Operation Storm

Operation Storm
Operation Storm
Part of the Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War
Operation storm map.jpg
Map of Operation Storm
Date 4–8 August 1995 (84 hours)
Location Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Result Total Croatian victory:[1]

Decisive Bosnian victory:[1]

Croatia regained 10,500 km2 (4,100 sq mi) of territory.

 Bosnia and Herzegovina

 Republic of Serbian Krajina

 Republika Srpska
AP Western Bosnia

Commanders and leaders
Croatia Zvonimir Červenko
Bosnia and Herzegovina Atif Dudaković
Republic of Serbian Krajina Mile Mrkšić

Fikret Abdić

130,000 soldiers (HV),[6]
~25,000 (ABiH)
350 tanks (HV)
15 tanks (ABiH)
500 artillery pieces,
50 rocket launchers,
18 aircraft,
~17-38 helicopters,
40,000 soldiers (VSK),
~10,000 soldiers (AWB),
400 tanks,
200 armored personnel carrier,
560 artillery pieces,
20 rocket launchers,
~320-360 air defence weapons,
~22-25 aircraft,
~13-22 helicopters,
Casualties and losses
174-196 soldiers killed,
1,100-1,430 wounded[7]
(1) 500-700 soldiers and 324[8]-677 civilians killed[9]
2,500 wounded
5,000 POW
90,000 refugees[10] (Croatian sources)
(2) 742 soldiers killed,
at least 1,196 civilians killed,
200,000[7]-250,000 refugees (Serbian sources)
(3)150,000-200,000 refugees (UN)

Operation Storm (Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian: Operacija Oluja, Cyrillic: Oпeрaциja Oлуja) is the code name given to a large-scale military operation carried out by Croatian Armed Forces, in conjunction with the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to gain back control of parts of Croatia which had been claimed by separatist ethnic Serbs, since early 1991.[11]

After the second Srebrenica Massacre, there were concerns that there would be a repeat of the massacre in the Bihać pocket area, where the population of Bosniaks was four times larger than in Srebrenica and which was surrounded and under attack by Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb forces, as well as by Bosniaks who were aided by the Serbs.

At dawn on 4 August 1995, the attack began with 150,000 Croatian Army troops amassed along 300 kilometres of front lines. Their forces soon broke through the lines of the Krajina Serb army and began a rapid advance toward the capital of Knin. By the second day of the operation, the Serb forces collapsed and the bulk of the RSK army retreated. The Croatian forces swiftly captured the entire region in four days, effectively ending the operation on 8 August. The operation, which lasted 84 hours, was documented as the largest European land offensive since World War II.[12]



The 1990 revolt of the Croatian Serbs was centered on the predominantly Serb-populated Krajina region and in predominantly Serbian towns (like Borovo) in eastern Croatia.[13]

The Serbs declared their independence from Croatia by proclaiming a Republic of Serbian Krajina, which remained internationally unrecognized, and initiated an armed conflict, supported by the Yugoslav People's Army, against Croatian police and civilians. A campaign of ethnic cleansing was then started by rebel Serb forces against Croatian civilians in the areas under their control and most non-Serbs were expelled by early 1993. As of November 1993, less than 400 ethnic Croats still resided in UNPA Sector South,[14] and between 1,500 and 2,000 remained in UNPA Sector North.[15]

In January 1992, a ceasefire agreement was signed by Presidents Franjo Tuđman of Croatia and Slobodan Milošević of Serbia to suspend fighting between the two sides. During the next three years, the conflict was mostly on hold: the Serbian side aimed at consolidating their territorial gains through Krajina, while the Croatian side aimed at returning those areas back to its jurisdiction. Croatian military operations, like Operation Medak Pocket and Operation Flash, started reducing the area of Krajina by returning small territories to Croatian control, while Serbs responded by shelling nearby Croatian towns[16][17][18] of which the most internationally notable was the Zagreb rocket attack during May, 1995.[19][20]

The HV (Hrvatska vojska) played a more active role in western Bosnia, acting in concert with the Bosnian Croat HVO to combat Bosnian Serb forces. This had several advantages for the Croatians: it helped to prop up the Bosnian Croat state, it gave Croatian army commanders valuable combat experience and it put the Croatians in a good strategic position to threaten the Croatian Serbs' supply lines in Bosnia.


Build-up to Operation Storm

Map of the territorial division of the Srpska vojska Krajine (SVK), 1995.

