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War for Slovenia DAY 4: Conflicts for border crossings continue

The Yugoslav Army is not adhering to ceasefire agreements, so fighting continues on Sunday, June 30th. The opponent has increasing losses in the team, but is also losing the already won positions on the battlefield in Slovenia. 

ue to this, the enemy is preparing new units on the territory of Croatia for intervention in the Republic of Slovenia, and is carrying out terrorist actions on the territory of Slovenia. In response to such activities by the Yugoslav Armed Forces, the Slovenian Defence Forces are carrying out stricter blockades of the enemy’s barracks, tearing down the networks of the YPA security service, disabling the operation of its key people and continuing to fight for border crossings. Locations of important events or conflicts: the Karavanke tunnel, Črni Vrh above Idrija, international border crossings. 

Decisive border protection
The command of the new Slovenian army, especially the republican secretary Janez Janša, correctly predicted that a possible military coup upon Slovenia’s independence would be aimed at the border crossings of the Republic of Slovenia with neighbouring countries. According to the plans for the protection of the border, 2,400 members of the TO were trained just before the aggression began, which means that many of them were actually in positions or in the immediate vicinity of the expected combat operations. Security included deep border protection and the control and blockade of important routes to the state border. 10 border crossings were guarded in depth, and 10 border crossings could be opened with physical occupation. This task was performed by the TO together with the internal affairs authorities and the border militia. The third important task was to plan and prepare the blockade of the YPA units and barracks. In a report to the Presidency of the Republic of Slovenia, the acting head of the RŠTO, Colonel Janez Slapar, emphasized that the TO units were also preparing for the possibility of the YPA attempting to transport heavy equipment and other important equipment and weapons from Slovenia to other republics. The TO units were, therefore, preparing to prevent the possible transfer of seized TO weapons from warehouses in Slovenia. During the war and the fighting, the occupation of the border or border crossings controlled by the Slovenian Armed Forces was the main strategic goal of the enemy, which, in each of the negotiations for the establishment of a ceasefire, conditioned and demanded the establishment of a regime at the borders as it had been before 25 June. Last but not least, this was also written as a demand in the Brioni Declaration.   

During the war and fighting, the occupation of the border or border crossings was the main goal of both sides. Locations of important events or conflicts on this day: the Karavanke tunnel, Črni Vrh above Idrija, international border crossings. 

After the Karavanke border crossing was occupied by the YPA and the federal militia and after a temporary ceasefire, a clash to control the border crossing began on 30 June 1991.  

The YPA unit responded to the TO operation with heavy fire from tank machine guns, and then with artillery shelling of Gornja Radgona. 

The YPA sought to ease the pressure on its besieged unit in Gornja Radgona, with which it sought to make contact, via bypass manoeuvres and parallel combat activities. 

Karavanke tunnel battle 

Karavanke tunnel sign

After the Karavanke tunnel border crossing had been occupied by the YPA and the federal militia, and after a temporary ceasefire, the following TO units were on combat positions on the Karavanke plateau on the morning of 30 June: a unit from Mojstrana was formed in front of the tunnel; in the new part of Hrušica, the 2nd company of the 3rd battalion of the 22nd TO brigade held lateral positions; between the two units, members of the TO Special Combat Group with anti-tank weapons ‘zolja’ and snipers occupied the position. Under Mežakla, the positions were held by the 1st company of the 3rd battalion of the 22nd TO brigade, and in the eastern part of Hrušica towards Jesenice there were members of the 60 mm mortar battle group. In Mojstrana, a possible attack by the YPA from the direction of Korensko sedlo was guarded by a section of the 1st company of the 3rd battalion of the 22nd TO brigade. Thus, the decisive battle on the Karavanke plateau began around 12 p.m.. The YPA midfielder attempted to contact his superior command on a plateau with a radio station. The commander of the TO units first protested and then ordered the sniper to fire at the radio station. The sniper missed the target, and in response, members of the YPA started the engines of both tanks on the plateau. One of the tanks had the barrel facing Hrušica and the other towards Mežakla. The federal side did not respond to the TO’s warnings about violating the ceasefire agreement with activated tanks, so an order was given to the commander of the TO Special Combat Group to have his members fire on the tank with anti-armour weapons. Unable to see the tanks from their position, as they were hidden behind the border crossing facility, they chose a tanker transport vehicle as their target. They hit one of the vehicles with the anti-tank weapon Wasp, which immediately caught fire, and due to the explosion of the tank, another vehicle and both trailers caught fire. Shooting ensued on both sides. With an armbrust anti-tank weapon, a TO member fired in the direction of the tank on the plateau. The projectile hit its target, but did no damage. The tank then moved the turret, located the position from which it was attacked, and fired, but the projectile flew slightly too low, so that no one was injured. Members of the battle group of 60 mm and 82 mm mortars then fired a mine at YPA positions on the plateau. The mine fell on the embankment 60 meters before the desired target and exploded, but caused no damage. Another shot from the tank followed, which also caused no damage. Two YPA members were slightly injured during the shelling. In the evening, negotiations began in the Municipality of Jesenice on the withdrawal of members of the YPA and federal militiamen from the area of the then Municipality of Jesenice after surrendering their weapons. After the battle on the Karavanke plateau, TO members were given several units of the ‘Wasp’ anti-tank weapons. They placed these in positions around the plateau, thus gaining an important psychological advantage. Members of the YPA realized that with this weapon, the territorials were gaining a lot of firepower, and signed an agreement to withdraw the units. 

