Tensions Rising in Vukovar

Total Croatia News

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ZAGREB, December 20, 2018 – Vukovar Deputy Mayor Srđan Milaković on Wednesday produced a list with the names of 42 “Vukovar Serbs killed or gone missing in June, July and August 1991,” thus responding to mayor Ivan Penava’s claims that all civilian wartime victims in Vukovar had been a consequence of the Great Serbia aggression.

He refuted claims that Serb civilian war victims had been executed by Serbs, producing a list of Serb victims from the time of the military aggression on the town and reading out the names of persons he claimed had been arrested at home or at work. He said some remained unaccounted for, the bodies of some were found in the Danube, and some were killed at home.

Milaković also commented on the announcement by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party’s branch in the Vukovar Town Council that it would take every legal step to ban Milaković’s Democratic Alliance of Serbs (DSS) and extremists who, the HDZ said, tried to equate the victim and the Great Serbia aggressor, from participating in government.

“When someone doesn’t like what we say, they call for bans,” he said, wondering what message is being sent if elected representatives of the Serb community are banned from speaking publicly or if their political activity is determined by certain views, for example on the Homeland War or Operation Storm.

Milaković said the DSS would not be banned. As for his own safety in the wake of his statements, he said he did not “know what to expect, but there’s always danger.”

As for the Town Council session at which sparks flew between the HDZ and the DSS because of an initiative to erect a monument to Vukovar’s Serb civilian victims, he said it was a consequence of a recent protest against the authorities’ inefficiency in prosecuting the war crimes committed in Vukovar, the marking of Vukovar Remembrance Day, and recent arrests of Serbs.

“Tensions have been raised and the political scene in Vukovar seems extreme, which is reflected on the functioning of the Serb community’s representatives,” Milaković said, adding that he was a legally elected representative of the Serb community. He said a Serb who expressed his identity “isn’t accepted in Croatian society” and that his legitimacy was disputed even by some Serb councillors elected on the HDZ-HKS slate.

Milaković said his views on 1995’s Operation Storm were seen as problematic, whereas the statement by Predrag Mišić, a Serb councillor from the HKS (Croatian Conservative Party), that it was a pity “Storm didn’t happen in Vukovar too” were not. He said Serbs in Vukovar were faced with many problems on a daily basis and discriminated against, and that Mayor Penava did not want to cooperate with him or deal with those problems.

Asked why he refused to participate in the observation of national holidays or the commemoration of Vukovar’s war past, Milaković said it was “because of how war events are depicted in Croatia, and there are only monuments according to which all the victims were a consequence of the Serbian aggression.”

“Once Serb representatives are included in the planning of Vukovar remembrance ceremonies and Serb civilian victims are commemorated too, then we can observe everything related to Vukovar together,” he added.

He said this year’s visit by Independent Democratic Serb Party leader Milorad Pupovac for Vukovar Remembrance Day was, “to a certain extent, harmful for the interest of the Serb community.”

Reacting to the events, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that it was important to establish the truth about what happened during the war, especially in 1991, and that it was clear to the Croatian political scene that the Great Serbian aggression launched by the regime of Slobodan Milošević caused the worst suffering and atrocities in Vukovar.

“Today, 27 years after that tragedy, we are in the position that we are supposed to honour one of the most important messages of the legacy of President Franjo Tuđman – peaceful reintegration of Croatia’s Danube region,” Plenković said when asked about the latest tensions in the Vukovar Town Council after a Serb councillor of the DSS party inquired about the possibility of erecting a monument to Vukovar’s Serb civilian victims.

Asked by the press today about the latest developments in the Vukovar Town Council, Plenković said that he was not yet familiar with all the details.

We must create an atmosphere of tolerance, understanding and mutual respect instead of raising tensions, Plenković said, adding: “We must solve war crimes. Those responsible for them should be held to account”.

“This is my message as the prime minister and the leader of the party (HDZ). I have explained that to members of the HDZ and I am going to explain that to the (HDZ) main committee tomorrow,” Plenković said.

“The 13 October protest in Vukovar was focused on the prosecution of war crimes that had not been prosecuted. To raise further tensions between Croats and Serbs in Vukovar is not good, I will oppose that. Any act of raising tensions can have a spiralling effect which is not easily manageable, as we know from the past, and it should be thwarted immediately,” Plenković said.

More news on the Vukovar can be found in our Politics section.


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