BELGRADE – Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic late on Thursday told a gathering in Belgrade that his country will never forget what happened during Croatia’s Operation Storm.
He was addresing several thousand people gathered at the Busije settlement, mostly populated by Serbs driven out of their homes in Croatia, on the 21st anniversary of the start of the Croatian military-police attack – and during the state event to mark August 5, Day of Remembrance of the Suffering and Persecution of Serbs.
Addressing Krajisniks (Krajina Serbs) Vucic said that “the blame is certainly not on them” but instead on “various policies, wrong and bad, that allowed for something that in their case can be referred to as the criminal final solution.”
“There will be no more ‘Storms’. Serbia does not brag about its strength, but it is strong enough to take care of its people and will never again allow anyone to commit such a pogrom,” Vucic said, and apologized to refugees for not being welcomed properly in Serbia at the time, in 1995.
“I want to extend a big sorry for the existence in Serbia of those who during the evil Operation Storm were turning their heads away from you and were not taking sufficient care of their own people,” Vucic stressed.
“You were expelled and thrown out of your land because somebody thought they would be greater if you were gone and if Serbs were gone. Many ears and noses had been cut off (before that) but the Serb perseverance did not allow it – so (Operation) Storm was needed. That’s victory, to them? Why? Why kind of victory, are they enjoying our tears shed for the children and the elderly,” asked Vucic.
He told those gathered they “have nothing to be ashamed off, because they (Croatia) don’t even know how to be ashamed of monuments raised to criminals, nor of Ustasha slogans, nor of swastikas. That cross will always be theirs such as it is, bent and crooked. Never ours,” he said.
The prime minister stressed that he does not believe in collective guilt and that not all Croats are guilty for this pogrom, but some individuals.
“We will not count how many individuals did that. They should do it themselves,” the prime minister stated and recalled that Serbia has done that when it comes to those who had committed crimes in her name.
According to him, the responses to Croatian officials and the sending of protest notes serve precisely so that someone in Croatia would finally be ashamed of Serbian blood on their hands and the ethnic cleansing of 1995 – the largest since World War II in Europe, the Serbian government said in a post on its website from the event.
Vucic told the Serbs from Krajina, and also to all Serbs, that Serbia does not intend to remain silent about what happened on August 4 1995.
Should we say that 250,000 people were not expelled, that it was not a crime, that those who were killed or forced to become Catholic had never existed at all? How can anyone think that we Serbs would deny that, he asked.
Serbia is big enough for everyone and we do not need a greater territory, but only a stronger and more stable country, he said and reiterated that our country is big enough not to hate anyone, to give a hand to everyone, but that it will never forget those who hoped to be forgotten.
Vucic underlined that Serbia wants the best possible relations with Croatia, but that it wants to protect its people, noting that the state will do everything in its power to protect the Serbs in Croatia.
President of the Serb Republic (RS) Milorad Dodik also spoke at the event, calling Croatia to peace, but also saying that the Serbs will never forget those expelled.
“We have won because we live, life is our revenge. It is our desire to live in peace, and give peace to everyone,” said Dodik.
Earlier, Serbian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Irinej served a memorial service. In his address, he said that the goal of Operation Storm was to expel Serbs from their ancient homes and thus ethnically cleanse Croatia.
The event in Busije was also attended by President Tomislav Nikolic, Serb National Council in Croatian leader Milorad Pupovac, numerous ministers in the Serbian government, and members of the diplomatic corps.