In August 1995, the troops of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted a joint military operation against the Serbian Krajina. She entered history as the operation “Storm” (Horv. Operacija Oluja, Serb. Operation Oluјa). As a result of this operation, the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Republic of Western Bosnia, established in 1991, were liquidated. This military operation has become one of the largest ethnic cleansing in Europe. Around 150 - 200 Thousands of Serbs became refugees. Croatian military groups and police special forces carried out a sweep of the territory, destroying entire villages and killing those who remained, mostly elderly people. Hundreds of civilians were killed. In Serbia, and some researchers in Russia consider the organizers of this operation to be war criminals and put the Croatian military on a par with the functionaries of the Ustasha regime (a Croatian Nazi organization marked by the genocide of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews during the Second World War). In Serbia and the Republika Srpska, the day of the start of Operation “The Tempest” is a day of national mourning. In Croatia, it is considered the day of victory.
The collapse of Yugoslavia was accompanied by a series of military conflicts in which the factor of ethno-nationalism and religious hatred (the conflict of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam) played a huge role. A fierce war began in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States, NATO and the UN have become active participants in the conflict. It must be said that the Yugoslav and Post-Yugoslav problems are not only Balkan, and even not only European, but also global. Here we see the collision along the North-South line (expansion of the Islamic project) and the West-East confrontation. The Serbs stood in the way of building the New World Order, where there is no room for the main Christian values that Orthodoxy supports.
The defeat of the Serbs in these conflicts was also due to the policy of Josip Broz Tito, who organized the Federation according to the principle of national republics and autonomous territories (the same “mine” was laid under the USSR and continues to exist in the Russian Federation). At the same time, we should not forget that Yugoslavia pursued a policy of “sitting on two chairs”, being a “Trojan horse” in a socialist camp and receiving help from the United States and NATO for decades. We had to pay with the loss of a significant part of the Serbian territories, a decline in the morale of the population, and the fact that Belgrade at the beginning of the 21 century almost completely fell under the West. The decayed Yugoslav party apparatus played a big role in this, people in power in Serbia did not want to defend the state. Instead of active actions, including power, they gave up one position after another, betraying the national interests of Serbia. As a result, the situation reached the loss of the “heart of Serbia” - the province of Kosovo.
The main focus of the Yugoslav war was Croatia. This was due to the fact that there was a border between the Catholic and Orthodox worlds. Nothing special except religion, the Serbs and Croats did not differ, being once a single Slavic people. In addition, many Croats of Dalmatia, Slavonia, and Herzegovina were surrounded by Serbs. The enmity between the Serbs and the Croats was created for centuries, and the Vatican played the most important role in this process. Already during the First World War, the first Serb pogroms, concentration camps and punitive expeditions against the Serbs followed, in which many Croats took part. Vienna sanctioned the prosecution of the Serbs because of the conflict with Serbia. Until the second half of the 19 century, the Serbs were a relatively privileged, militarized group of people who defended the borders of the empire from the Turks. During the Second World War, the Independent State of Croatia was established and Ustashi began to solve the Serbian question according to the principle: “destroy one-third of the Serbs, expel one-third, and cross the third.” Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were exterminated in concentration camps, Croat-Muslim troops, Wehrmacht, Hungarian and Albanian formations. After the end of the Second World War in New Yugoslavia, Eastern Slavonia, Baranya, West Srem, Lika, Kordun and Dalmatia were included in Croatia. Proposals for local Serb communities in the areas where they constituted the majority, autonomy similar to those of Vojvodina and Kosovo, were rejected by the Allied authorities.
In the spring of 1991, the first armed clashes between the Croatian police and the Serb forces took place. In April 1991, the Serbs proclaimed autonomy in the territories where they constituted the majority of the population. In Zagreb, this step was considered a rebellion. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior has authorized the formation of a significant number of special police units. Franjo Tudjman signed a decree on the creation of the National Guard of Croatia, which became the core of the Croatian armed forces. The Serbs boycotted the Croatian independence referendum. 25 June 1991, the Croatian authorities adopted a declaration of independence. A month after the creation of an independent Croatia, about 30% of its territory was controlled by armed units of the Krajina Serbs and the Yugoslav people's army. The confrontation grew into a real war that lasted for several years. Croats actively supported the NATO countries, especially the United States and Germany. Help also came through private military companies.
