War veterans associations have vowed to prevent the official introduction of Cyrillic script and the Serbian language into the Croatian city “by any means necessary”.
“We will prevent the introduction of Cyrillic street signs, and the government should be held responsible for all possible undesirable events,” the Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar warned in a statement on Tuesday.
The campaign group consists of several war veterans’ associations from Vukovar, who have been joined by others from elsewhere in Croatia.
They appealed to the government to “respect the will of the majority” but also urged the authorities “not to even think of sending in Croatian police against the heroes of Vukovar, defenders, war invalids, camp prisoners, parents of the missing, widows and children of the dead and missing Croatian defenders”.
The government’s plan to introduce road signs with dual Latin and Cyrillic script sparked a 20,000-strong protest earlier this month in the city which became a symbol of Croatian resistance after it was devastated by Serb forces in a siege during the 1991-95 conflict.
The Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar said it would hold another mass rally in the capital Zagreb in April to call for the government’s resignation.
It’s believed that the authorities intend to bring in the new signs around Vukovar’s city limits within days.
Public controversy erupted two months ago after the government announced that it planned to introduce official use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic script into about 20 Croatian municipalities where Serbs make up more than a third of the population.
Officials cited a constitutional provision on minority rights and said it would also apply to Vukovar where, according to the 2011 census, 34.87 per cent of the population are ethnic Serbs.