All of the ‘Storm’ announcements – from the 2011 barricades to the 2022 barricades

Jarinje barikade KFOR
FOTO: KoSSev

On April 26th, 2013, when the then Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic argued in favor of the Brussels Agreement – reached a few days earlier in the EU capital – in the Serbian parliament, he said, among other things:

„We don’t need more sacrifices from the ones we’ve already made, we need life. Both in the north and in the south and throughout Serbia. We are not going to tell bedtime stories and wake up tomorrow to a Kosovo Storm“.

The ‘Storm’, along with the delimitation, that Dacic presented to the public two years earlier, in the midst of the then barricades in the north, which have remained the longest-lasting of all to date, before the so-called technical dialogue in Brussels was opened.

„If Thaci goes on the offensive against the Serbs, we will certainly not sit idly by and watch Kosovo ‘Storm’, Belgrade and Pristina should reach a solution as soon as possible, with the mediation of the international community, and the only real solution is a permanent one, and therefore just, and that is delimitation,“ Dacic told Alo tabloid in October 2011.

The then prime minister mentioned the delimitation or “partition” several times, but as he himself admitted – „he had no one“ with whom he could discuss this matter.

„In the coming years, we should expect even stronger pressure to recognize Kosovo, and that’s why we should start discussions on delimitation,“ he told Vecernje Novosti daily in July of the same year.

„I’m afraid of the violent integration of the north and another ‘Storm’. Therefore, Serbia must do everything to save its people,“ he added two years before reaching an agreement by which the hitherto autonomous north was integrated into the Kosovo system.

Vucic’s Storm

The then Prime Minister of Serbia continued with the same rhetoric in the following years while, as a result of the agreement, the institutions of Serbia slowly pulled out from Kosovo.

‘Storm’ also became an indispensable part of media addresses of Dacic’s successor, the current Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic. In the meantime, Vucic also confirmed that he was in favor of delimitation, but that his plan for Kosovo „failed“.

Since then, he has repeatedly warned about the ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’, underlining that no such operation would take place; Vucic also mentions Storm when announcing or describing the actions of the Kosovo Police in the North – for which Pristina claims to be carried out to fight organized crime or introduce „reciprocity“.

On the eve of the KP action in the north at the end of May 2019, during which more than a dozen members of the Kosovo border police were arrested, Vucic announced that it was a matter of days before the Albanians would attack the Serbs.

„Regardless of how difficult it may be, and it is very difficult because NATO is located in Kosovo and Metohija, we will not allow the persecution and pogrom of the Serbian people. We have had enough Storms, Flashes, many misfortunes and we will not allow more such hardships to befall our people,“ he said in the Serbian parliament, just a day before the arrests were made.

During the action itself on May 28th, 2019, in an extraordinary media address, Vucic said: The Serbs are literally being beaten at the Technical School in Zubin Potok. They are bursting into houses, breaking everything. Serbs are unarmed, they are showing how powerful they are. No casualties so far. Our people are distraught like never before, but they are experienced in this. I said yesterday, what I also said in Kosovska Mitrovica, we will not allow a new Storm and Flash.

Moreover, during the license plate crisis that broke out in September of last year, when the Kosovo authorities introduced the so-called reciprocity measures and decided to start removing plates with Serbian markings of towns and cities in Kosovo in the north, the president announced that there would be no „pogroms, no Storms, no Flashes“. He also spoke about the pogrom on several occasions. That also marked the first time he spoke about the presence of the Serbian IRA in the North – a claim reportedly made by the Albanians.

The thirteen-day-long blockade of the roads in Jarinje and Brnjak ended with a temporary agreement on the sticker regime. Vucic said that Serbia „gave less than it did in 2012“:

„We defended the right to freedom of movement and the normal flow of goods, peace was preserved. No more removal of license plates, no temporary RKS, no more a 5 euro fee for anything, and especially no removal of Serbian KM plates and others issued by Belgrade for the area of ​​Kosovo and Metohija, nor persecution of the Serbs who own them. And the fact that the agreement enables the use of plates with markings of Serbian cities in the area of ​​Kosovo and Metohija, but in practice, it is clear that they will only be able to be used in the north. And that is not such a problem for Serbs in the south, because they all already had KS plates.”

‘Storm’ is often announced before some rounds of the Brussels dialogue, usually if unpopular decisions are being made, such as the agreements on the so-called freedom of movement or energy issues.