At the end of 1994, through the mediation of the UN, Knin (the capital of the Serbian Krajina) and Zagreb concluded an economic agreement that concerned the freedom of movement of transport communications, the operation of the pipeline and the power system. However, a political agreement could not be reached. Soon the situation escalated again. The Croatian side did not want to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeepers. In response, Knin suspended all contact with Zagreb. The Croats used the truce to reorganize and strengthen their armed forces; eight elite guards brigades were formed, prepared according to NATO standards. During the operation "Winter '94" these units showed good fighting qualities, which were higher than those of the military units of the Republika Srpska and the RSK.
At the beginning of 1995, Franjo Tudjman demanded that the UN peacekeepers be withdrawn from the territory of Croatia. The UN has proposed a peace plan - “Z-4” (“Zagreb-4”). It provided for the entry of the Serbian Krajina into Croatia as a cultural autonomy. However, Knin refused to discuss this plan until the Croatian side extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces in Croatia. Zagreb extended the peacekeepers mandate, but in the spring fighting resumed. The Croatian army captured the territory of Western Slavonia. July 22 Presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia signed a document on joint actions and mutual assistance of the Croatian and Bosnian troops. Croatian forces, during the “Summer 1995” campaign, which ended on July 30, were able to break the link between Knin and Banja Luka, North Dalmatia fell into a semi-circle. To divert the attention of the Serbs, the diplomatic negotiations on the peace plan continued until August 3.
Forces of the parties, plan of operation
In late July - early August, Croatia mobilized and prepared a strike force of 150 thousand people at the borders of the RSK. In total, the Croatian Armed Forces at that time numbered about 250 thousand people, in the Ministry of Internal Affairs there were 45 thousand people. In addition, the 5th Army Corps of Bosnia and Herzegovina (25 thousand people) was to take part in the operation. The armed forces of the Republika Srpska Krajina numbered about 27 thousand people, 303 were in service with the army tank, about 300 units of armored vehicles, 360 artillery guns with a caliber of 100 mm and above. According to the mobilization plan, the number of armed formations could bring up to 62 thousand people.
Operation "Storm" ("Oluya"), the Croatian command began to develop at the end of 1994 year. Instructors from the American private military company MPRI took part in the planning of the operation, and NATO intelligence was also used. On the main directions, the Serbian defense had to break through the Guards brigades and, without getting involved in the battles to seize the fortified settlements, develop an offensive in the territory of the RSK. The task of eliminating the centers of resistance remaining in the rear was to be solved by the Home-Border regiments (the Croatian equivalent of territorial defense). The result was the Croatian "blitzkrieg".
The overall plan of the operation was divided into four local operations that were to be carried out by separate corps (military districts). According to the plan of Oluja-1, parts of the Zagreb Corps (about 30 thousand people) under the command of Major General Ivan Basharac had to destroy the 39 division of the Bani Corps SVK under the command of Major General Slobodan Tarbuk and unite with the Bosnian General 5 corps Atif Dudakovich in the area of Zhirovac and Oblai villages. According to the plan of “Oluya-2”, parts of the Karlovac corps of Major General Milenko Crnyatz (15 thousand people) were to destroy the troops of the 21 Corps Corps under the command of Major General Velko Bosanac (headquarters in Vojniche). “Oluya-3” provided for the strike of Major General Mirko Norats (25 thousand) by the Gospich Corps against the X. LUM Corps of Major General Stevo Shevo and the Muslim corps on the line of Korenychka-Kapel - Trzhachka-Rashtel. Oluja-15 was prepared for the Split Corps, Major General Ante Gotovina (4 thousand people), he had to destroy the Northern Serbian Krajina-Knin 30 th Northern-Dalmat Corps under the command of the Special Forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. . The Osijek Corps was to play a supporting role, to divert the forces of the 7 East Slavon Corps with its actions. The field headquarters of the strike force under the command of Major General Marian Marekovich was located in the city of Ogulin. The operation was planned to be implemented in 11-4 days. Delaying the operation was considered undesirable, so as not to cause a negative reaction of the world community.
