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Serbia Unveils Controversial Monument to Yugoslav Officer

Ignoring Zagreb’s scorn, Serbian ministers and others honor a man whose legacy is interpreted in radically different ways in each country.

2 October 2017

Serbian officials inaugurated a monument honoring Major Milan Tepic, an officer of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, who sacrificed his life, killing Croatian soldiers in the process, during the Yugoslav Wars that broke out in 1991 as the country’s disintegration accelerated, Total Croatia News reports, citing Croatian daily Vecernji list.

 

On 29 September 1991, Tepic, in an attempt to prevent members of the Croatian National Guard and Croatian police from seizing weapons from the Barutana Depot near Bjelovar in central Croatia, blew up one of four military warehouses storing 1,700 tons of ammunition. Along with Tepic, 11 Croatian soldiers died in the blast.

 

Earlier this year, Serbia’s decision to honor Tepic with a monument sparked an argument with Croatia, where Teplic’s actions are interpreted in a different light. In March, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said at a news conference that, according to Croatian officials, unveiling the monument would harm bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries.

 

 

However, last week, Miro Kovac, a Croatian parliamentary member and former Croatian foreign minister, said that he interprets the ceremony as an act of confession, which may help improve the dialogue with Serbia, Total Croatia News writes.

 

According to Kovac, the memorial is “an unambiguous message that Serbia identifies with the military aggression on Croatia in the early 1990s.”


The memorial to Tepic, the last person to be awarded the Order of the National Hero of Yugoslavia, was unveiled in Belgrade last Friday, on the 26th anniversary of the Bjelovar siege.

 

The ceremony was attended by Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Minister of Labor and Employment Zoran Dordevic, along with representatives of the Serbian army and ordinary citizens.

 

 

  • This is far from the only recent dispute between Serbia and Croatia. Over the summer, the two countries instituted strict new requirements that affected food imports from their neighbor. 

 

  • Last year Serbian officials reacted with fury to the decision by the Croatian Supreme Court to order a new trial for Branimir Glavas, the highest-ranking former Croatian official to be convicted for crimes during the 1991–1995 war that tore Yugoslavia apart.

 

  • Serbia has also been protesting against a recently proposed law on the rights of Croatian war veterans, Vecernji list wrote last Wednesday, as cited by Total Croatia News. In the words of Serbia Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, this is because, “in this law, one article speaks about the aggression of Serbia and part of the inhabitants of Croatia. Such a definition and its introduction to the law are extremely difficult for us.”

 

  • Last Tuesday, a Croatian court sentenced Dragan Vasiljkovic, a former Serb paramilitary commander and Australian citizen, to 15 years in prison for war crimes committed in the 1990s, which include the killing and torture of prisoners.

Compiled by Peter Georgiev

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