The frequent addresses of the Serbian President are likewise marked by the mentions of Valac and Gazivode, along with ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’, plans for a general attack on the North, and the use of firearms. Such a narrative was particularly dominant when the delimitation was discussed, namely in 2018 and partly during 2019.

Partition and Storm

Alerts about a Storm scenario in the North became more frequent during 2018 and 2019, when the topic of delimitation, that is, partition, became part of the public discourse.

„And what if someone starts occupying the North of Kosovo during the summer? What would our response be? Would our response be military, or would our response be to have another Storm as we had in the past? Serbia’s politics must be more responsible than the politics of the 1990s and 2000s, we must preserve our people at their hearths, but at the same time we must not allow the tragedy to be repeated,“ Vucic said during the Brussels talks on June 24th, 2018.

Three days later, on June 27th, 2018, Vucic said: „We do not threaten anyone, we are always ready for compromises, dialogue, and peace, but we are not ready, I repeat, and we will never accept any new Storms, nor are we ready for a new exodus and crime against Serbs. We will not allow that to anyone.“

„I told you many times – Storm, Flash and all other criminal actions against our people will not happen. And I hope I was clear enough, this is the tenth time I have repeated something like that,“ he said on July 8, 2018.

In the same public address, he announced the alleged desertion of Serbian soldiers on the same day when they heard that there was a possibility of being deployed to the north of Kosovo: „And where are those 2,000 who will die? Where are they? Do you know? Do you want me to tell you how many people left our army the day they heard that there was a possibility of going to the North of Kosovo? Some newspapers reported about it. Do you want me to tell you about it?“

One of the most famous statements made by Vucic about Kosovo during that time, namely, on June 30th, read that „today we have nothing“ and that it would be a win if „we can gain even one meter.“

However, in a letter to Kosovo Serbs that followed on August 3rd, he wrote:

„Serbia is ready today to fulfill its commitment towards you and to protect your lives and peace, if that is necessary. While I am at its helm, Serbia will not allow organized violence against Serbs and their sanctities, nor their persecution. There will be no new ‘Storm’ in Kosovo and Metohija. Peace for Serbia and the Serbian people is the highest value, which, in addition to everything else, we are trying to protect, through the difficult discussions we are having with the political representatives of the Albanians and the international community.”

A day later, he wished them a good weekend, good weeks, and months.

On August 4th, 2018, after a meeting with the then Patriarch Irinej, Vucic said:

„I wish the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija not only a good weekend, but good weeks and months ahead and I want them to feel safe. I know how difficult they have it, especially in Metohija, but also Serbs everywhere. It’s not easy in the North either, but it’s even more difficult south of the Ibar. What they need to know is that the Serbian state will not allow any pogrom of the Serbian people, such as the one we had in 2004 or ’95 and in May during the Flash, and at the beginning of August during the Storm. Serbia will never allow something like that to anyone again.“

He also used the occasion to send a message to KFOR and NATO: „I especially expect and demand from them to protect the peace by preventing any possible attempt, by anyone and under any pretext, to seize and steal from you the Hydroelectric Power Plant ‘Gazivode’, the substation ‘Valac’ or any other key piece of infrastructure on which your survival depends.“

Vucic then scheduled an emergency meeting of the National Security Council due to the possibility of, as it was announced at the time, „destabilization of the security situation in the north of Kosovo and Metohija.“

That summer, Vucic highlighted what he described as Pristina’s obsession with the North and plans to occupy it. „Obsession with the North“, „occupation“, „Storm is the only thing Albanians are interested in“, „hunger for occupation“ – were some of the terms extensively used by the Serbian president in 2018, between two pressing issues – the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, and the delimitation. Due to the opposition to partition, another issue emerged – a conflict with the church, especially with the so-called southern wing, which was „silenced“ in the fall of 2018, that is, the spring of 2019.

