Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Milošević and Tomo Medved  (Hrvoje Jelavic/PIXSELL) Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Milošević and Tomo Medved (Hrvoje Jelavic/PIXSELL)

Twenty-five years ago, Croatian soldiers were securing the territory that they had just won back from rebel-Serbs in Operation Storm. During this process, six Serb civilians were killed in the villages of Plavno and Grubori, a crime for which no one has ever been charged. Sixteen more civilians, mostly elderly, were killed over the following month.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević encouraged Serbs who fled their homes in Croatia during the war to return.

"Courage is needed to return and start over. I am aware of the problems and the bureaucracy that stand in the way, but I encourage you to return," he said at the event.

Fifteen families from this region have expressed the desire to return and are awaiting paperwork to fund the reconstruction of their homes.

"Croatia, as the victor of the Homeland War, regrets all the lives that were lost in the war, especially civilians. It is our duty to pay our respects to innocent victims," said Deputy Prime Minister and Veterans Minister Tomo Medved.

What happened in Plavno and Grubori reflected poorly on Croatia and did enormous damage to the country’s reputation, said President Zoran Milanović.

"It tarnished Croatia's reputation, which had not been poor up until then. It had been the reputation of a country that had come under attack. It compromised the standing of a Croatian police unit that had been heroes and had fought valiantly before and that unit is the special police," Milanović said.

Three former Croatian special police officers were charged with the killings. One committed suicide, the other two were tried and acquitted.

At the event a group of Croatian veterans paid their respects to the victims and condemned the war crimes that were committed. The commemoration was also attended by an envoy representing Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.