In the operation, 7,200 soldiers and police in less than 32 hours liberated western Slavonia, about 600 square kilometres of Croatian territory which had been occupied four years.
Milanović: Croatian Army stopped the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina
“Operation Flash was a big victory of the Croatian Army, one in a series that followed after the attempt to destroy Vukovar in late 1991”, President Zoran Milanović said.
“With the first operations to liberate western Slavonia, with few soldiers and even less equipment and ammunition, in conditions of international isolation and, at that time, lack of recognition, a weapons embargo… the Croatian Army took the initiative and did not lose until eventual victory in Storm and operations Maestral and South Move, in which, until October and in October 1995, Croatian commanders and soldiers were killed,” the president said.
Since the end of 1991 and in the 1995 operations Flash, Storm, Maestral and South Move, the Croatian Army was on the initiative, and gloriously ended the war, he added. “The very end of the war cost Croatia because of other states’ political projects, the U.S. first and foremost.”
It was the Croatian Army’s arrival to Manjača in Bosnia and Herzegovina that stopped the war in BiH, Milanović said, “not the American bombings and finally the informal capitulation of Bosnian Serbs, Mladić and Karadžić, the agreement to negotiate and the lifting of the siege of Sarajevo.”
“I’m not for ideologising history, I find it dangerous, but children should be taught that, those are the facts,” the president said, honouring the 51 defenders who were killed in Operation Flash or died as a result of wounding, saying that they had been within reach of freedom and victory, but did not live to see it.
Jandroković: President Tuđman’s vision and defenders’ heroism
Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that today, at a time of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, Croatia’s victory in the Homeland War became even bigger, even more brilliant.
“Croatia indeed seized that historic moment, winning in the Homeland War, creating a state, securing freedom and democracy for the Croatian people.”
Jandroković said Operation Flash claimed 51 lives and that “those people are firmly embedded in the foundations of the modern Croatian state.”
We remember and thank them as well as all those responsible for Croatia’s freedom, he said, highlighting the vision of the then-president Franjo Tuđman, the courage of Croatian soldiers and police officers as well as the Croatian people’s willingness to make sacrifices.
“President Tuđman’s vision and the defenders’ heroism should be an example to us all who hold public office of how one should fight for the Croatian state,” Jandroković told a reporter when asked about the lack of unity in the state leadership.
Responding to a question, he said he did not come to Okučani feeling nervous because the president would be here too.
“I came here to honour the sacrifice of Croatian defenders, to show sympathy with their families, to remember a magnificent victory,” he added.
Plenković: We tried to right injustices regarding veterans’ rights
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said it was important to remember those who gave their lives for Croatia and that all future generations “know what was happening in the early 1990s during the time of the Greater Serbia aggression on Croatia and the occupation of this part of western Slavonia and about the operation which liberated this area in a very short time.”
Speaking to the press, he thanked all veterans, soldiers and police officers. “In these few years, we have done our best to fill those gaps, to right a few wrongs regarding the legislative, financial, programme and organisational framework pertaining to Croatian veterans’ rights.”
Plenković thanked War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved in particular, saying he is confident that they have managed to solve the problems of veterans and their families.
He said the policy of his government was also to strengthen homeland and national security as well as the army and the police. That is visible in their budgets and in the strengthening of their capabilities so that Croatia can be a reliable and secure partner in the EU and NATO, he added.
“We see how important security is in these times of Russia’s brutal aggression on Ukraine and what effects such situations have on our security as well as on our economy,” Plenković said.
After the ceremony, mass was celebrated for the defenders and civilians killed in the Homeland War, with the state and military leaderships as well as the victims’ families and representatives of veterans’ associations attending.
For more, check out our politics section.