After Operation Flash in May 1995 Serbian president Slobodan Milošević had made the decision to help Krajina with material, General Milan Mrkšić from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the people of military age who were born in the Krajina.[21] A proposed peace plan, called Z-4 plan which would give Serbs autonomy inside Croatia, was not accepted.[22][23]


Although a military action was expected Milan Martić, the rebel Croatian Serb leader, and his staff refused the Z-4 plan in hopes of uniting with the Bosnian Serbs (led by Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić) and Serbia.[24]

The Croatian victory in July's Operation Summer '95 caused the Serbs in Krajina logistical problems as the road connecting the capitals of the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs had been taken. Morale fell to an all time low and the Krajina market was closed under local government orders.[25] They were also seriously undermined by internal political conflicts.[26]

The Croatian Serb army, the VSK, was also significantly undermanned. Their front extended 600 km and their area of control extended 100 km to the rear, along the Bihać pocket in Bosnia. It had 55,000 soldiers to cover this front and defend the rear. 16,000 of the VSK's troops were stationed in eastern Slavonia, leaving only a theoretical maximum 39,000 to defend the main part of the RSK.

Forces opposed to Serbs

In contrast, the Croatian and Bosnian armies (the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) had greatly strengthened their forces. They had re-equipped with more weaponry from former republics of the USSR, despite the arms embargoes that were in force, which Croatia saw as a political manoeuvre of pro-Serbian political forces to keep Croatia unarmed against hyper-armed Serbs and the JNA. The Croatian forces had received instruction by a U.S.-based firm, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), headed by retired General Carl Vuono, which provided (along with French Foreign Legion organized training camp in Šepurine near Zadar) mainly the commissioned-officers training, but had no significant intelligence activities or professional influence on senior Croatian military strategy and tactics.[27] Its engagement was approved by the U.S. government.[28] They also had strategic advantages, with much shorter lines of communication than their enemies. These advantages were demonstrated in May 1995, when the Croatian Army rapidly overran a Serb-held area of SAO Western Slavonia in Operation Flash. Serb forces retaliated by attacking the capital Zagreb with Orkan missiles from the Krajina; killing 7 and wounding over 175 civilians.

Operations in July–August 1995

In July 1995, the Croatian and Bosnian armies jointly captured the crucial western Bosnian towns of Glamoč, and Bosansko Grahovo, along with Livno's western villages. This cut vital Croatian Serb supply lines and effectively meant that the Croatian Serb capital of Knin was surrounded on three sides. The rebel Croatian Serbs joined the Bosnian Serbs (aided by Fikret Abdić's Bosniak rebels) in an offensive aimed at eliminating the Bihać pocket which had been surrounded since 1992 and held over 40,000 Bosnian refugees. The international community feared a repeat of a Srebrenica Genocide there.

During the last week of July and the first few days of August 1995, the Croatian Army undertook a massive military build-up along the front lines in the Krajina and western Slavonia.

Effect of NATO Actions

Another important and perhaps not as widely recognized issue was the role of NATO in the operation.[clarification needed] Prior to the Operation, they were actively involved in tracking General Gotovina's movements and those of his army. NATO forces assisted in clearing Serb blockades and with logistical and communications issues. This occurred as a result of their wish to push the Serbs to the negotiating table, in Dayton, Ohio. See a discussion of NATO and United States operational problems.

Brijuni Talks

On July 31, 1995, a meeting of Croatia’s top military and political leadership was held on the island of Brijuni.[29] Tudjman apparently spoke about "blows that will make the Serbs all but disappear, in other words, those we don’t reach immediately, must capitulate in the next few days."[30]

The transcript of the meeting later formed the basis of the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's allegation of a joint criminal enterprise found in the indictment against generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac.[31] The prosecution of the ICTY alleged that the content of the meeting was evidence of existence of a joint criminal enterprise to forcibly remove the Serb population from Croatia and prevent their return.[30] According to the prosecution, the Brijuni Transcripts demonstrated a shared intent to forcibly remove Serbs from the area through means such as shelling, destruction, looting, intimidation, and violence, while the defense maintains that Tudjman specifically spoke about rebel Serb military units when he referred to Serbs needing to "all but disappear"[32]

The Croatian Chief State Prosecutor's Office has verified the authenticity of the recording of the Brijuni meeting.[33][34] Tudjman's words indicate his intent to move the civilian population out of the area while issuing false human rights guarantees.

It is important that these [Serb] civilians start moving and then the army will follow them, and when the columns start moving, they will have a psychological effect on each other.[...] That means we provide them with an exit, while on the other hand we feign to guarantee civilian human rights and the like...

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman[35]


Before the beginning of the operation, both sides were present at peace talks in Switzerland on 3 August 1995. Croatia's demand was for the Croatian Serb rebels to reintegrate into Croatia, which the Serbs refused, even though military action was expected.

