news 05 Aug 13

Serbs Mourn Victims as Croatia Marks Victory

The 18th anniversary of ‘Operation Storm’, which saw Croatian forces seize back territory from Serb control, was marked with sorrow in Belgrade and satisfaction in Zagreb.

BIRN
Belgrade

Hundreds of people joined top Serbian officials for a memorial service at St. Mark’s Church in Belgrade on Sunday to mark the anniversary of Operation Oluja (Storm) in 1995, which saw the Croatian Army take back swathes of land and masses of Serbs flee.

Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic described the operation as the biggest ethnic cleansing in Europe since World War II.

“We were strong enough to scorn those who committed crimes in our name, I hope that other peoples on Balkan soil will be strong enough to scorn those who committed the most severe crimes against Serbs in their name,” Vucic said after the memorial service.

He also appealed to the international community to punish those responsible.

However in Croatia, where the anniversary is celebrated as Victory Day, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic described the result of the operation as the liberation of occupied territory.

"We, the victors, have strength today and can condemn any evil, mourn every innocent victim, every lost life in this imposed war,” Milanovic said in a statement on Sunday.

“Let us do everything to be worthy of those sacrifices and build the kind of Croatia its defenders dreamed about, a better Croatia,” he said.

Operation Storm began on August 4, 1995, in Croatia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as both countries’ armies tried to take back territories that had been under Serb control since 1991.

About 2,000 Serbs are believed to have been killed and about 200,000 forced from their homes.

The UN war crimes court in The Hague last November acquitted Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of killings and deportations carried out during the military operation.

August 4 is celebrated in Croatia as Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day as well as Victory Day.

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