20 years since start of Croatia's Operation Storm

Tuesday marks 20 years since the start of Croatia's military operation "Storm" that led to expulsion of more than 200,000 ethnic Serbs from that country.

Source: B92, Tanjug
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According to the data of the documentation center Veritas, 1,853 Serbs were either killed or are listed as gone missing during the attack, while at least 220,000 residents of the former Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK) were driven out from this area that was at the time under UN protection.

Some 130,000 members of Croatia's army, with NATO's support, and that from the Croatian Council of Defense (HVO) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ABiH), conquered the capital of the former RSK, Knin, on August 5, 1995.

Operation Storm was launched despite the area's status as a protected UN zone and the fact RSK representatives, in Geneva and Belgrade, accepted the international community's proposal for a peaceful resolution, the so-called "Plan Z-4".

Some 40,000 members of the RSK army and 10,000 more from the former Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, loyal to Fikret Abdic, offered weak resistance.

During Operation Maestral, that was an extension of Operation Storm, Croatian armed forces, acting together with the 5th Corps of the ABiH, killed 665 and expelled some 125,000 Serbs from 13 municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In Croatia, August 5 is marked as Victory and Homeland Gratitude Day, while in Serbia and the Serb Republic (RS), starting this year, it is observed as a day of mourning and Day of Remembrance of Suffering and Persecution.

Two decades later, Operation Storm will be for the first time celebrated in Croatia with a military parade in Zagreb, in which, despite the hosts' plans and hopes, western countries will not take part. A day later in Knin, a traditional celebration will be held, where Marko Perkovic Thompson will perform.

On this occasion, a statue of former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman will be revealed.

Serbia will organize the central gathering to remember the victims near the bridge Sremska Raca, with Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic and RS President Milorad Dodik expected to place wreaths in the river. SPC Patriarch Irinej will serve a memorial, and this will be followed by an artistic performance.

The Hague Tribunal said in April 2011 in a first-degree verdict that Operation Storm was a joint criminal enterprise headed by Franjo Tudjman, whose goal was to forcibly and permanently remove the Serb population from that area of Croatia.

The first-verdict degree also found former Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac guilty and sentenced them to 24 and 18 years in prison, respectively.

But in November 2012, the Hague Tribunal's Appeals Chamber acquitted both on all counts of the indictment, "although the crimes ascertained in the first-degree verdict had not been negated."

According to the final verdict, Operation Storm was not a joint criminal enterprise whose goal was to expel Serbs from Croatia.

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