In a special proclamation, the president of Croatia, Franjo Tuđman called for the Serb population which had not taken part in the war to remain in their homes and promised that their rights would be respected.[36][37] Croatian Army representatives also declared that they would leave corridors open for civilians wishing to flee to Bosnia. Throughout the Operation, the Army held regular news conferences, displaying maps of operations on the ground.

4 August 1995

At 0300 on 4 August, UN forces had been warned about Croatian attack which would start 2 hours later[38] when 150,000 Croatian Army troops attacked along a 300 km front. The Croatian 4th Guards Brigade and the 7th Guards Brigade broke through the lines of the Serb forces and advanced deep toward the capital. Much of the rebel Croatian Serb leadership had already left for Serbia and Bosnia.

Main attacks

The main part of the operation was conducted by Croatian Guard Brigades which had attacked at many different points in order to effectively split the RSK in few separate areas. For the opening phase of the operation, other units simply held the front, but would later surround and force surrender of remaining pockets of resistance.

In the main operation, the 1st Guards Brigade attacked toward Saborsko and Plitvice Lakes, with its objective being a linkup with Bosnia and Herzegovina troops who had attacked Krajina from the Bihać pocket. Simultaneously, the 2nd Guards Brigade attacked with the primary objective of capturing Glina and Petrinja, followed by a linkup with troops in the Žirovac area. During first day of fighting around Petrinja, the 2nd Guards Brigade encountered unexpectedly stiff resistance and suffered heavy losses (18 guardsmen killed and 5 tanks destroyed). To solve the problem, President Tuđman gave general Petar Stipetić overall command in the region.[citation needed] He regrouped the units at his command and managed to defeat the enemy, although the rebels managed to evacuate most of their equipment.

The 4th and 7th Guards Brigades attacked from Bosnia and Herzegovina territory toward the capital Knin of Krajina. The bulk of the 9th Guards Brigade attacked toward Ljubovo and Udbina, but a smaller part attacked from Velebit mountain toward Sveti Rok (taken on 4 August) and Gračac.

During the first day of fighting, a significant event was the cutting of the road Knin-Slunj, which blocked by the 21 Kordun Corps from supporting Krajina forces in Lika or Knin. Initially, resistance was strong — especially in the Kordun, Petrinja and Lika regions — but following the first day resistance collapsed and the bulk of the RSK army retreated.

August 4, order by the RSK Supreme Defence Council ordering evacuation of civilians from towns along the front line in the Knin area.

Evacuation of civilians

The rebel Serb Supreme Defence Council met under president Milan Martić to discuss the situation. A decision was reached at 16:45 to "start evacuating the population unfit for military service from the municipalities of Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac, Drniš and Gračac." These towns were along the front line in the southern tip of the RSK. The order further stated the evacuation was "to be carried out according to the plan towards direction of Knin and furthermore via Otrić, and towards Srb and Lapac", towns in the interior of the RSK near the Una River which marks the boundary with Bosnia-Herzegovina.[39]

Suppression of air defense by NATO

On the same day, "Two U. S. Navy EA-6Bs and two U. S. Navy F/A-18Cs", patrolling Croatian and Bosnian airspace as part of Operation Deny Flight to enforce no-fly zones, attacked two Serb surface-to-air missile radar sites near Knin and Udbina. The attack, using AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles, were "in self-defence after the aircraft electronic warning devices indicated they were being targeted by anti-aircraft missiles."[40]

5 August 1995

On 5 August, Knin and most of the Dalmatian hinterland were captured by Croatian forces, with only sporadic resistance encountered from the VSK.

The 5th Corps of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina started an offensive, attacking the VSK from the rear and crossing the border in multiple places from north-western Bosnia and linking up with the Croatian Army near the Plitvice Lakes, well inside Croatia.

Large refugee columns formed in many parts of Croatian Serb territory, so virtually the entire Serb population fled into Bosnia along the evacuation corridors established by the Croatian military under a cease-fire agreement brokered by the United Nations which, according to spokesman Philip Arnold, feared that assisting those fleeing the region would open UN to charges of contributing to ethnic cleansing.[41]

During battle for Knin 1000 civilians of Serb nationality would come under protection of UN forces. Of this number 340 would later stay in Croatia, 61 would be suspected by Croats of war crimes and arrested and the rest would leave for Serbia[42]

6 August 1995

On August 6, the Croatian 1st Guards Brigade and allied units of the Bosnian Army's 5th Corps continued to advance into rebel Serb-controlled territory near Slunj (north of Plitvice) and reached the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The towns of Petrinja, Kostajnica, Obrovac, Korenica, Slunj, Bruvno, Vrhovine, Plaški, Cetingrad, Plitvice and Glina were all captured during the course of the day. Strong resistance was only encountered in the town of Glina (south of Sisak). The Croatian-held town of Karlovac was subjected to retaliatory shelling by the VSK, and Bosnian Serb aircraft attacked a chemical plant in the town of Kutina. President Tuđman staged a triumphal entry into Knin, where the Croatian flag was raised above the fortress that dominates the old town.

