17th anniversary of Operation Storm marked

BELGRADE -- Today marks the 17th anniversary of Operation Storm in which Croat forces killed around 2,650 and expelled 340,000 ethnic Serbs.

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić, Chief of Staff Ljubiša Diković attend a memorial service in Belgrade (Tanjug)
Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić, Chief of Staff Ljubiša Diković attend a memorial service in Belgrade (Tanjug)

Almost 2,000 Serbs were killed or went missing in the Operation Storm and 220,000 were expelled, while the Croat forces and Muslim army’s Fifth Corps killed another 655 and expelled around 125,000 Serbs in the Operation Mistral which was a continuation of the Storm.

The Operation Storm is the biggest and one of the cruelest ethnic cleansings in the former Yugoslavia. 62 percent of the victims were civilians.

See more photos from a memorial service held in Belgrade on Saturday

17 years later Serbs and Croats still have opposing views of the operation.

Croatia considers the Operation Storm a great victory in which Croatian forces took over 18.4 percent of the territory in just 84 hours. Croats believe that the operation helped end the war in Bosnia and peacefully reintegrate eastern Croatia.

On the other hand, Serb victims and crimes against Serbs are barely mentioned.

According to Croatian Helsinki Committee, 678 civilians were killed in the operation and thousands of houses were burned and robbed.

Belgrade-based Veritas Documentation and Information Center’s records contain names of 1,922 killed and missing Serbs. About a half of them were people older than the age of 60. Veritas points out that 546 victims were women and 19 persons younger than the age of 18.

Veritas Director Savo Štrbac told B92 that it was normal for the Serbs to expect that the Appellate Court would confirm the initial ruling that the Operation Storm was a joint criminal enterprise.

Croatian sources claim that the number of expelled Serbs is 90,000, the UN estimates it at 150,000, while Serbian sources say that between 200,000 and 500,000 Serbs fled Croatia in 1995.

Only a small number of Serb refugees have returned to Croatia.

Croatia celebrates Victory Day and Homeland Thanksgiving Day on August 5 while Serbs mark the anniversary of the mass killings and expulsion.

Commemorations have been held for the Serb victims in Croatia and they were attended by representatives of Serb associations, activists and distinguished individuals.

Representatives of the Serbian Embassy in Zagreb attended the commemoration held in Zagreb.

“Serbs civilian victims of the war in the 1990s are the only who have not been recognized as such,” President of the Serb National Council Milorad Pupovac said.

Croat Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač are the only ones convicted of the war crimes during the Operation Storm.

Several proceedings were held in Croatia for the crimes during the Operation Storm but all of the accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

A memorial service for the Operation Storm victims will be held in St. Mark’s Church in downtown Belgrade. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić will, among others, attend the service.

Memorial services will also be held in churches in Banja Luka.