After several days of silence on the statements Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic made on Saturday at the commemoration for Serb victims of Croatia’s 1995 military offensive Operation Storm, head of the Serb National Council in Croatia and Serb minority MP, Milorad Pupovac, issued a press release, commenting on Vucic’s words.
“As we expected, this anniversary of the military offensive Operation Storm, which both Serbia and Croatia have commemorated for the last five years, has again caused strife. With the way things are now, it doesn’t look like that will change. From all we have been witnessing over the past five and more years, it seems that accusations will only go further, and the conflict will spiral and destroy everything good built in the relations between Serbia and Croatia since 1996, when the Agreement on Normalisation of Relations between the two countries was signed,” Pupovac said.
On Saturday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic compared Operation Storm and Croatia with the World War II Nazi regime. Croatia celebrates the offensive's anniversary every year in August, seeing it as a military victory which ended its war for independence, while Serbia views it as an act of ethnic cleansing due to a mass exodus of ethnic Serbs who fled from Croatia into Bosnia and Serbia.
“Serbs in Croatia and their representatives are concerned about this, because we vividly remember the terrible consequences of war and the difficult peace-building years. Our memory of the suffering of both Croats and Serbs is equally vivid,” he continued.
“I understand my fellow citizens Croats who have recognised the harshness in comparing modern Croatia with Hitler’s Germany, the difficult burden they should not carry because of the suffering that Serbs experienced during and after Operation Storm. There are individuals responsible for that, whether as active perpetrators, or commanders, or instigators, who have not been punished by either the courts or the public, as there are those who are responsible for the suffering of Croats. Collective guilt, apart from being unjust, is a source of evil. This is why we are against it, regardless of who it is aimed at, Croats or Serbs,” Pupovac said.
“I hope that our fellow citizens Croats understand that commemorating Operation Storm with no awareness of the mass exodus of over 200,000 Serbs, and celebrations such as this year’s in the town of Glina (site of mass murder of Serbs in 1941), where the shameful salute “For the Homeland, ready!” was heard, cannot be tolerated under any circumstances,” he said.
Croatian controversial singer Marko Perkovic Thompson held a concert in the town of Glina on Sunday to mark the Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day marking the anniversary of the 1995 Operation Storm, the Croatian Veterans' Day, and the day of the city. Thompson began the concert with his song "Bojna Cavoglave," which starts with the salute "For the Homeland," while the public responded "Ready." The salute was originally used by World War II-era Croatian fascist Ustashe regime, and was revived and used by some Croatian paramilitaries in the 1990s. It is still in use by a few modern-day right-wing and nationalist groups, and is considered controversial by the mainstream public.
“I hope that after this the representatives of both countries will realise that all talks on the missing, on minorities, on succession, on war crimes, on the border, on infrastructure, on police cooperation in the fight against terror, crime, and illegal migrations, will not yield any results until a dialogue is opened on how to control the conflicts in interpretations of the past and commemorative practices, and that their people will remain hostage in those conflicts,” Pupovac concluded.