991, most JNA soldiers there surrendered, while Tepić refused. Instead, he destroyed the ammunition depot, killing himself, 11 Croatian defenders, and dozens of JNA conscripts.

Tepic, who was in charge of the ammunition depot in the village of Bedenik, had planned to blow up all four warehouses at that location but was prevented from doing so by four Croatian soldiers, whose intervention prevented an even bigger disaster.

Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković on Sunday unveiled a plaque commemorating Tepić, describing him as "the last Yugoslav national hero." The plaque was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, January 9, a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court in 2016.

On Sunday, a parade was held in Banja Luka for that day, which is a public holiday in the Serb entity, with the Serb member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik, saying that "Republika Srpska is our state, regardless of those who deny it to us."

In a comment on the event as well as the Serb entity's aspirations for secession, Plenković reiterated Croatia's strong support to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, "which we respect and are helping on its European journey and which we want to be a functioning country."

"We are against any messages that have secessionist and separatist connotations," Plenković stressed.

President of the Serb National Council (SNV), and a Croatian Member of Parliament Milorad Pupovac, also attended the events in Banja Luka on Sunday.

"As for Mr. Pupovac's attendance, he was there only for the official ceremony in his capacity as president of the SNV," Plenković said, adding that "there has been significant support there to the post-earthquake reconstruction of Banovina", a reference to post-earthquake aid to Croatia's Sisak-Moslavina County provided by the Serb entity authorities.

"He neither made any speeches nor did he have any special role there," Plenković said in conclusion, in reference to Pupovac.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Foreign Ministry Sends Protest Note to BiH Over Memorial Plaque in Banja Luka

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina has presented a protest note to the BiH Foreign Ministry over a decision to unveil a plaque honoring JNA Major Milan Tepić in the Bosnian Serb entity capital, Banja Luka, who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in a suicidal action in 1991.

When Croatian forces liberated the JNA barracks in Bjelovar on 29 September 1991, most JNA soldiers there surrendered, while Tepić refused. Instead, he destroyed the ammunition depot, killing himself, 11 Croatian defenders, and dozens of JNA conscripts as well as endangering local civilians.

Tepic, who was in charge of the ammunition depot in the village of Bedenik, had planned to blow up all four warehouses at that location but was prevented from doing so by four Croatian soldiers, whose intervention prevented an even bigger disaster.

Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković on Sunday unveiled a plaque commemorating Tepić, describing him as "the last Yugoslav national hero." The plaque was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, January 9, a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court several years ago.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry on Monday deplored the decision by Banja Luka city authorities, saying that "it glorifies a terrorist act by a person who, during the Great Serbian aggression against Croatia, knowingly caused the death of a large number of Croatian defenders and civilians and huge material destruction in Bjelovar."

The ministry said the Banja Luka city authorities thus "identify themselves with the criminal Great Serbian policy" and jeopardize "the process of building mutual trust and good neighborly relations."

Streets in many Serbian towns have been named after Tepić and in September 2017 a monument was unveiled to him in Belgrade.

Serbia's former foreign minister and now Parliament Speaker, Ivica Dačić, said at the time that "as a JNA officer, Tepić, "who had pledged allegiance to the state and answered for the lives of the young men in his unit, personified honor and integrity."

The unveiling of the plaque in Banja Luka was also condemned by the Croatian War Veterans Ministry, which said that the city authorities have thus confirmed that they promote the Great Serbian ideology.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Civilians Killed in Voćin in 1991 Commemorated

ZAGREB, 18 Dec, 2021 - On the 30th anniversary of the wartime killing of Croatian civilians in Voćin, a senior delegation of the Serb National Council (SNV) and a special envoy of Serbia's president on Saturday honoured the victims for the first time as well as laying wreaths at a memorial to killed and missing Serbs.

The commemoration was organised by the SNV, which said it was honouring the Croat and Serb residents of Voćin and neighbouring villages, western Slavonia, killed in December 1991.

That month, withdrawing from Croatian soldiers in the Voćin area, Serb paramilitaries killed 47 Voćin villagers and three Croatian defenders.

Speaking at the memorial to the Croatian victims, SNV president Milorad Pupovac said it was one of the worst crimes in the 1991-95 Homeland War that would be remembered for its "bestiality and brutality."

He expressed "strong and deep regret" for the "unprotected" victims who had "no evil thought for anyone," adding, "The people who did this stopped being human and thereby our compatriots."

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's special envoy for cooperation with Croatia regarding the war missing, Veran Matić, said the Voćin crime marked the crimes that would ensue in the following years.

"Even 30 years after those horrible events, I have the feeling that we have lost a lot of time and failed to do a lot that could have been done in dealing with our evil past," he said.

Those gone missing in the war are proof of the fact that we have failed to find a way to successfully deal with our past and to agree on and cooperate in healing our societies, he added.

"Some of the people who inspired this crime still have a platform for hate speech and they use it unimpeded. Our task is to stop such rhetoric and not to allow such speech so that the victims, their families and our societies can rest, and as a guarantee that crimes will not happen again."

Matić also said Serbia and Croatia should continue to look for the disappeared even though 30 years have gone by.

Pupovac, Matić and local officials also commemorated Serb civilians from western Slavonia killed between 1991 and 1995.

"We are here today to reiterate our commitment to cooperation in shedding light on the fate of the missing, both those gone missing in this area 30 years ago and those gone missing in later years in other parts of Croatia," said Pupovac.

He added that "cooperation in the search for the missing leads us from hostility to partnership, from nurturing feelings of war to developing feelings of peace."

Responding to questions from the press, Pupovac said this year's commemoration in Voćin was a step forward as both Serb and Croatian victims were honoured.

Asked why no one from Croatia's state leadership was present, he said it was not the time to reprimand anyone, other than those responsible for the crime.

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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.

 

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Independent MP Vidović Krišto Ordered Out of Parliament Chamber

ZAGREB, 8 Dec, 2021 - Independent MP Karolina Vidović Krišto was ordered to leave the Parliament chamber at the start of the session on Wednesday morning for violating the Rules of Procedure after proposing paying respects to all children killed in the 1991-1995 Homeland War. 

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković rejected her proposal, saying that such matters should be agreed in advance. After repeatedly asking Vidović Krišto to stop talking and cautioning her three times, he ordered her to leave the chamber.

"This is a very delicate matter and Ms Vidović Krišto put me in a very awkward position. Children killed in the war deserve to be honoured and we should certainly do that. We should honour not just the children but all the people who were killed, civilian victims and Croatian defenders. What she did is extremely inappropriate, an act of provocation with which she wanted to put me and everyone else in an awkward situation," Jandroković said.

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