„Those who talk about a frozen conflict don’t understand that it is not sustainable – each side will wait for an opportunity to strike the other to achieve advantage on the ground. Every day we will worry about whether they will attack us in the North, where they will strike at us, with whose support, with whose help – will they get the support of the Americans, as they did in the Storm, or will they now get the support of someone else. So we will moan for our people and the killed people and the exiled people“ – he said on August 16th, 2018, ahead of his visit to Kosovo on September 9th. At the time, Vucic also described the North as a „strategically important territory because 98% of Serbs live there.“

Some of the headlines from that time:

Vucic: You don’t want delimitation with the Albanians? Get ready for Vranje

Vucic: There will be no ASM, their only goal is to occupy the North

A passionate desire to conquer the North

„Obsession with the North“: A condition for talks – No attempt to seize the North

Vucic: We are ready for compromises, but we will not allow new Storms, a new exodus

Vucic: What if somebody starts occupying North Kosovo during the summer? At least we have provided peace, so no one will be killed. Thaci: Difficult meeting, positive tone

Vucic: Hunger for the occupation of the North of Kosovo, the North is standing in the way of the Green Transversal

Vucic: Do not join the Kosovo Army, they want Serbs to fight each other, for you to occupy the North

Vucic repeats: There is no energy agreement, Albanians want to occupy the North of Kosovo

Vucic: What will we do if the Albanians start to occupy the North?

Vecernje Novosti, after the „plan to cut-off the North“: Vucic rejected a US document on Kosovo

Vecernje Novosti again after the report on the „plan to cut-off the North“: „Thaci with America cutting off the north with the ‘Golden Saber'“

Vucic: The only thing Albanians are interested in is how to occupy the North

Vucic: I am worried, the Albanians have someone’s tacit support

The Serbian leader also announced disasters and liquidations in November 2018, when arrests were made in the Grey building in North Mitrovica, which is widely considered as the building of the vice-president of Srpska Lista, Milan Radoicic, in connection with the murder of Oliver Ivanovic. During the time, Radoicic avoided arrest, i.e. liquidation – a claim made by both Vucic and Radoicic.

It was during this time that Vucic made his famous statements on how Radoicic passed the polygraph testing and how he was always the first on the line to defend North Mitrovica in the ‘Oko’ talk show on RTS.

At the same time, 100% tariffs were introduced on products from Serbia and a „trade war“ began. The president described the actions from Pristina and the support of the West as „100% games“, underscoring that it was the fifth incursion involving firearms into the North.

‘Storm’ 2019: 100% tariffs, police actions, failed delimitation policy, arrival of Kurti…

During the time the plans for delimitation came into the public’s focus, Vucic announced a historic speech in North Mitrovica in September 2018, however, what remains more memorable are his later messages about how his plan on (ethnic) delimitation suffered defeat – from September 2018, all the way to the following year, when he said that his delimitation idea was buried, which „will cost the Serbs“.

The threats of a possible occupation of the North also continued in 2019.

„Since the Albanians do not want the status quo, it is a matter of the moment, that is, the day and month when they will attack the Serbs. There are two possibilities for solving the Kosovo issue – the recognition of independent Kosovo, as seen by the Albanians and the international community, and the second possibility, which has actually completely failed – delimitation,” Vucic said in the Serbian parliament on May 27, 2019.

„Regardless of how difficult it may be, and it is very difficult because NATO is located in Kosovo and Metohija, we will not allow the persecution and pogrom of the Serbian people. We have had enough Storms, Flashes, many misfortunes and we will not allow more such hardships to befall our people,“ he said on the same occasion.

During that speech, the Serbian president also made a promise that „he will admit that he is a traitor and that he sold the most expensive Serbian word if there is an Obilic who will return Serbia’s holy land under its protection with one act.“

The year 2019 was also turbulent, with frequent mentions of the ‘Storm’ and the ‘Flash’. Three major arrest actions of police officers in the North took place, the above-mentioned one in May, the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo arrests in October, and finally, later in the same month, two policemen were arrested in connection with the murder of Oliver Ivanovic.

A crisis caused by the 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced by the then Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, also marked this period.

The conquest of the North, false scenarios, the annexation of the „Presevo ​​Valley“ to Kosovo, and the open threats of politicians on social networks ran rampant for months from both sides – Belgrade and Pristina. For some time, all shops in the north of Kosovo were closed and all service activities in the private sector were suspended. There were even warnings that something similar could happen with the hospital.

In that year, elections were also held in Kosovo, when Albin Kurti came to power for the first time.

In October 2019, on TV Prva, Vucic accused the Serbian opposition of allowing the March pogrom to happen, claiming the SNS will „never allow that nor the Storm to anyone.“ „We lost a lot of people and we lost a lot of hearths and it should never happen again,“ he said.