39-th Banii Corps had about 7 thousand people (according to other sources, about 9 thousand). It consisted of four brigades and an independent detachment. Part of the forces held defenses against the 5 corps of the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Corps commander was Slobodan Tarbuk. He was in the 1991 year, the commander of the JNA brigade, was an experienced and enterprising commander. The corps before the “Storm” operation was mobilized, brought to full combat readiness, its defense was well prepared. The Bani corps had a significant number of armored vehicles, even surpassing the Zagreb corps in opposition to them. However, inferior in artillery, both field and heavy. In addition, his weak point was to build troops in one line, there was no second line of defense, and the reserves were insignificant. If the Croatian troops broke through the defense of the corps and captured the city of Glyn, which was located in 10 km from the front line, the communications line of the Bani Corps would be cut. A strong offensive could only be repelled with the support of the troops of the Republika Srpska and Yugoslavia.
On the way of the Karlovac corps were parts of the 21 of the Kordun corps. It consisted of three brigades. The 21 Corps was the first in number of armored vehicles in the RAC aircraft (up to 100 tanks). The Corps Commander, Major General Velko Bosanac, could deploy two brigades against Croatian troops - about 4 thousand people, the third brigade held defenses in the offensive zone of the Zagreb and Karlovac corps of the Croatian army. 21 th Kordunsky corps as well as 39 th, did not have operational depth, for the organization of a backup line of defense. In reserve of the corps is the Corps of Special Units (KCE) of Major General Milorad Stupar (about 5 thousand fighters). However, his combat capability was low, most of which consisted of captured deserters. One brigade of the 15 of the Lich Corps (1,5 thousand people) also came under attack from the Croatian Karlovac Corps.
15-th Lichsky Corps had four brigades in its structure - only about 6 thousand people. The corps of Stevan Shevo held defenses against the Croats at the front of a long 150 km, one brigade was directed against the Muslims. The capital of the Serbian Krajina was defended by the 7 th North-Dalmatia Corps. In terms of numbers, he was the first in the Krayen Army — about 10 thousand people. However, his position was weak - during the summer operations, Croatian troops captured the valley of Livno and Grahovo, went to the rear of the North Dalmatian Corps. As a result, Croat troops hung from the north over the capital of the republic, and the metropolitan area became extremely inconvenient for defense. In case of success of the Croatian troops in other directions, the North Dalmatian Corps needed to quickly retreat to the border town of Srb in order not to get into the "boiler".
Before the operation, an information campaign was conducted against the RAC. Croatian television, radio, newspapers propagandized the power of the Croatian armed forces, spoke about the weakness of the army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, the collapse of its statehood, the near end of the "insurgents". In many ways it was true. The main reasons for the fall of the RSK were internal, "Serbian." Despite the transition of military superiority to the Croats and comprehensive assistance (from diplomatic to supply weapons), which was provided to them by the “world community”, the Serbs had a chance to survive. The role played by Slobodan Milosevic, who did not see the future of Serbian autonomies within Croatia, played its role. Many krayishniks pinned their hopes on Slobodan Milosevic that he would save Serbian Krajina, and the RSK and the FRY had an agreement on military assistance. But Milosevic did not want to help the RSK, Yugoslavia and so was under pressure from international sanctions, and Belgrade did not want to further deteriorate relations with the West. In particular, in the RSK about 1 of thousands of officers of the Yugoslav army were constantly located, before the attack of the Croatian army they “evaporated”.
And the RSK authorities seemed to have forgotten about the idea, about the need to fight for their homeland, about national interests. Because of the indifference of the RSK authorities to the future of the republic, apathy reigned among the Krajin Serbs, people massively left for various countries of Europe, Yugoslavia, the armed forces were in a deplorable state, and the military deserted them en masse. The management of the RSK so low estimated the chances of success that already on August 3 began to evacuate the civilian population. It should be noted and the conditional unity of the RSK. All three of its parts - Kninska Krajina, Western Slavonia and Eastern Slavonia were semi-independent regions. Eastern Slavonia remained under Belgrade control for almost the entire war. Its safety was ensured by the Novosad corps of the UNA, deployed in neighboring Vojvodina. Therefore, the local Serbian leadership in Vukovar was not particularly worried about the fall of Knin, when Western Slavonia and Kinsky Krajina were under attack, on the East Slavonic front was relatively calm.
Territorial organization of the RSK army. 18 West Slavon Corps was crushed during the Croatian operation "Lightning" and it was disbanded in May 1995.
To be continued ...