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Some historians point to Storm and its substantial reversal of Serbian gains as the game-changer, and it was a game-changer of a different magnitude. Or play for international sympathy? Croatia Confirms 4,084 New Coronavirus Cases, 70 Deaths in Last 24 Hours, PM: Affirmation of Croatia's Credit Rating Proves Gov't Responded Well to Crisis, From Hvar to Tanzania: Young Croatian Volunteers to Help Poor Children, 2020 Women's Handball Euros: Croatia Handball Celebrates after Crucial Win against Favorite Hungary, Split Advent 2020: Festive Weekend Ahead with Klapa, Saint Nicholas, and More, Curry Bowl Zagreb Celebrates 5 Years with Free Food for Healthcare Heroes, German Online Travel Platform Rates Zagreb Airport the Worst of 30 European Capitals, Flights to Croatia: KLM Boosts Amsterdam-Zagreb from February 2021, Croatia's Biggest Travel Update, Questions Answered in Real Time: December 5, 2020, PHOTOS: The Amazing Natural and Seasonal Art of Slama Osijek, PHOTOS: Around Zagreb Dolac Market with a Michelin-starred Chef. At that time, we heard from one of Tudjman’s closest advisers that they too, Tudjman’s inner circle, were convinced Zagreb wouldn’t be rocketed. The Krajina Serbs had quickly forfeited whatever claim they might have had to international sympathy. His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej officiated a memorial service for the killed Serbs in the armed operation “Storm” in Croatia in 1995. We should have gone in, not just with one strike, but with some serious military actions, that would have been a powerful signal. NILES: We raised the question, “Should the United States use its military power?” which at that time, in the wake of Desert Storm, looked as if whatever we wanted to do, we could do it. September 12, 2020 - It is over a month since Croatia celebrated the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm. How it would have been read by Milosevic, who knows. Today, 5th August 2015 is the 20th Anniversary of the Operation Storm, of liberation of Croatia, which put an end to the bloody and brutal Serb aggression and Croatia was liberated on that day from Serb occupation! I lived for years in that naive bubble, and the recent past only entered it in the first week of August each year, when Croatia celebrated its holiday, Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders. Croatia - Operation Storm 1995. Croatia holds a military parade to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Operation Storm, while neighbouring Serbia mourns the victims. Marija Ristic, Ivana Nikolic, Sven Milekic BIRN Belgrade, Zagreb Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and general Ante Gotovina during Operation Storm. During Operation Storm, Croatian forces regained territory controlled since late 1991 by rebel Croatian Serbs, who had been helped by … In Sector South was Knin, the capitol of Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), a Serb parastate within Croatia. The explosions sounded like very loud, sharp, cracks, right next to us or very close by. Starting in 1991, when Croatia declared its independence as a nation-state, the war was fought between forces loyal to the Croats and the Serb-controlled JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army). KNIN, Croatia — August is the toughest month for Anja Raskovic and the Serbs of Knin, a dusty town of 10,000 people in Croatia’s southeast. On May 1, even as the Croatian attack to retake Sector West was underway, I was still just as focused on the terrorist threat confronting us. I think I got to the right place, but if not, it was one of several very similar. Some of them, including my family, since my tour was by then nearing completion, never came back. Or would they hold off on the rockets, figuring that such a retaliatory step might trigger a much larger Croatian move on Sectors North and South? Indeed, it didn't seem to exist at all online, apart from those terrible events on August 1995. There were, of course, some souvenirs on offer that one would perhaps not find at Advent in Zagreb, but the atmosphere was a lot less intimidating than I had been expecting. After the ceasefire of January 1992 and international recognition of the Republic of Croatia as a sovereign state, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was established and combat became largely intermittent in the following three years. I don’t know whether it was a quarter, a third, or a tenth, or what, but they took their part. Ronald J. Neitzke, interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning December 2006, was Deputy Chief of Mission in Embassy Zagreb from 1992-1996. From Grubori to Cavoglave, a focal point of the Oluja celebrations each year, as well as a reminder of the fierce fighting and suffering that took place here. Tudjman might have wanted to strike back after the rocket attacks on Zagreb. Why Serbs can't comprehend why Croats celebrate Operations Storm is beyond me. Herrick soon joined us and reported that several parts of the downtown area had been hit and that there were fatalities. Q: Was there a general feeling that you were getting from the media, and maybe from Congress, that Europe, at last, was going to take a problem off our backs? My initial thought was that this was perhaps due to the Serb exodus 25 years ago, but I was told