„As I have said many times, we will never allow the pogrom of the Serbian people, such as the one in 2004, or the Storm, or many other things, as those from the DOS regime had allowed to happen.“

New judgment days – announcements from various sites, with tabloid confirmation

The scenario of the tragedy suffered by the Serbs in Croatia in the summer of 1995, which threatens to be repeated when it comes to Serbs from Kosovo, has been announced by the President of Serbia from various sites and on numerous occasions – television studios, through factory halls, military exercises, tours of the growing economy industry, tours of health institutions and vaccination points during the pandemic, to Andricev Venac and the recent meeting with children.

Vucic also admitted that whenever he opens a factory hall, something bad happens in Kosovo

The latter took place yesterday. Having previously met with dozens of children from the „Srbija te zove“ sports camp, organized for young athletes from Kosovo, Republika Srpska, and the diaspora, he made a new dramatic announcement, but instead of alerts on ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’, he shared a message about the liquidation, in a similar tone as when Milan Radoicic avoided arrest for the first time:

„They are preparing the liquidation of our people in the North and I tell you that openly and I warn them not to do it under the guise of fighting crime or what not. Don’t kill people, and we don’t want to kill anyone, we need peace and stability“.

On May 7th of last year, during a tour of the mobile vaccination point in Obrenovac and Ub, after calling on citizens to get vaccinated, Vucic also said:

„To all those who think that there will be new Storms and pogroms and the expulsion of our people and to the Serbian people in Kosovo, my message is that this will not happen. And when I say that it won’t happen, it’s a guarantee that it won’t happen,“ he said after the announcements arrived that a Croatian military camp will be opened in Kosovo, as well as the signing of the contract on the allocation of more than 190 hectares of land to the KSF for the construction of a military base in South Mitrovica.

The June 29th decision of the Kosovo authorities to launch the re-registration of vehicles in the North to RKS plates and abolish the Serbian plates of cities in the Republic of Kosovo starting from September 1st, and start issuing an entry-exit document to persons entering Kosovo with Serbian ID cards as a reciprocity measure, Vucic explained to the public on the same day as follows:

„The decision has only one goal – to expel the Serbs from Kosovo, to create a new Storm where they, within two months, their Ministry of Internal Affairs wants to convince the Serbs to register their vehicles to the so-called RKS Albanian plates. If they register, great, I guess they will hand out leaflets. This was also done in World War II so that we are free when they occupy us. This is what they will now do in the North of Kosovo, so they will convince the Serbs about everything they are offering. Well, if they don’t convince them, then they will seize not only license plates but also vehicles, and how many Serbs will survive, they don’t even know, nor do they care, since they expect all the Serbs to leave.“

While alerting of the danger of Storm and Flash for the Serbs in the North, Vucic also announced „a general attack on the North by October 1st at the latest“, emphasizing that „Quint supports the Albanians“ and that Srpska Lista „will not tolerate that anymore“.

The President’s dramatic announcements have been tailed for years by the covers of Serbian tabloids and special programs on television channels.

In anticipation of the latest announcement about the ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’ of the Serbs from the North by October 1st, as repeated this summer by other government officials, including the Serbian Prime Minister, back in early July, the Belgrade-based tabloids also did their very best to make such announcements even more dramatic.

Serbian tabloids have extensively reported about everything the Serbian President said during June 29th conference or as he described it, at „the sharpest press conference with which he will go down in history“.

There are three main messages: A Storm is preparing, Kurti wants war, and Europe supports the attack on the Serbs – although Vucic used the term „Quint“ in his original media address.

Although headlines in tabloids usually follow the president’s speeches, in some situations after a dramatic warning is highlighted on the tabloid covers, the Serbian president gets asked questions connected to it at media conferences or in television studios.

When Vecernje Novosti published the headline „FOUR TARGETS FOR CHAOS IN KOSOVO“ on its front page on October 9th, 2020, on how „Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, especially those in the enclaves, will be the target of organized provocations and attacks by Albanians in the coming days, all to create instability that would lead to a new halt in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as well as obstruction of cooperation with the Special Court in The Hague“, Vucic also said that there would be no new Storms.

