Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivukovic on Tuesday rejected criticism from Croatia regarding a plaque, put up in the Bosnian Serb entity capital, honouring JNA Major Milan Tepic who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in a suicidal action in 1991, in which ten Croatian soldiers were killed.
Responding to the protest note by the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MVEP), sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina's Foreign Ministry on Monday, Stanivukovic, who personally unveiled the plaque, said on Tuesday that Tepic was a hero and an “illustrious example of a Serb who defended his country.”
Tepic blew up the Barutana barracks in Bjelovar in an effort to prevent the arms and ammunition stored there to be “used against Serbs,” said Stanivukovic.
“Major Tepic sacrificed his life because of his loyalty to his own country and army. He acted chivalrously, the way a soldier is expected to,” Stanivukovic's written statement to the press said.
Stanivukovic added that honouring Tepic was not directed against anyone, including the Croatian people.
The Banja Luka mayor, a member of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), which is in the opposition at the entity and state level, believes that he has demonstrated his good will and readiness for cooperation by inviting Zagreb's mayor to visit Banja Luka.
On 29 September 1991, Tepic, who was the commander of the Barutana Yugoslav Army barracks, decided to blow up the ammunition warehouse causing a devastating explosion in which ten Croatian soldiers were killed.
The Presidency of the former Yugoslavia, led then by Slobodan Milosevic, proclaimed Tepic a national hero.
In its protest note to the BiH Foreign Ministry, the MVEP said the unveiling of the plaque in Banja Luka was unacceptable.
The Croatian ministry deplored the decision by the Banja Luka city authorities, saying that “it glorifies a terrorist act by a person who, during the Great Serbian aggression against Croatia, knowingly caused the death of a large number of Croatian defenders and civilians and huge material destruction in Bjelovar.”
The ministry sent Stanivukovic a message saying that by unveiling the plaque he “has identified with the criminal Great Serbian policy”, jeopardising “the process of building mutual trust and good neighbourly relations.”