vukovar - kolona sjećanja.jpg
Photograph: HINA

Events marking Vukovar 1991 Remembrance Day and the 24th anniversary of the destruction of that eastern Croatian city in the country's 1991-95 war of independence started on Wednesday morning with a commemoration outside the city hospital where 3,500 wounded people had been treated during the siege by the JNA and Serb paramilitary troops in 1991.

Attending the commemoration, held under the slogan "Vukovar, a place of special reverence", were numerous people who arrived from all over the country, top state officials, including President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Parliament Speaker Josip Leko, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and other government officials, members of Parliament, and representatives of the diplomatic corps, the Catholic Church and other religious communities, numerous war veterans' and victims' associations and political parties.

After the commemoration outside the city hospital, its participants embarked on a 5.5 km walk to the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery where state and other delegations will lay wreaths and light candles and a religious service will be held.

Vukovar Remembrance Day is observed in memory of 18 November 1991 when the city's defence lines were broken after a three-month siege by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries. The besieged city was defended by around 1,800 members of the National Guard Corps, police and volunteers of the self-organised Croatian Defence Force (HOS), organised into the 204th Croatian Army Brigade.

After the ravaged city fell into the hands of the JNA and Serb paramilitaries, around 22,000 local Croats and members of other ethnic groups were expelled and several thousand Croatian soldiers and civilians were taken to Serb-run prison camps.

Numerous crimes were committed against the defence forces and civilians, including a massacre of 200 soldiers and civilians from the Vukovar Hospital who were taken from the hospital on November 19 and killed at a former farm at Ovcara, outside the city, and buried in a mass grave.

According to data from the Vukovar Hospital, 1,624 Croatian soldiers and civilians were killed and 1,219 were wounded during the siege of the city. Around 3,600 Croatian soldiers and civilians were killed in the aggression on and subsequent occupation of the city.

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