7 August 1995

Fighting continued on 7 August but at a much lower intensity than on the previous days. Two Serb aircraft were shot down near Daruvar and Pakrac, and the towns of Turanj and Dvor na Uni were captured. Croatian and Bosnian army units linked up at Zirovać, to the east of the Bihać pocket. The Bosnian town of Velika Kladuša, which had been the "capital" of the self-proclaimed breakaway Republic of Western Bosnia (Bosniak forces of Fikret Abdić), was captured by Bosnian forces. In the evening, Croatian Defence Minister Gojko Šušak declared the end to major combat operations, as most of the border with Bosnia was controlled by the Croatian Army and only mopping-up actions remained to be completed.[citation needed]

8 August 1995 onwards

The last mopping-up actions took place on 8 August with the unopposed capture of Gornji Lapac, Donji Lapac and Vojnić. On 9 August, the surrounded VSK's 21st Corps (Kordun) surrendered en masse to the Croatian Army near Vojnić.[43][44]

By this time, virtually the entire Serb population of the Krajina was on the move, crossing into Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia. The exodus was complicated by the presence of armed Krajina Serb soldiers among the civilian refugees. A large refugee column that was moving on the Glina-Dvor road during August 1995 suffered casualties on two occasions: one report mentions Croatian army shelling of the column[citation needed], and another mentions tanks of the Serbian 2nd Tank Brigade with Mile Novaković making their way through the road without regard to Serb civilians.[45]

The Croatian government claimed that around 90,000 Serb civilians had fled:

Upon instructions from my Government I have the honour to address you concerning a letter circulated as a document of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities

E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/45, dated 11 August 1995[46]

Serbian sources claimed as many as 250,000 refugees. The United Nations put the figure at 150,000-200,000. The BBC reports the number to be 200,000.[47][48]

On 21 August, the Croatian Army reported that 174 Croatian soldiers had been killed in the offensive and 1,430 wounded[7] while 700 Serbian soldiers were killed.

Although after Operation Flash it has become clear that the Krajina army was less capable than the Croatian Army, its lack of serious resistance came as a surprise. The Croatian Army had reportedly expected at least a week's fighting. However, other than the fighting around Glina, the rebel Serb military response proved little more than symbolic in most places. The VSK largely collapsed, many of its soldiers deserting and joining the civilian exodus and others carrying their weapons into Bosnia. Around 5,000 were said to have surrendered and handed in their weapons to Croatian and UN forces.

Operation Storm did not target the Serb-occupied areas of eastern Slavonia, along the border with Serbia, which was the easternmost end of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (though geographically disconnected from the other Serb-held areas of Croatia). Although there were fears of a direct military confrontation between Croatia and Serbia in eastern Slavonia, large-scale armed conflict was not resumed in that region.


Military and political

In the days immediately following Operation Storm, Croatian Army and Ministry of the Interior (MUP) units conducted a series of follow-up operations in the Krajina region. The majority of the Croatian Army forces withdrew from the area in August 1995. After the operation, joint Croatian and Bosnian forces would continue the offensive in western Bosnia, advancing towards Bosnian Serb capital Banja Luka.

Operation Storm lifted the siege of Bihać. Bosnian general Atif Dudaković (commander of the Bihać 5th Corps) said that Operation Storm was an answer to the Split agreement signed by presidents Tudjman and Izetbegovic that pledged aid to the besieged pocket.[49]

Neither Serbian President Slobodan Milošević nor the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army came to the aid of the Krajina Serbs during the offensive. Although Milošević condemned the Croatian military assault, the Serbian government-controlled press also attacked the Krajina Serb leaders, claiming they were unfit to hold office.[50]

Operation Storm was seen as a total reversal of the military balance of power in the region. Along with NATO's bombing campaign in Bosnia (Operation Deliberate Force), Operation Storm and its follow-up offensives in western Bosnia were seen as vital contributing factors to peace talks resuming, that would result with the Dayton Agreement a few months later.[51]

In a highly publicized event, Croatia organized a Freedom Train; running from Zagreb to Knin as a symbol of a free and unified Croatia, since until Operations Flash and Storm, the country was effectively split into 2 segments with little or no land communication. The government maintained the operation was justified on the grounds that a sovereign state has the right to be in control of its own territory; they also insisted that Croatian Serbs not involved in "war crimes" would be able to return to the area.[52]

The Krajina Serbs fled approaching Croat forces to Serb-held parts of Bosnia and Serbia. The European Union Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia Carl Bildt called it on 7 August 1995, "the most efficient ethnic cleansing we've seen in the Balkans."[53] The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Bildt's assessment was "unfounded."[54] German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel released a statement expressing "regret" about the offensive but added, "We can't forget that the years of Serb aggression ... have sorely tried Croatia's patience."[55] The United States government called for "restraint," but said the military operation had been "provoked initially by a Krajina Serb attack on the Muslim enclave of Bihać."[55] The military operations by the army continued in Bosnia-Herzegovina under Operation Mistral.