locally that the population of the Knin workforce has declined 20% in the last 12 months alone. Appearances were misleading, however, and it seems that the church has regular community gatherings. For me the issue turned on how one read the intentions of the Serbs in Knin. President Franjo Tuđman in the middle, right to him Gojko Šušak, left to him Ante Gotovina. His move on Sector West was a game-changer. His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej officiated a memorial service for the killed Serbs in the armed operation “Storm” in Croatia in 1995. On the Fortress of Croatian King Zvonimir (from 11th century) under the Croatian flag, in liberated Knin a few days after the start of operation "Storm". Click for latest flights, border, corona news, Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO community, Latest Croatian travel info in your language, Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident, We Are Stronger and Better people, Ready to Work for a Better Tomorrow, PHOTOS: Dinara Nature Park - Croatia's Latest Area of Protected Countryside, Pupovac: Anyone Who Thinks State Can Be Excuse for War Crimes Is Seriously Mistaken, Minister: Milosevic's Visit to Knin Turning Point in Relations Between Croats, Serbs. GORNJI CUNTIC, Croatia, August 5 (UNHCR) - On August 5, 1995, Croatian armed forces launched a massive offensive, codenamed "Operation Storm", that put an end to the four-year uprising that affected a third of its territory by armed elements from the country's Serb minority. And in that instant, my first thought was that the terrorists had finally struck. No deaths, no injuries. A decade after Operation Storm, when the Croatian military launched a massive offensive that drove some 250,000 Croatian Serbs into exile, more than half of this refugee population has returned to Croatia. Europe Anniversary of Operation Storm: The crimes others committed. With restricted access to the main square event, one might have assumed that the balconies in surrounding buildings offering a grandstand view would be popular. That Grubori visit took place three weeks after Oluja 2020 - I was trying to find it on my own on the day. People could temporarily depart at Department expense and stay out with certain allowances. Ever since the military-police liberation operation Storm brought victory and freedom to Croatia 25 years ago, August 5th has been celebrated as Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day, a national holiday in the country. People were spooked. (The raising of the flag at 09:46 - click if video above unavailable). They argue: “We’re Catholics, we’re Western, we’re going to be in Europe soon, we’re going to be in NATO soon. IMPUNITY FOR ABUSES COMMITTED DURING "OPERATION STORM" AND THE DENIAL OF THE RIGHT OF REFUGEES TO RETURN TO THE KRAJINA. The Serbian Army began, by the end of October, its assault on the town of Vukovar, standing off on the Serbian side of the Danube and shelling the city with 155-millimeter guns, just lobbing shells into the town, gradually destroying it and killing people. That was the time, looking back on it now, when some form of U.S. military intervention might have had an effect. Krajina is the perfect example. It was still early in the day, but the atmosphere was good-humored and celebratory. They not only pushed the Serbs out of Krajina, they kept right on going northeast. Nor were we sure that the rockets could even hit downtown Zagreb; the ones they’d fired in the fall of 1993 had only reached the outskirts of the city. With the usage of our services you permit us to use cookies. Others took a moment to secure classified materials and make sure everyone was heading for safety before joining them. Thomas M. T. Niles was Assistant Secretary for European Affairs at the State Department from 1991-1993; he was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning June 1998. There was no pressure from within the Administration that I can recall at that time that we should do anything. In the days that followed Operation Storm, property was destroyed and atrocities committed against those Serbs who remained. We were fast drawing down from Desert Storm, but we still had a substantial commitment out there. It was limited, but at that time the atrocities and tragedies hadn’t yet started, so there was no big pressure that the United States had to get involved in Yugoslavia. Social distancing - of people and weaponry - had come to Oluja 2020 apparently. But despite the level of concern, acute in a couple cases, people were extremely reluctant to depart voluntarily, to be the first to go. Operation Storm aimed to overturn that. Serbo-Croatian War / Homeland War - Operation Storm. The combined military and police operation Storm was launched on 4 August 1995 and it liberated areas in northern Dalmatia, Lika, Banovina and Kordun that had been controlled by … In 1992, 1993, 1994, you talk ground troops, you talk American troops. The other side of 25 years of Oluja. We still had at that time 150,000 troops in the Gulf region. The building shook. I don’t know the truth of all that. I’m not sure that would have had much effect on Knin at that point, however. A Croatian colleague told me to head to a village called Plavno, 30km north of Knin, and then to ask. August 5 is the date that this is celebrated, and the focal point each year is in Knin, the liberation of which in 1995 was part of the biggest land battle in Europe since World War II. Posted on August 4, 2013 by Grey Carter In 1578, almost a half a century before the first Pilgrims sailed to America, the Serbs were invited to settle in then desolate area of Krajina. I had read a lot about Vukovar and what happened in those tragic months in 1991, but there was nothing online in English about the experience of attending the annual remembrance day, which is one of the most important dates in the Croatian calendar. Croatia takes back control. Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with our services. Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. And I wasn’t alone in that. Some reflections from a foreigner who attended Oluja 2020 in Knin. As a further symbol of some seeds of reconciliation, the government announced that Milosevic, the Croatian Government's Vice-President for Social Affairs and Human Rights, would accompany Veterans Minister Tomo Medved to lay a wreath in the village of Grubori, north of Knin, where several elderly Serbs were killed less than 3 weeks after Operation Storm. (Photo: AP — Zoran Sinko). Among them was General Ante Gotovina, who was instrumental in commanding the success of the operation. The first surprise was that Google Maps had never heard of it. And we meant it, but our constant pleas had become a borderline pro forma exercise. After two Croatian MiG fighters flew overhead (a little too quickly for this aspiring photographer to document), it was time to take a walk around town, and I soon realised why things were so quiet on the main square. (see the map bellow). Hitting the Serbian guns that were bombarding Dubrovnik would have been easy. There was no argument; they sent the authorization immediately. © 2020 Total Croatia News. Washington, and we, still didn’t fully appreciate how strong the Croats had become militarily, and there were fears that any move by Tudjman would be met by a stronger countermove by Serbian forces. And was he likely to do so? Suffering of Serbs during Operation Storm in distressing photos: This is what Croatia celebrates 05/08/20 | 11:16 The greatest suffering of our people in recent history was marked yesterday by Belgrade and Banja Luka, as in previous years, by remembering the victims and the refugees, while today, Zagreb will celebrate this as victory and homeland thanksgiving and veterans day Serbian media claim that approximately 2,000 people had been killed or gone missing during and in the aftermath of Operation Storm. With so many perspectives and experiences that were much more involved and painful than my own, there would have been little of value to add, as well as the inevitable offence taken by the words of a Brit who either did not understand or had an alleged agenda. There’s one more thing in this regard that has always troubled me in trying to figure out what Holbrooke or [Secretary of Defense William] Perry or someone else may have privately advised the Croats in the late spring or summer of 1995 on the possibility of their taking military action. Although there were roughly six discrete Yugoslav conflicts, the first major war was the Croatian War for Independence. What were you telling Tudjman? Croatian Skier Filip Zubčić Wins Giant Slalom in Santa Caterina! It was quite a day. I was surprised at how empty the main square was. Operation Storm was a decisive factor in ending the war and the largest battle of the Homeland War. CROATIA. The whole event was extremely dignified, conciliatory, full of remembrance and pride at the considerable achievement of liberation a quarter of a century ago - a perfect tone. Operation Storm (Oluja) ended the war, both in Croatia and in Bosnia. Robert M. Beecroft , interviewed by Kennedy beginning September 2006, was Special Envoy to the Bosnian Federation from 1996-1997. By that time, the Croatians and the Bosniaks had a lot of weapons. 'I was alone' ‘Operation Storm’ in August 1995, when Croatia overran the Serb-inhabited territory of Krajina, was the biggest single instance of ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav Wars, Because the attack was backed by the US, however, it was never treated as a crime. Attitudes to the Homeland War differ vastly between Croats who were in Istria or Vukovar, for example. No one expected him to stop there. I learned a lot. This was carried live on a giant screen on the main square and was clearly a moment of intense pride and emotion for every Croat watching. With Belgrade’s backing, the RSK kept the Croatian military at bay as Yugoslavia collapsed bloodily in 1991. That Croatian offensive, aided and abetted, ultimately, by our air bombardment of the Bosnian Serbs, was what lead us to Dayton [Peace Accords]. Another thing to keep in mind is that all of the arms that went to the Bosnians, through Croatia, whether through Split or Zagreb, the Croatians took a tax in the form of arms. We informed the Department by phone that we intended to implement our evacuation plan as soon as the dust cleared and it seemed prudent. So either I was wrong, or they were snookered by Belgrade, or Belgrade had lost control over its friends in Knin. Overall, it would not have been a militarily difficult thing to do. Operation Storm (kroatiska: Operacija Oluja) var en polisiär och militär operation genomförd av den kroatiska armén den 