Fight for the Gornja Radgona border crossing 

Road blockade in the area
of Gornja Radgona; TO
units wanted to stop the
penetration of the YPA
column with blockades.

On 27 June, a YPA column under the command of Colonel Boris Popov began to penetrate from Varaždin towards Slovenia, with the task of capturing the border crossing in the area of Gornja Radgona. Due to the resistance points of the TO, it split into several columns. After several clashes near Ormož, one of them advanced to the village of Mekotnjak in front of Ljutomer by evening. A convoy of armoured personnel carriers and tanks, which also left Varaždin in the morning, arrived before the blockade in Središče ob Dravi. The militia unit guarding it withdrew after negotiations. The convoy then occupied a border checkpoint at a place from where they could control traffic. The second column of three tanks, eleven armoured personnel carriers and eleven accompanying vehicles taken over by Colonel Popov after returning to Varaždin, penetrated to Veržej via Štrigova and the blockade at Razkrižje, and stopped at the railway station overnight. Due to the unfavourable situation and bad weather conditions, the TO was unable to fulfil the task of destroying their fuel tanks. At Radenci, the TO (according to other information, the militia) captured four members of the YPA, who were supposed to be on a reconnaissance mission as a precursor to Colonel Popov’s unit, while in Gornja Radgona its members blocked the border guard and border crossing. Meanwhile, the commander of the East Styrian province, Vladimir Milošević, also arrived in Gornja Radgona and, after inspecting the situation, attempted to make contact with the enemy. Popov rejected the negotiating proposal, and his unit occasionally started engines on tanks and moved vehicles. The YPA forces in Središče ob Dravi did the same, receiving new reinforcements. The TO, therefore, strengthened the units in the blockade in Gornja Radgona, and also established a platoon of volunteers in Ljutomer. The blockade of the YPA was completed and the TO was ready to attack, but the attack was postponed due to possible civilian casualties and property damage in the city. Negotiations continued in the afternoon, but Popov did not want to withdraw with his unit because he would have to hand over his weapons at Slovenia’s request – although he had been completely blocked since the morning by TO units and militias, which numbered 450 men after the reinforcements were obtained. It became clear that the YPA in Radgona would not surrender easily, so on 2 July at 2.30 p.m. the TO units received an order to attack. Shortly after 4 pm, three anti-tank missiles were fired at the tanks, but apparently without major consequences for the enemy, who responded with heavy fire from tank machine guns, followed by artillery shelling of the city. One member of the TO was wounded, but there is no information about the victims or the wounded on the other side. Many civilian buildings in the city, including the castle and the church bell tower, were damaged in the clash, which lasted until 9 p.m. Simultaneously with the armoured column at the border crossing, the Special Militia Unit and the TO sabotage platoon from Gornja Radgona attacked the YPA crew in the Gornja Radgona border guard; they surrendered in the afternoon after one hour of shelling. Also, TO units and militias blocked all access to the city and thus prevented possible attempts to break through or help the besieged unit in the city. Therefore, in addition to neutralizing the enemy at the rear, TO also obtained its weapons, which were in YPA warehouses. In response to the TO activities, two YPA planes bombed the Avtoradgona area in the city at 6.35 p.m., but without major consequences. 

After the territorials
withdrew to reserve
positions, the YPA column
bypassed the obstacles,
broke through to the road
towards Ljutomer and
spent the night in Stročja

Bypass manoeuvres of the opponent 

The YPA sought to ease the pressure on its besieged unit in Gornja Radgona via bypassing manoeuvres and parallel combat activities, and to make contact with it. The armoured column, which had been in Središče ob Dravi until then, set out for Ljutomer on 27 June. These were the strongest forces used by the Yugoslav People’s Army until then to invade Slovenian territory. The column arrived in Presika, where a fight broke out at the barricade shortly after 6 p.m., in which members of the TO sabotage platoon and the militia, according to initial reports, disabled two tanks, and another got stuck in a ditch (it later turned out to be two tanks and one armoured personnel carrier; one of them was severely destroyed and three dead YPA members were found in it; YPA also had several wounded). After the withdrawal of the territorials to the reserve positions, the column nevertheless bypassed the obstacles and made its way along the road towards Ljutomer and spent the night in Stročja vas.

The consequences of the
savagery of the YPA column
under the command of
Colonel Boris Popov were
catastrophic for Gornja

On the same day, the second column tried several times to penetrate from Štrigova towards Razkrižje, but was stopped by the platoon of the TO assault detachment at the barricades near Gibina. During the battle, one tank was hit and slightly damaged, while other armoured vehicles were unable to penetrate through TO positions due to inadequate terrain. Therefore, the attack was continued only by the infantry, before which the TO withdrew in time to another position and thus avoided the encirclement. After that, the column retreated back to Štrigova, from where it started a new penetration in the direction of Razkrižje through Kopriva late in the evening. There, the news of the armistice reached it, so it encamped on the spot overnight. One TO member was reportedly injured during the operation. 

Tomaž Kladnik

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