Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac said on Saturday that the events in Knin yesterday, during the 21st anniversary of Operation Storm, made many feel trepidation and that the feeling still lasted.
"The messages we heard, the symbols we saw and the actions we witnessed are proof that hostility and hatred dominate, and that the ideology and the movement which are fuelled solely by hatred, hostility and a death wish are free," Pupovac said in Gornje Seliste at a commemoration for those killed and gone missing during and after the 1995 Operation Storm.
The remains of 56 persons killed in 1995 were exhumed from two mass graves in Gornje Seliste last year.
Pupovac said "this society should free itself of trepidation" and that "we will never get freedom if we keep quiet, look away and say that that's democracy... This isn't trepidation only for us, but for this state and its future too."
He said every death, notably of the innocent, but also those who had given their lives in the best faith, made sense only if it was followed by life without hatred, life in well-being and progress. "We can't say that's the state of our society today, notably of the Serb community."
The SNV said it was important not to forget the victims and the sites of their execution, and criticised the slow exhumation and identification of the victims and the inefficient prosecution of war crimes committed in Operation Storm.
Locals, representatives of the SNV and the Serbian Embassy, and local officials laid wreaths and lit candles at the Gornje Seliste cemetery. Mass was said in their honour.
Speaking to the media, Pupovac said the problem with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's address in Knin yesterday was not what she said, but what she did not say. "If I had been in the president's place, I certainly would have prioritised what she heard before her address in relation to what (Social Democratic Party president Zoran) Milanovic said two years ago," he said, alluding to yesterday's address by the war veterans' representative at the anniversary, retired colonel Ivica Glavota.
Pupovac went on to say that he would be glad if Serbia and Croatia were not exchanging protest notes. He said a minimum of respect for Croatian and Serbian citizens, notably those killed, either Croats or Serbs, called for different communication. He said "it's an obligation today to agree on what is in citizens' interest, and that's peace, reconciliation, punishing those responsible for war crimes and turning to the future."
He would not say if he was willing to attend Operation Storm anniversaries in the future. Neither Croatia's first President, Franjo Tudjman, would have gone to Knin to a celebration like yesterday's, or he would have made "good preparations", because he always knew how to keep Croatia from divisions, he said.