Croatia continues to wage a political war against Serbia and threaten that Belgrade will face consequences for pressing charges against four Croatian pilots who had shelled a refugee column of Serbs banished in the Operation Storm on Petrovac road in 1995 and killed 13 civilians, including six children.

Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković pointed out on Friday that he will protect high-ranking Croatian officers against whom the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges, adding that “Serbia is taking steps backwards in building reconciliation with moves like these”.

“This is not good for the relations at all, and it is creating a polarized atmosphere which we, as a responsible government, will know how to resolve,” said Plenković.

According to him, at this time Zagreb has not received specific documents, nor a request for assistance.

“As I have already said, it is our opinion that the entire Homeland War, and especially the operations Flash and Storm, form a part of the liberation efforts to protect our territory, and there had never been a command aimed at civilian objectives.”

Milorad Pupovac, Member of Parliament and president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in Croatia, believes that there is room for renewed relations and cooperation between Croatia and Serbia despite the indictments of four high-ranking Croatian officials for shelling Serbian civilians in the refugee column in August 1995.

“There has been no cooperation on judicial or political matters since 2019, for judicial representatives to meet and reach an agreement and open this issue that can only complicate the relations of the two governments. Without that, there can hardly be a quality solution. Croatia should not play hero with the statements that it will dismiss such indictments, seeing as trying war crimes is an obligation it has taken on with the Law on Cooperation with the ICTY and the EU accession agreement, which in Article 7 undertakes to continue prosecuting war crimes.”

As Pupovac said, “this crime has been known to the authorities of both Croatia and Serbia and the ICTY in Hague since 1995. How it all fell into the background is a different conversation”.

“Croatia’s lack of cooperation played an important role and a decisive influence there, and then others were under the impression that it was not being prosecuted. It is important to know that this is a war crime where civilians were killed in a refugee column 30 kilometers from the Croatian border, on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it is known where the aircraft had taken off from and which area they operated in. This case is one of many instances of participation in war crimes where Croatia has not fulfilled its obligation,” said Pupovac.

The topic of indictment dominated the Croatian media yesterday. The daily 7Dnevno published a piece titled “Milanović Preparing for War With Serbia”, which stated that the President of Croatia will defend the pilots in order to prevent Serbia from entering the European Union:

“According to Milanović’s associates, Serbia violated the international law and Croatian sovereignty with the indictment, and Milanović is prepared to base his next attacks on that thesis, demanding that Croatia block Serbian negotiations with the European Union, which many Croatian right-wing representatives have insisted on for decades.

The Večernje Novosti write that the indictment of the Croatian pilots, which has been returned to the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office for revision, is again in the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade, awaiting confirmation. Namely, the Prosecution was asked to speak with the defendants and take their statements. The prosecutors then explained that this was impossible, as they are unavailable to Serbia due to Croatia’s lack of cooperation. For that reason, a suggestion was made that they be tried in absentia.