By: Tomaž Kladnik
The following events testify to the whole military-political complexity of the situation at that time. On Tuesday, July 2, Colonel Janez Slapar – on the authority of the state leadership – sent to Belgrade a proposal of the Republic of Slovenia to define the conditions for a ceasefire from 2 July 1991 from 3 p.m. onwards.
e wrote in the proposal: “1/ As of this date and time, a ceasefire is in effect for both sides. 2/ At this time, the Defence Forces of the Republic of Slovenia undertake to: cease fire, move their units away from blocked YPA units, allow YPA units to care for the wounded and pick up dead soldiers, which they have been able to do so far, and when the units are in peacetime barracks, their care will also be provided. 3/ At this time, the YPA units undertake to: cease fire, withdraw units of the 32nd and 10th Corps and other units transported from elsewhere to the central barracks; withdraw the blocked armoured and special units of the 14th and 31st Corps in an organised manner, and tanks and armoured vehicles on towing vehicles to the parent units; and that they will not import any new units or carry out any combat operations on the territory of the Republic of Slovenia.” At the same time, an order was issued to the TO units to end all offensive activities. At 9 p.m., the Republic of Slovenia unilaterally declared a ceasefire.
In anticipation of new YPA attacks
The day after that, in the assessment of the situation sent by the Headquarters for Territorial Defence of the Republic of Slovenia (RŠTO) to regional headquarters (PŠTO), it was written that it was expected that the aggressor from the territory of the Republic of Croatia, with the support of aviation, would attempt to penetrate in the following directions: Čakovec–Ljutomer–G. Radgona; Varaždin–Ormož–Ptuj–Maribor; Zagreb–Bregana–Brežice–Novo mesto; Karlovac–Metlika–Novo mesto; Delnice–Kočevje–Ribnica and Reka–Ilirska Bistrica– western border. The activities were also expected to be strengthened by the YPA units that remained in Slovenia, especially the armoured mechanised units. In connection with the situation that arose, the PŠTO had to ensure the realization of the following tasks: to form anti-armour combat teams, to carry out their training and to provide them with a suitable vehicle for moving to areas of use; to prepare barriers in individual directions, whereby barriers had to be reinforced with mines and explosives; to mobilise the entire composition of the TO; to maximise resources for anti-aircraft combat; to consolidate defensive positions and pay special attention to masking. It was also necessary to mine and properly mark the border crossings on the main communications leading from Croatia to Slovenia, and to demolish the bridges on the border as a last resort, for which they had to prepare accordingly. In the order for further operation of the Territorial Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, issued by the RŠTO with the approval of the President of the Presidency Milan Kučan two days later, the aggressor’s assessment states that, after fierce clashes between TO units and YPA units – in which the aggressor, despite his marked superiority in combat technique, failed and did not achieve any set goal –, the fire was stopped and negotiations between the delegation of the state of Slovenia and the delegation of the Yugoslav government began.
Unconstitutional operation of the YPA Command
At the same time, the Headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of the SFRY, without the authorization of the Presidency of the SFRY, assessed the situation and announced further combat activities of the Yugoslav People’s Army, whereby there were major shifts of armoured mechanised units from the territory of Serbia to the territory of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, the task of the TO was to ensure the smooth operation of state institutions in cooperation with the bodies of internal affairs, national protection and the population, to prevent attempts by the YPA forces to invade Slovenia from the territory of the Republic of Croatia and to destroy all stationary forces in Slovenia. For this purpose, individual TO units were given specific tasks to act against the enemy.
On the sixth day of the war for Slovenia, the locations of important events or clashes between the federal aggressor army and the Slovenian Territorial Defence were as follows: Krakovski gozd, Prilipe, Fernetiči, Presika, Ortnek, Ribnica, Borovnica and Zgornja Ložnica.