Former President Bill Clinton wrote in his memoirs that he believed the Serbs could only be brought to the negotiating table if they sustained major losses on the ground.[56] The negotiations produced the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war in the Balkans.

Former US peace negotiator Richard Holbrooke said "he realised how much the Croatian offensive in the Krajina profoundly changed the nature of the Balkan game and thus this diplomatic offensive."[57] Retired four-star General Wesley Clark, Director, Strategic Plans and Policy (J5) for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and later Supreme Allied Commander Europe simply called it a turning point.[citation needed]

In 2005, Prime Minister of Croatia Ivo Sanader said, "Storm is a brilliant historical military and police operation that we can be proud of, the operation which liberated central parts of the occupied Croatia." Furthermore, he stated that if a sovereign country is occupied, it has the right to liberate its territory.

War crimes

During Operation Storm and its aftermath, the ICTY has concluded that a total of 324 people, both civilians and soldiers were killed.[58][8] At least 150,000 Serb civilians left the Krajina before the operation.[59] Before the numbers were official, the Croatian Helsinki Committee estimated 116 people were killed, while Serbs contended 1200 civilians were killed. The difference in the numbers of murdered civilians might be explained by the fact, that the distinction between soldiers and civilians was difficult (e.g. Slobodan Lazarevic: "Everyone was to blame for something, no one could say that they had not done anything and, therefore, all had a reason to depart from Croatia").[60] Out of the 122 Serbian Orthodox churches in the area, 17 were damaged, but only one was completely destroyed.[citation needed]According to a claim in the September 1995 communiqué from the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the U.N., most of the damage to the Orthodox churches occurred prior to the Serbian retreat.[61][unreliable source?]

In the years following Operation Storm, Croatian authorities have uncovered over 3,000 bodies, presumed by the authorities to be murdered Croatians, in mass graves in the former Krajina territory, buried since the Serb ethnic cleansing campaign in 1991.[5][not in citation given]

In June 2008, during the prosecution of Ante Gotovina at the Hague, Canadian general Andrew Leslie claimed between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians were victims of the shelling of Knin on 4 and 5 August 1995. Mladen Markac’s defense counsel cited this as an example of gross exaggerations of Serb casualties by the UN personnel in the field. Canadian general Forand didn’t want to comment on Leslie’s claim, saying only that something like that was never registered in the situation reports drafted by the Sector South command.[62]

The decision to launch Operation Storm is not controversial; what is controversial, however, is ‘the successful effort’ of some Croatian officials headed by President Franjo Tudjman to ‘exploit the circumstances’ and implement the plan to drive Serbs out of Krajina.[63]
— ICTY prosecutor Alain Tieger about separating Operation Storm from war crimes done afterwards

In April 2011, the ICTY brought a first degree verdict. Ante Gotovina was sentenced to 24 and Mladen Markač to 18 years in prison. Ivan Čermak was acquitted of all charges.[58] The verdict also directly identified President Franjo Tuđman as part of a joint criminal enterprise dedicated to expelling Serb residents of the country's Krajina region.[64] The ICTY, however, did not rule that Operation Storm as a whole was a "joint criminal enterprises" or that Croatia was established on an illegitimate basis. Rather the judges ruled that some aspects of the military offensive violated international law.[65]

The verdict divided the public opinion. Jeffrey T. Kuhner criticized ICTY's decision since it didn't take into consideration the fact that Operation Storm nullified Greater Serbia:

"The U.N. court is a politicized vehicle that aspires to render history’s final judgment on the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And its verdict is clear: All sides were guilty of atrocities; no party — or nation — was more responsible than the other. This is what Serbia has been demanding for years. It has sought to cover its genocidal culpability and national shame with moral equivalence.[66]


An old refugee in a tractor trailer, after crossing Yugoslav border

Operation Storm caused an estimated 100,000-250,000 Serbs to flee for Republic of Srpska and Serbia; whether the exodus was forced to occur by advancing Croatian Armed Forces, or if the Krajina Serb government ordered most Serbs to flee prior to the offensive, or if there was another reason for emigration is a disputed matter.