4–7 augusti 1995. They all left, including my family, later that afternoon. Launched by the Republic of Croatia in August 1995, it was the largest European land battle since the Second World War. Arriving on Hvar in August 2002, I found a touristic paradise, which would soon become my new home as I bought a house in Jelsa a month later. It was called the Croatian Army, with help from the Bosnian Army. They sent a very clear message that there was a new sheriff in town, and his name was [President of Croatia, Franjo] Tudjman. I wasn't sure what to expect as I picked up my press pass, but I was surprised to see that I was the only foreign journalist covering the event. But, just like my day in Vukovar, what I found on the ground was very different to my expectations, one of the most dignified and measured victory celebrations I have seen. Croatia will today mark Operation Storm, the last major battle of the Croatian Homeland War that took place between the 4th and the 7th of August 1995. Impressive stuff. General [Colin] Powell was right when he said that we were not going to reverse the situation in Bosnia without ground troops. "Operation Storm prevented ethnic cleansing and a humanitarian catastrophe in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it was during the time of the so-called Krajina that ethnic cleansing was conducted by the leaders of Serb rebels who expelled from that area all Croats and other non-Serbs. It needed a humiliating defeat to bring the Serbs to the negotiating table. Now, it is interesting, if the ceasefire hadn’t been called there, whether the combined Croatian/Bosnian force in northern Bosnia, would have been able to roll all the way across northern Bosnia and take Banja Luka. Twenty years ago, the Croatian army launched Operation Storm to take control of the Serbian-occupied territory in Croatia. BEECROFT: What you’ve got there is a cross-border problem, Croatia vs. Bosnia, that is exacerbated by the fact that Croatia would like to pretend it’s not part of the Balkans at all. Operation Flash (Serbo-Croatian: Operacija Bljesak/Операција Бљесак) was a brief Croatian Army (HV) offensive conducted against the forces of the self-declared proto-state Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) from 1–3 May 1995. Grubori? In 1995, Croatia launched two major offensives known as Operation Flash and Operation Storm which would effectively end the war with Croatian victory, as they had achieved the goals they had declared at the beginning of the war: independence and preservation of their borders. I later learned from a contact  with intimate ties to Croatian security services that those services too, with offices close to us, in that first instant, thought the American Embassy had finally been bombed. It is a national event each year, broadcast live on national television and attended by all the senior politicians and other dignitaries. Croatia: Operation Storm - still no justice ten years on 03 Aug 2005 , 12:00am In the aftermath of the operations members of the Croatian Army and police murdered, tortured, and forcibly expelled Croatian Serb civilians who had remained in the area as well as members of … "Operation Storm" for anyone with any understanding or appreciation of the true nature of "war crimes" remains a horrific War Crime that has, to this day, gone unpunished. But as Croatian forces quickly prevailed in Sector West, and did so, as I indicated, in a way that didn’t leave much evidence of criminal excesses behind, some in Washington began to see the light, to perceive that this first major successful pushback against a four-year Serbian offensive, if it didn’t go too far too fast, was not only tolerable but a positive development. The war didn't start with Croatia attacking Krajina. But, you couldn’t be absolutely sure. Although I have lived in Croatia now full-time for 17 years, it took me a number of years to realise that my perspective was out of sync with almost everyone else. They were on their way to Banja Luka. Firstly, many Croats fled from the newly-established Krajina Republic, which brought the Serb population up to 88%, before Oluja completely reversed those numbers, as Serb civilians took the path of their retreating army towards Belgrade. The owners are more likely to be found in Dublin, Munich or Stockholm. During Operation Storm, Croatian forces regained territory controlled since late 1991 by rebel Croatian Serbs, who had been helped by the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbian paramilitaries. Remembrance Day of all victims and exiled Serbs in the armed operation “Storm” in Croatia. You can learn more about Gotovina's speech in Gotovina: We Are Stronger and Better people, Ready to Work for a Better Tomorrow. NILES: The Serbs used the Serbian population in the Krajina and Slavonia to set up these so-called “Republics” of Slavonia, and Serb Krajina, driving the Croatian population out in most cases. Because of this, Oluja saved lives. The central state manifestation marking the Day of Remembrance of the Soldiers and Expelled Serbs in the Operation “Storm” will be held on Saturday, August 4th at 20:00 at the Sports and Recreation Center “Tikvara” in Bačka Palanka, announced the Government of Serbia. So no. And Tudjman was proven right. We felt that if we could send missiles into the window of a barn or down the streets at