On June 26, 1991, shortly after 1 p.m., the movements of tank and motorised units of the Yugoslav People’s Army, which belonged to the 13th Motorised Brigade from Ilirska Bistrica, began. The units were divided into two columns. One headed towards Ribnica and from there across the Vremska Valley towards Divača and the border crossings Fernetiči and Lipica. Attempts to prevent the tanks from making their way failed, so the column arrived at Fernetiči at around 7 p.m. Immediately after arriving at the Fernetiči border crossing, members of the YPA took up battle positions and turned their tank cannons towards Sežana. On 28 June, members of the Sežana Regional Headquarters and the Sežana militia planned a coordinated attack on the Fernetiči border crossing. The headquarters command prepared two platoons of its men and a militia unit for this task. The attack was supposed to start between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., but the militia sent a notification to the Slovenian summit about the agreed truce and the attack was cancelled. On 28 June, the attack on Fernetiči was cancelled, but the plans for this action were by no means forgotten. At 2 a.m., the acting chief of the RŠ TO Janez Slapar sent an order to the command of the 45th Regional Headquarters of the TO Sežana that on that day the members of the YPA and federal militiamen should be withdrawn from Fernetiči. If this could not be achieved through negotiations, they would have to be forced to surrender with arms. Two hours later, the municipal coordination committee met and appointed the president of the municipality Vodopivec and the president of the executive council of the municipality Bandelj to contact YPA colonel Obradović and persuade him to surrender. He refused to acknowledge this, so the TO unit was given the green light to attack at 5 a.m. At 7 a.m, a meeting was held at the militia station in Sežana, at which Commander Major Božac distributed the tasks. The units had to arrive at the starting positions for the attack by 10 am. At 10.30 a.m., the TO units in the attack were ordered to move from the starting positions to the battlefields at the height of the petrol station, where the defensive line of the YPA infantry was deployed. It was then that Colonel Obradović from the Sežana barracks telephoned for the first time. He demanded an end to the attack and a withdrawal of TO units. Otherwise, Sežana would be attacked by military planes. Major Božac replied that the operation would be suspended only in case of the surrender of the YPA units in Fernetiči. Shots from tank machine guns followed in response. At 11.30 a.m., TO units occupied combat positions. At the same time, Vodopivec, the president of the municipality, received a new request from Colonel Obradović. If this was not met, he suggested that the authorities inform the civilian population after 4 p.m. to withdraw to shelters due to further activities. Fighting continued despite the threats. The TO called on members of the YPA to surrender, and occasionally an individual would flee to the Slovenian side. At 11.45 a.m., Colonel Obradović’s request for air intervention over Sežana was intercepted. 15 minutes later, the planes took off from the airport in Zagreb, and from the tanks in Fernetiči they started firing on the Medvejek hill and the Kompas motel. TO members responded to the attack. First, one of them fired a trombone mine among the tanks, then the assistant commander of the militia station, Slavec, fired a trombone mine in the middle of the YPA machine gun nest, but it did not explode. The soldiers got up and fled to the Slovenian side, but Captain Sedmak sent them back for machine guns and personal weapons. At 12.55 p.m., Colonel Obradović was contacted again. He continued to threaten, demanding the withdrawal of TO units by 600 meters and the cessation of firing from the seized armoured vehicle, the return of which he demanded by 5 p.m. Meanwhile, incendiary bombs were fired from the tanks, so a fire broke out in the space between the battle lines. The final talks began at 8 p.m. Colonel Obradović agreed with the withdrawal of members of the YPA, asking only for a one-day postponement, as towing vehicles were to arrive at that time to take the tanks from the border crossing. After consulting with RŠTO, he was granted this. Militia inspector Ravbar also demanded the surrender of federal militiamen. They had looted a duty-free shop during the days of the conflict. The militiamen disagreed and shot at the soldiers in tanks at night. YPA members thought they were being shot at by territorials, so they opened fire on their positions. The TO responded to enemy fire, which soon ended, thankfully with no casualties. Federal militiamen then fled to Italy, and the Slovenian flag fluttered at the border crossing.
At the same time, the Headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of the SFRY, without the authorization of the Presidency of the SFRY, assessed the situation and announced further combat activities of the Yugoslav People’s Army.
After arriving at the Fernetiči border crossing, members of the YPA took up battle positions and turned their tank cannons towards Sežana.