Most Serbs fleeing the Krajina region went to Banja Luka or to Serbia proper. The majority of them were resettled in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, and a smaller number were in predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo in southern Serbia.

In the first days after the offensive, Serbia accepted arriving refugees, but, starting between 12 and 13 August, the authorities conscripted able-bodied men who had recently arrived from the Krajina area and sent them to Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia and eastern Slavonia, assigned to Serbian armed forces there.[67] On 12 August, Serbia also announced that men of military age would no longer be allowed to cross from Bosnian Serb-controlled territory into Serbia proper, claiming that it had accepted 107,000 refugees from Krajina since 4 August.

Some of the RSK refugees were declared illegal migrants by FRY authorities and many were deported. Some were reportedly turned over by the police to paramilitary units of Željko Ražnatović, a.k.a. Arkan, in the latter's base in the village of Erdut in eastern Slavonia and reported being mistreated by Arkan's men. Reportedly, conscripted refugees taken to eastern Slavonia had been beaten and humiliated in public because they "surrendered Krajina to the enemy."[68]

The large influx of refugees raised local tensions and Vojvodina's sizable Croatian minority was harassed. Liberal opposition leaders in Vojvodina and Croatian government representatives in Belgrade, asserted that between 800 and 1,000 Croats left Vojvodina during August 1995 due to eviction and intimidations from Krajina refugees and local extremists.[69][clarification needed][70][clarification needed]

In The Guardian, Jonathan Steele wrote: "I remember being stunned at how quickly victims can turn into villains. In the town of Gibarac just inside the border of Serbia, I watched newly arrived Serb refugees being helped to find shelter by local relatives who went into homes and evicted Croatian families."[71]

Approximately 50,000 refugees remained in Bosnian Serb territory (largely in the Banja Luka area). In retaliation for their displacement, some refugees — with the assistance of Serbian paramilitary groups — forcibly evicted Croats and Muslims from their homes in the area. Other abuses — including execution and disappearance of non-Serbs — also intensified in the Bosanska Krajina area after the August 1995 offensive in Croatia. Local and regional Bosnian Serb authorities encouraged the expulsion of Croats and Muslims from the region, particularly in September and October 1995.[72]

Government of Republika Srpska has on other side ordered the expulsion of all Croats and Muslims from the Banja Luka region. Only exception are Croat and Muslim males of military age.[73] Croatia claims that in the weeks following the operation, over 1,000 Bosnian Croat families were expelled and many were tortured and killed as revenge.[74] Killings of non-Serbs took place in Bosnia (Banja Luka, Prijedor, Bosanski Novi, and Bosanska Dubica) in September and October, in part to make room for Serb refugees who fled after Operation Storm. Croats reportedly were particular targets for revenge. U.N. and other international observers collected numerous accounts of killings and other atrocities. Only about 3,000 Croats remained in Banja Luka after the war out of 29,000 that had lived there.[75]

Approximately 300,000 Croatian Serbs were displaced during the entire war, only a third of which (or about 117,000) are officially registered as having returned as of 2005. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 200,000 Croatian refugees, mostly Croatian Serbs, are still displaced in neighbouring countries and elsewhere. Many Croatian Serbs cannot return because they have lost their tenancy rights and under threats of intimidation. Croatian Serbs continue to be the victim of discrimination in access to employment and with regard to other economic and social rights. Some cases of violence and harassment against Croatian Serbs continue to be reported.[76] Some of the Croatian Serbs will not return out of fear of being charged for war crimes, as the Croatian police has secret war crime suspect lists; Croatia passed an Amnesty law for anyone who had not taken an active part in the war, but many do not know if they are on amnesty list or not because amnesty rules are not clear enough.[77][78] The return of refugees is further complicated by the fact that many Croats and Bosniaks (some expelled from Bosnia) have taken residence in their vacated houses. Another reason for the non-return of refugees is the fact that areas that were under Croatian Serb control during the 1991-95 period were economically ruined (unemployment in RSK was 92%). Since that time, Croatia has started a series of projects aimed at rebuilding these areas and jump-starting the economy (including special tax exemptions), but unemployment is still high.

The primary Serb political party in Croatia, SDSS supports the current Croatian government and has made speeding up the return of refugees its main priority. The Croatian government has passed a number of laws aimed at enabling easier return to refugees.