Baghdad and turn left at the second stop light, we could certainly send a message to Milosevic. The question before Peter and me and the rest of the country team [representatives from the key offices and agencies present at an embassy] as we considered our security options on that eerily quiet May 1 afternoon was whether to seek a Department-ordered evacuation of all family members and non-essential personnel. Operation Storm — The Battle for Croatia, 1995 After the fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, the Balkans descended into a bloody ethnic and sectarian conflict. But, by 1995, you had a new force. Nonetheless, I wasn’t ready to recommend ordered departure…. Finally arriving at Plavno, a seemingly almost deserted place and former heartland of Serb population in the Knin region, a local man in his string vest put his head out of the window at the sound of a rare car. They joined up with the Bosnian Army in northern Bosnia. Ever since the military-police liberation operation Storm brought victory and freedom to Croatia 25 years ago, August 5th has been celebrated as Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day, a national holiday in the country. KNIN, Croatia — August is the toughest month for Anja Raskovic and the Serbs of Knin, a dusty town of 10,000 people in Croatia’s southeast. What is not to celebrate? I remember Senator [Claiborne] Pell, in my confirmation hearing, asked me about it. BEECROFT: The Croatian army pushed the Serbs out of Krajina in 1995, Operation Storm. Croatia this week celebrates its defeat of Serb rebels during Operation Storm 20 years ago, but Serbia will mourn the hundreds killed and the 200,000 who became refugees. Going back to Plavno, I was surprised to see a well-tended Serb graveyard, the graves maintained and many with fresh flowers. UNHCR looks at their hopes and challenges on the 10th anniversary of the exodus. Abandoned, overgrown, forgotten. The green light from the White House and then President Clinton for Operation Storm was passed on by Colonel Richard C. Herrick, then US military attaché in Zagreb. And when the rockets came the next morning, mid-morning May 2, I was sitting in my office, windows open, a beautiful spring day. As it was, you had 250,000- 300,000 Serbian refugees headed east, into Serbia. Operation Storm was a combined military and police operation that was launched on 4 August 1995 and that ended a Serb armed rebellion, helping restore state sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country and enabling the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998. It’s part of Croatia, but there were thousands of Serbs there, and during the war they tried to create their own little Serb republic. Nearly a quarter of Croatia’s economy was ruined, with an estimated $37 billion in damaged infrastructure, lost output, and refugee-related costs. Ante Gotovina along with his fellow general Mladen Markac was charged with war crimes during Operation Storm, the lightning military campaign that brought victory for Croatia. Marija Ristic, Ivana Nikolic, Sven Milekic BIRN Belgrade, Zagreb Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and general Ante Gotovina during Operation Storm. Yes, for sure. It fairly quickly became clear that we hadn’t been hit, but we didn’t know about possible casualties outside the Embassy, those who’d been out and about when the Serbs struck. A line of masked policemen were preventing the marchers from proceeding, the first time this has happened apparently. The Department doesn’t authorize a return simply to pack out, so I would do that on my own…. NEITZKE: [It’s] my understanding that the accused Croatian officers, on trial for crimes committed during Storm, claimed that Washington was aiding them in this offensive. August 5, 2015 5:00AM ET. Operation Storm proved to be a decisive victory for the Croats, uniting geographic Croatia under Croat control, decimating the RSK, and tipping the military balance of power heavily in favor of the Croats. I’m not sure whether they even attempted such an effort during the much larger-scale Storm; there was evidently plenty of evidence left behind in that case, including noncombatant dead, to prompt Hague Tribunal indictments of Croatian commanders. That would have created an even worse refugee problem. NILES: Then, in August, the [Croatians] struck again with Operation Storm, first in the Krajina region and then in Eastern Slavonia. by Dan McLaughlin @DanMcL99. Although it would be some minutes before we knew what in fact had happened, the Serbs had launched some of their rockets, and cluster bombs were exploding in various parts of downtown Zagreb, some as close as 75-80 yards from the Embassy. Virtually the entire UN team in Croatia were sympathetic to them and had strongly condemned Croatia’s “destabilizing” move as well as its intransigence during fevered ceasefire negotiations. The idea that somehow we ought to leap from Desert Storm into what might be the Balkan Storm, people thought, was crazy. This would be mid-August, when Storm was already underway. It’s highly likely that most of them will never go home. But he kept his cool, opting instead for Storm and a bet that Milosevic wouldn’t respond directly, that he would abandon the Krajina. Like so many villages on both sides in this region. 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