Croatia and Serbia exchange verbal attacks during Operation Storm commemorations
During the 1995 Operation Storm anniversary commemorations, leaders from Croatia and Serbia engaged in a sharp exchange of views, delivering sharp criticisms. This military operation resulted in the Croatian Army reclaiming territory held by rebel Serbs and triggering the displacement of approximately 200,000 Serbian civilians.
Croatia observed the anniversary of Operation Storm on August 5, 2023, a military campaign in which its armed forces regained control of territory previously held by rebel Serbs during the war. However, this year’s commemoration was marked by sharp criticisms exchanged between officials from Zagreb and Belgrade.
In the city of Knin, Croatian officials organised a commemorative ceremony that included unfurling a large flag over the ancient fortress and reading the names of all Croatian soldiers who lost their lives or went missing during the operation. Wreaths were laid, and speeches were delivered by Gordan Jandrokovic, the Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, and President Zoran Milanovic.
Prime Minister Plenkovic emphasised the significance of Operation Storm, calling it the pivotal moment in the Homeland War and the operation that effectively put an end to the Greater Serbian aggression project led by the Milosevic regime against Croatia. He noted that reclaiming the territory held by rebel Serbs from 1991 to 1995 meant the restoration of normalcy in Croatia.
Plenkovic criticised statements made by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Milorad Dodik, the President of the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity in BIH, during a commemoration event in the Bosnian city of Prijedor, where it was referred to as the ‘Day of Remembrance of All the Serbs Killed and Expelled in Operation Storm’ in Serbia.
Operation Storm resulted in the displacement of around 200,000 Serbs who were living in Croatia, and according to the Croatian Helsinki Committee, approximately 677 Serbs lost their lives during and after the operation. Plenkovic firmly asserted that Operation Storm represents the foundation of Croatian freedom, and Croatia will not tolerate any attacks on it or its veterans, soldiers, and police.
He also emphasised that Croatia would not accept Serbia’s indictment of Croatian pilots involved in the operation, referencing the indictment of four Croatian pilots by Serbia for allegedly bombing a refugee convoy travelling from Knin to Serbia.
Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic echoed these sentiments in his speech, highlighting Croatia’s victimhood during Greater Serbian aggression and its pride as victorious defenders in a war imposed upon them.
Operation Storm, which commenced on August 4, 1995, and lasted until August 7, saw the liberation of Knin, the former centre of the Serb rebellion, within hours, followed by the recapture of the remaining territory by Croatian forces.