According to the ICTY's verdict, the population was already on the move due to the shelling of the towns before the Krajina authorities ordered evacuations. Later in August at least a further 20,000 people were the subject of deportation by way of forcible displacement due to crimes and inhumane acts.[58] The Trial Chamber states that "members of the Croatian military forces and the Special Police committed deportation as a crime against humanity of more than 20,000 Krajina Serbs".[79][58]

Later events

The ICTY issued indictments against three senior Croatian commanders, Colonel General Ivan Čermak, Colonel General Mladen Markač and Brigadier (later General) Ante Gotovina.[31] The three indictees were said to have had personal and command responsibility for war crimes carried out against rebel Serb forces and civilians. The indictment states the creation of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was to permanently remove the Serbian population through commission of crimes (plunder, inhumane treatment, murder, wanton destruction, looting and others) and prevent their return.[80] It was later disclosed by the ICTY prosecutor, Louise Arbour, that had he not died when he did, Croatia's President Tuđman would probably also have been indicted.

Čermak and Markač were handed over to the ICTY, but Gotovina fled. He was widely believed to be at liberty in Croatia or the Croat-inhabited parts of Bosnia, where many view him as a hero, and his continued freedom was attributed to covert help from — or at least a "blind eye" turned by — the Croatian authorities. The US Government offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Ante Gotovina and he became one of the ICTY's most wanted men. The issue was a major stumbling block for Croatia's international relations. Its application to join the European Union was rebuffed in March 2005 due to the Croatian government's perceived complicity in Gotovina's continued evasion of the ICTY.

On 8 December 2005, Gotovina was captured by Spanish police in a hotel on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He was transferred to Madrid for court proceedings before extradition to the ICTY at The Hague. The ICTY later joined the proceedings against the three generals into a single case. The trial started in March 2008 and concluded in September 2010.


In Croatia, the date August 5 was chosen as the Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders. Conversely, in Serbia and Republika Srpska, commemorations are held for Serbs killed or exiled from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during operation Storm.[81]

Battle figures

According to a Croatian source.[6]

Croatian forces and allies

Croatian Army (HV):

  • 130,000 strong
    • 80,000 soldiers in brigades, 70,000 in home guard regiments (domobranske pukovnije)
    • 2nd echelon, 50,000
    • 3rd echelon, 25 brigades
  • 280 T-55 and 80 M-84 tanks
  • 800 heavy artillery pieces
  • 45-50 rocket launchers
  • 18 MiG-21 "Fishbed" fighter jets
  • 5 Mi-8 "Hip" transport helicopters
  • 12 Mi-24D "Hind" attack helicopters

Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ABiH):

  • 5th Corps (Bihać pocket forces — five Mountain Infantry brigades)
  • 25,000 soldiers est.
  • 15 T-55 tanks
  • 80 heavy artillery pieces

Serbian forces and allies

Army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (VRSK)

  • 40,000 strong
    • 20,000 1st echelon
    • 10,000 2nd echelon
    • 10,000 3rd echelon
  • 400 tanks (30 M-84, 2 T-72 MBT's, +200 T-55 + some T-34/85 tanks)
  • 160 APC's and IFV's (M-60P, M-80A, BTR-50, BRDM-2 and BOV APC)
  • 560 artillery pieces
  • 28 Multi-rocket launchers (M-63 Plamen, M-77 Oganj and M-87 Orkan)
  • 18 Soko Gazelle and Mi-8 helicopters
  • 360 air defence weapons (SA-2, SA-7, SA-9, ZSU-57-2, BOV-3, Bofors L/70)
  • 25 aircraft (G-2 Galeb, J-21 Jastreb, J-20 Kraguj and Utva 66)

