Croatian army weapons seized by Austrian police

Austrian police averted a diplomatic incident when they disarmed Croatian soldiers who were attending a ceremony in the Austrian town of Bleiburg on Saturday.

Croatian army weapons seized by Austrian police

The ceremony, including many high-ranking Croatian officials, took place at a memorial for the Massacre at Bleiburg, according to a report in Die Presse

Some of the soldiers of the Croatian Honour Guard were carrying historical rifles, with bayonets attached.

Prior to the ceremony, Austrian police inspected the weapons, and felt that some of them were suspicious.  They also took photographs of the weapons as evidence.

Therefore, police drove the soldiers around 1 km away, and peacefully disarmed several of the Croatian army soldiers, returning their weapons to the Croatians when they were about to return across the border.

Commemorations for the Bleiburg massacre victims, held every year in May, remain controversial due to the use of Nazi symbols by some Croatian groups in attendance.

As Josip Broz Tito's communist partisans approached Zagreb in May 1945, Croatia's Nazi-allied Ustasha authorities, who persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Romanians and anti-fascists Croatians, started to flee towards Austria, fearing revenge attacks.

The Ustasha, accompanied by civilians and Slovenian and Serbian collaborators, tried to escape and surrender to British forces. The British, however, refused their surrender and the Ustasha authorities were caught and executed by the communist partisans in the border region between Austria and Slovenia.

The number of those killed in the region of the southern Austrian town of Bleiburg is still debated. Estimates vary from a few dozens to tens of thousands.

Boris Blažeković, a former parliamentary representative at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, discussed the incident.

“The military cannot cross the state border with its weapons unless it has a permission from the government, Parliament and the President. This is unacceptable and a real disgrace.”

“It is simply unacceptable that these things can happen. When we had two soldiers who were supposed to take part in a mission in Somalia, Parliament had to give them approval”, said Blažeković.

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipović was also critical. “This was a problem for Austria, since it cannot accept that foreign armies enter its territory. Croatia made a serious blunder, because it had not checked how and under what conditions this can be done”, said Josipović.

Austria is a permanently neutral country, so the Croatian Army may have violated international rules, entering as a NATO member into the territory of a neutral country.

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