The fact that the tabloids follow what the president is saying can be best seen in the example of what Vecernje Novosti wrote in 2018 and 2022. „NOVOSTI REVEALS: AMERICA IS PREPARING ALBANIANS: Fast-tracked training for an attack on northern Kosovo“ – this media wrote on August 6, 2018. The same newspaper previously announced in May and early June that „Albanians are planning to cut off the north with the help of NATO“ and that „Thaci with America is cutting off the north with the ‘Golden Saber'“. Ahead of the barricades last year, on September 17th and September 18th, they published the text „Albanians are preparing an attack on the north“. Regarding the latest announcements, on June 29th of this year, they published a series of similar titles: PRISTINA PREPARING FOR A GENERAL ATTACK ON NORTH KOSOVO ON OCTOBER 1: Vucic appeared before the people with the truth

In the past couple of years, when describing the situation in Kosovo, with regular mentions of ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’, the President of Serbia has often announced that such violence will not happen.

In addition, he often uses vivid catchphrases, proverbs, and quotes.

„There will be no new storms and flashes and persecution of our people, nor the pogrom of 2004. If that is a threat and a great sin, then I am the most sinful man in the world,“ he said on October 16th, 2021, on TV Prva, while paraphrasing Gandhi’s quote:

„When there’s a storm, small birds hide and try to hide at all costs everywhere, so that they are nowhere to be found, but eagles fly higher, so it is in difficult times that you can see who has courage, who has guts, while the mice go into hiding.“

Also, while ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’ sometimes serve as the backbone of his addresses, other times, he only mentions them superficially. Before leaving for the Brdo-Brioni summit, on May 21st this year, also for TV Prva, he spoke about „the people who changed the borders of Serbia and Yugoslavia“:

„Those people are changing the borders of Serbia, then Yugoslavia – in 1990, 1991, 1992. Then they attacked Serbia, killed our children, destroyed our bridges and our villages and towns. Then they said it was because of a humanitarian disaster. And if you say – well, we Serbs have done all kinds of things – and get over it, even though it is not easy to get over it, then in 2004, they attacked the Serbs in Kosovo, expecting that the Storm would be repeated. In 2008, since the Serbs did not flee from Kosovo, they decided to declare independence of Kosovo. So, in 2008, you made a decision contrary to the UN, the UN General Assembly. You changed the borders of a sovereign country, at least 85.90-95 of you – out of the many countries that recognized Kosovo in total. So when did you remember to respect the principle of the inviolability of borders?!“

Vucic also made a guest appearance on TV Prva last night, where he once again spoke about the pogrom, the Storm, and liquidations. He said that Pristina is preparing to „liquidate our people in the North under the guise of fight against crime,“ adding that they will preserve peace at all costs – except in the case of pogrom of Kosovo Serbs. Furthermore, he stressed that they are „poking fun at“ at the tractors Serb people used when fleeing from Krajina during the Storm operation.

„This how they are humiliating us almost every day, but a tractor is just proof of how they pulled an ordinary, good Serbian peasant away from his land, where he lived for centuries,“ Vucic said last night.

Next week in Brussels, he is set to meet with Albin Kurti.

The Real Storm

In the Croatian operation „Storm“, which took place from August 4 to August 8, 1995, more than 200,000 Serbs forcibly left their homes after the fall of the then Serbian autonomous oblast of Krajina, which was not recognized by the Croatian authorities established after the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is presumed that just under 2,000 Serb went missing during the operation, more than half of which were civilians, almost three-quarters of them over 60 years old and more than 500 were women.

During this operation, the Croatian armed forces committed systematic and widespread crimes against the civilian Serb population.

According to the data of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights from 2001, 410 civilians who decided to stay in their homes when the military operation started were killed during and immediately after this operation. This list, however, is not final.

During the commemoration of the anniversary this August, the Humanitarian Law Fund (HLF) reminded that, even 27 years later, the victims of the „Storm“ have not yet got justice, neither in Croatia when it comes to the prosecution of crimes, nor in Serbia, where no victim of the „Storm“ ” has the status of a civilian victim of war even today.

„In addition to the fact that the victims and their families are invisible to the institutions of Serbia, the commemorations also ignore the facts about the forced mobilization of refugees, but also about the ethnic cleansing that Serbian forces carried out before the ‘Storm’ in the territory of the so-called SAO Krajina. In addition to the central commemorations, the representatives of the authorities in Serbia continue to instrumentalize the memory of the ‘Storm’ for the purpose of intimidation, war incitement, confrontation with political opponents and historical revisionism“, HLC said on August 4 of this year.

Tatjana Lazarevic

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