Army of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia

  • 7,000 strong

See also


  1. ^ a b Leutloff-Grandits, Carolin: Claiming ownership in postwar Croatia: the dynamics of property relations and ethnic conflict in the Knin region. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006, page 69. ISBN 3-8258-8049-4
  2. ^ "Yugoslavia-Croatia ties". The New York Times. 1996-09-10. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/10/world/yugoslavia-croatia-ties.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  3. ^ Helm, Sarah (1995-08-09). "Weary Bihac cries with joy as siege ends". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/weary-bihac-cries-with-joy-as-siege-ends-1595403.html. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  4. ^ Bonner, Raymond (1995-08-09). "After Long Siege, Bosnians Relish 'First Day of Freedom'". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/09/world/after-long-siege-bosnians-relish-first-day-of-freedom.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  5. ^ a b Crown Home Page
  6. ^ a b (Croatian) Croatian War of Independence 1995.08.04. - 08.08. - "Oluja"
  7. ^ a b c http://www.b92.net/eng/news/in_focus.php?id=111&start=0&nav_id=35990
  8. ^ a b "Verdict due on Friday 15 April at ICTY for Croatian ex-general Ante Gotovina". The Hague Justice Portal. 14 April 2011. http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/eCache/DEF/12/548.html. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Croatia: Helsinki Committee contests prosecutor’s data on war crimes". Adnkronos. 28 April 2011. http://www.adnkronos.com/IGN/Aki/English/Politics/Croatia-Helsinki-Committee-contests-prosecutors-data-on-war-crimes_311952970198.html. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Madey, Neven (14 August 1995). Letter from the Chargé d'affaires. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Accessed 5 September 2009.
  11. ^ "Croatia: Impunity for Abuses Committed during "OPERATION STORM" and the denial of the Right of Refugees to return to the Krajina". Human Rights Watch 8 (13 (D)). August 1996. http://www.hrw.org/reports/1996/Croatia.htm 
  12. ^ Sisk, Robert (1995-08-05). "Two Navy Planes Fire on Serb Missile Sites". New York Daily News. http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/greenside/761/168krajina95.html. Retrieved 2008-04-13 
  13. ^ The Prosecutor of the Tribunial Against Slobodan Milosevic. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Accessed 13 September 2009.
  14. ^ U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (January 31, 1994). "CROATIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993; Section 2, part d". http://www.hri.org/docs/USSD-Rights/93/Croatia93.html 
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  18. ^ "Rebel Serbs List 50 Croatia Sites They May Raid". New York Times. 13 September 1993. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/13/world/rebel-serbs-list-50-croatia-sites-they-may-raid.html?scp=3&sq=karlovac%20shelling&st=cse. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
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  28. ^ Smith, Eugene B. (Winter, 2002). "The new condottieri and US policy: The Privatization of Conflict and its implications". Parameters (United States Army War College): 5–6. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0IBR/is_4_32/ai_95447364/pg_5. Retrieved 2008-04-13 
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  32. ^ Case against Gotovina, Monday, 23 March 2009 - ICTY
  33. ^ Government Decides To Lift Classification Seal from Transcripts HRT
  34. ^ Program with the surfaced recordings - HRT — Croatian National Television
  35. ^ 17 Transcripts and Thousands of Pieces of Evidence Against the Generals, Nacional number 594, 2007-04-03
  36. ^ Untitled Document
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  43. ^ http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/serbian_digest/202/t202-3.htm
  44. ^ http://public.carnet.hr/mvp_news/hna/Kolovoz95/0809952.hna.html
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  47. ^ Prodger, Matt (5 August 2005). "Evicted Serbs remember Storm". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4747379.stm. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
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  • RSK, Vrhovni savjet odbrane, Knin, 4. August 1995., 16.45 časova, Broj 2-3113-1/95. The faximile of this document was published in: Rade Bulat "Srbi nepoželjni u Hrvatskoj", Naš glas (Zagreb), br. 8.-9., septembar 1995., p. 90.-96. (the faximile is on the page 93.).
    Vrhovni savjet odbrane RSK (The Supreme Council of Defense of Republic of Serb Krajina) brought a decision 4. August 1995 in 16.45. This decision was signed by Milan Martić and later verified in Glavni štab SVK (Headquarters of Republic of Serb Krajina Army) in 17.20.
  • RSK, Republički štab Civilne zaštite, Broj: Pov. 01-82/95., Knin, 02.08.1995., HDA, Dokumentacija RSK, kut. 265
    This is the document of Republic headquarters of Civil Protection of RSK. In this document it was ordered to all subordinated headquarters of RSK to immediately give all reports about preparations for the evacuation, sheltering and taking care of evacuated civilians ("evakuacija, sklanjanje i zbrinjavanje") (the deadline for the report was 3. August 1995 in 19 h).
  • RSK, Republički štab Civilne zaštite, Broj: Pov. 01-83/95., Knin, 02.08.1995., Pripreme za evakuaciju materijalnih, kulturnih i drugih dobara (The preparations for the evacuation of material, cultural and other goods), HDA, Dokumentacija RSK, kut. 265
    This was the next order from the Republican HQ of Civil Protection.
    It was referred to all Municipal Headquarters of Civil Protection. In that document was ordered to all subordinated HQ's to implement the preparation of evacuation of all material and all mobile cultural goods, archives, evidentions and materials that are highly confidential/top secret, money, lists of valuable stuff (?)("vrednosni popisi") and referring documentations.
  • Drago Kovačević, "Kavez — Krajina u dogovorenom ratu" , Beograd 2003. , p. 93.-94.
  • Milisav Sekulić, "Knin je pao u Beogradu" , Bad Vilbel 2001., p. 171.-246., p. 179.
  • Marko Vrcelj, "Rat za Srpsku Krajinu 1991-95" , Beograd 2002., p. 212.-222.

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