Croatian PM accuses right-wing of spreading "pure hatred"

ZAGREB -- Croatian PM Zoran Milanović on Monday condemned an attack targeting eight students of the Serbian Orthodox Church seminary in Kistanje near Knin.

Zoran Milanović (Beta, file)
Zoran Milanović (Beta, file)

The attackers were ethnic Croats from the village of Janjevo in Kosovo, who had relocated to Croatia.

Six of the eight Serb students were injured in the attack that took place over the weekend.

Reacting to the incident, Milanović said that "serious things have been happening in Croatia", and accused the country's right-wing parties of spreading "pure and distilled" hatred.

"People in black shirts - we don't know who they are or where they come from - are speaking on television," the prime minister told a news conference in Zagreb.

He also criticized the media, singling out the public broadcaster HRT for referring to "the children" who attacked the students as "Janjevci" (Janjevo residents).

"They were attacked by children, who in fact had attacked other children. Those children who attacked other children were appropriately politically correctly referred to in the HRT news bulletin as - Janjevci! That's the vocabulary of HRT! Instead of, 'minors of Croat ethnicity', it was - Janjevci. Well - should we be surprised that things like this happen?," Milanović asked.

He went on to tell reporters that he, "unlike some others", does not have "his own media", and added that he "couldn't care less" how his statements made today would be reported. "This time I will be direct," the Croatian prime minister said, and added:

"My colleagues in parliament are being referred to as Chetniks. We will not allow that. Some 250,000 citizens of this country rebelled during the war, but they now respect our constitution and for them Croatian citizenship is not questionable."

Milanović then said that it was "disgraceful" that nobody had reacted to a statement made by Ruža Tomašić of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), which he described as "even worse" that what Zagreb's Dinamo Football Club Director Željko Mamić said recently.

While Mamić stated that "a Serb cannot head the sports department in Croatia", Tomašić asserted that "Croatia is for Croats, everybody else is a guest".

"I decided to make my address despite my PR experts expressly warning me against it, they even wrote something for me here, but I'm not reading that! I do not wish to do it that way!," Milanović told the news conference, and concluded:

"We will have to learn some new rules, at least as far as I'm concerned. I did not come here to keep silent! I came to act and to speak."

The incident in Kistanje also provoked a reaction from Croatia's opposition HDZ party, which issued a statement saying that the seminary students "themselves provoked the attack", and described them as "being known from before for their provocations".

The statement added that the party "condemned all forms of violence, among others those perpetrated in obvious self-defense", as well as that a conflict "required the participation of those in the role of attackers, not just the victims of a pre-planned clash".

The local media in nearby Šibenik also quoted HDZ head in Kistanje and municipal councilor Rok Antić, who said that "everything happened because the Krka Monastery is the hotbed of Chetniks in Croatia".

Attackers to be apprehended

The Croatian police investigated the scene of the attack, and identified the perpetrators, who will be indicted, it has been announced.

It was said on Monday that they would be brought in for questioning "during the day".

The incident happened on the road between Kistanje and the Orthodox monastery of Krka at around 01:00 CET on Sunday, the police stated.

A number of minors attacked eight students of the seminary, at first verbally and then physically. Six were injured, one sustained serious injuries.

Head of the Šibenik-Knin police department Ivica Kostanić confirmed the incident for a Croatian TV station, stressing that the police had investigated the scene and found the culprits, and that there would be a complete report later, considering the seriousness of one of the injuries.

The seminary condemned the incident in a release, stating that it was unprovoked.

"This brutal attack on Krka seminary students has harmed the safety and normal work of our seminary. The motive for this incident can only be and is religious and national hatred," the statement says, adding that the seminary expects the authorities to arrest and punish the culprits appropriately.

The Association of Serbs from Croatia and the Association of Refugees and other associations of Serbs from Croatia condemned on Monday the attack.

The associations said that the reason for this act of vandalism was hate speech, which had escalated in Croatia lately caused by the ninth anniversary of the pogrom against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

They noted that the attack on the students of the Monastery Krka seminary was yet another attack on monks, students and facilities of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in the area of the Diocese of Dalmatia.

"It is particularly worrying that none of the attackers has been found, and tried and sentenced by the Croatian judiciary," it was underlined.

“The attack on students of the Krka Monastery is yet another indicator of the position of Serbs in Croatia, and the extent to which their safety is jeopardized,” the statement reads.