Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Friday harshened his rhetoric regarding Croatia, describing it as "a place where Ustasha ideology is being revived", and threatened at the same time that he would not allow "a new 'Storm'".
Vucic made the statement at a commemoration at Donja Gradina, northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where during World War II inmates of the nearby Ustasha-run concentration camp Jasenovac were executed.
The commemoration was organised by the governments of Serbia and the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska. Donja Gradina is located in the territory of that entity.
The two governments chose August 21 to be the date when, they claim, in 1941 the Jasenovac death camp was established, however, available data shows that Donja Gradina did not become a site of mass executions until January 1942.
In a pathos-filled speech at the commemoration, Vucic said that attempts were again being made to impose a feeling of guilt on the Serb people because they were determined to continue commemorating and remembering Ustasha crimes.
Republika Srpska and Serbia today have a duty to establish the exact number of Serbs killed in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), he said.
"We must do it also because Ustasha ideology has come to life again in present-day Croatia," he said.
"We will never again allow Jasenovac, Jadovno or Jastrebarsko, or 'Storm' to happen. Serbs will never again allow to be killed without resistance," he said, adding that Serbia did not threaten anyone and wanted peace and the best possible relations with "those who wanted Serbs gone."
He also resented that many in Croatia try to outdo one another in boasting about their grandfathers being Ustashas.
He finished by saying that Serbs had won because today they were able to sing "Boze pravde" (God of justice), Serbia's national anthem, at Donja Gradina.
The President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, was surprisingly more moderate than Vucic in his speech even though he used the contentious data about 700,000 victims of the Jasenovac camp, including 500,000 Serbs.
According to documented and confirmed data, slightly more than 83,000 people were killed at Jasenovac - 47,000 Serbs, 16,000 Roma, 13,000 Jews, more than 4,000 Croats and more than 1,000 Muslims.
Dodik said that the 1990s wars happened because of the systematic covering up of the proportions of crimes committed in the past.
He said that it was intolerable that the crimes committed in the NDH had not been legally defined as genocide, notably given that "some people in Croatia today try to revise historical facts" and by doing so put into question European democracy that was based on the anti-fascist struggle.
"We believe that the Republic of Croatia is not the fascist NDH. We, Serb leaders believe that and we build a policy of peace and cooperation. Our message is: Celebrate your victories, just don't celebrate our tragedies," said Dodik.
In an address that was described as a history class at the commemoration, Goran Latinovic, who was introduced as a history professor from Banja Luka, presented scandalous and chauvinist claims that the destruction of Serbs had been planned for centuries and that it had been a joint project of Croatian politicians and the Roman Catholic Church.
He described Zagreb Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac as a direct representative of Ustasha ideology.
Latinovic said that Jasenovac was only a logical result of such plans because crimes committed in the NDH were not only crimes of the Ustashas, but of the entire state "which was supported by a majority of the Croatian people."
He added that most Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time were "in the service of the genocidal policy."
The historian from Banja Luka accused the post-WWII Yugoslav authorities of systematically covering up the proportions of the Ustasha crimes, and described present-day Croatia as a successor to the criminal ideology.
The commemoration at Donja Gradina was marked by complete disregard for the fact that the place is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only the flags of Serbia and Republika Srpska were displayed and only the Serbian anthem was played.
In depth coverage
Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said on Saturday that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's statement of Friday in which he accused Croatia of restoring Ustasha ideology and his message that Belgrade would never again allow a new Operation Storm, constituted the continuation of the 1990s Great Serbia policy in which Vucic had personally taken part.