Croatia to mark Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day on Friday

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  • Zadnja izmjena 04.08.2011 11:25
  • Objavljeno 04.08.2011 u 11:16
knin hrvatska zastava

knin hrvatska zastava

Izvor: Pixsell / Autor: Hrvoje Jelavic/PIXSELL

Croatia celebrates Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans' Day on Friday, commemorating the 16th anniversary of Operation Storm, a military victory in which the country regained control of most of its occupied territory.

Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the Danube River Region in the east, spared Bosnia's Bihac from the fate of Srebrenica, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.

The 5 August 1995 liberation of the southern town of Knin carried special significance because this town had been the centre and symbol of the Serb rebellion since the summer of 1990.

The rebellion began with the blocking of roads with logs and in time turned into brutal attacks on Croatian towns and villages and the killing and expulsion of non-Serbs. The local Serbs were helped by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), while troops and weaponry also came from Serbia and Montenegro.

The Serbs said they were rebelling because they were in danger, but time and events showed that the reason for the rebellion was the creation of a Greater Serbia through the creation of a self-styled statelet, the Republic of Serb Krajina, and the ethnic cleansing of occupied parts of Croatia.

Years of attempts to peacefully reintegrate those areas had proved futile. In Geneva, only a day before Operation Storm was launched, representatives of rebel Serbs rejected yet another offer by the Croatian authorities to settle the problem peacefully.

The situation, which was politically and economically untenable for Croatia, changed with Operation Storm, which began at 5 am on 4 August 1995, a Friday, and in only 84 hours liberated close to 10,500 square kilometres or one-fifth of the country's territory. A 20-metre-long Croatian flag was displayed on the Knin fortress at noon on Saturday 5 August. On 7 August, Defence Minister Gojko Susak announced that Operation Storm was over.

More than 200,000 soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War, of whom 174 were killed and over 1,400 wounded.

The central celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day will be held in Knin on Thursday and will be attended by top state officials. A monument to Operation Storm '95 is expected to be unveiled in the town's central square in the evening.

The anniversary will be marked elsewhere in the country as well.

Retired general Damir Krsticevic, who took part in the operation, told Hina that he had been and still was proud of his participation in the operation and of having helped the dream of Croatia's freedom and independence come true.

Operation Storm marked the final liberation of Croatia's occupied areas and the end of the war for freedom, independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty, it proved the strength and superiority of Croatia's army and resulted in a change of the balance of power in the entire region, said Krsticevic.

"Today, 16 years after the operation, I must stress once again that my opinion about Operation Storm has not changed in the least. I am still convinced, just as I was then, of the importance, as well as of the rightness and legitimacy of our biggest army and police operation and the rightness and innocence of all those who led it," Krsticevic said, adding that he was proud of the 4th Guards Brigade which he commanded in the operation, as well as of all other units that took part in the operation.

"I am especially grateful to those who gave their lives for Croatia and who suffered, fought and sacrificed themselves in other ways for Croatia's freedom," Krsticevic said, adding that special gratitude was owed to "our commander and strategist, General Ante Gotovina, who is still proving his innocence."

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