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Tags: EU | Balkans | Tensions

Serbia, Croatia Mark Balkan war Anniversary amid Tensions

Thursday, 04 August 2016 09:26 AM EDT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbs mourned Thursday while Croats celebrated as the Balkan neighbors marked the anniversary of a 1995 Croatian offensive that retook territory from rebel Serb forces.

The offensive, which triggered an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, has been commemorated annually. This year's two-day events come amid heightened tensions between the two countries that have brought relations between the pair to their lowest point since the 1991-95 war.

Croatia is marking its military operation with victory celebrations, while Serbia considers the "Storm" offensive a war crime that resulted in the exodus of most Serbs living in Croatia, in convoys on tractors and horse-drawn carts. Hundreds were killed in the process.

"We are remembering the majestic action during which we showed that, inspired by the Croatian citizens' desire for a free, independent state, we know how to defend ourselves," Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said in a statement.

The responses in Serbia are very different and reflect simmering postwar Balkan tensions, which soared recently after nationalists returned to power in both states. Serbia has accused Croatia of reviving World War II-era fascism and anti-Serb policies, while Croatian officials said Serbia invoked 1990s' rhetoric.

"Oluja (Storm) was a war crime for which no one has been held responsible," said Aleksandar Vulin, a Serbian government minister.

The war in 1991 started after Croatia declared independence from the Serb-led former Yugoslavia, triggering a rebellion by minority Serbs who took control of more than one-third of the country's territory. Croatia retook the lands in the 1995 offensive and a peace deal was signed later that year.

About 10,000 people died in the Serb-Croat war and hundreds of thousands became refugees. Hundreds are still missing.

Nada Bodiroga, who represents a Serb association of the relatives of the missing, said in Belgrade that "twenty-one years after the Storm operation I still haven't found the remains of my parents."

"I want the truth," Bodiroga was quoted by the Tanjug news agency.

Serbia planned a gathering later Thursday in a village outside Belgrade populated mostly by Croatian Serb refugees. Croatia will launch its celebrations in the former rebel-held town of Knin.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Europe
Serbs mourned Thursday while Croats celebrated as the Balkan neighbors marked the anniversary of a 1995 Croatian offensive that retook territory from rebel Serb forces.The offensive, which triggered an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, has been commemorated...
EU,Balkans,Tensions
355
2016-26-04
Thursday, 04 August 2016 09:26 AM
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