The Prisoner Exchange at Pleso Airport

In the morning of 25 November 1991, a special Yugoslav military plane landed at Pleso Airport near Zagreb. Among its passengers were 27 prisoners of war who were exchanged for 28 officers from the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) that day.

The most famous of the prisoners released by the Croats was most certainly General Milan Aksentijević who was captured near Lučko in September 1991 by members of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit. Among the others were officers of the YPA Counterintelligence Service as pilots who found themselves in Croatian custody after their planes were shot down.

The most well known of the YPA’s Croatian prisoners Anton Kikaš, Ivan Medvedović, Vlado Šabarić and Franjo Kovač. Kikaš, a Canadian businessman of Croatian origin was arrested at the very same airport on 31 August 1991 on a Ugandan Airlines Boeing 707 as he attempted to deliver 18 tons of infantry and anti-tank weapons needed by the military to defend Croatia. Ivan Medvedović was a YPA officer who after the “Bloody Easter” violence in Plitvice warned the public about the criminal intent of the Yugoslav army in Croatia. Both he and Kikaš were imprisoned in Belgrade while Šabarić and Kovač were confined in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). The latter two were part of the well-known “Virovitica Group” that was convicted of participating in the implementation of the “global plan of armed rebellion in Croatia”. As they were active YPA military personnel at the time of their arrest, they were not among the group members who were released in May of 1991.

In addition to the aforementioned prisoners, Ivan Begonja, Mate Sabljić, Branko Glavinović and Roland Zvonarić who were convicted by the Military Court in Sarajevo for participating in the demonstrations in in the city of Split in May 1991 were also released. The largest group of war prisoners were a group of former YPA soldiers who deserted to the Croatian National Guard, were captured during the fall of Hrvatska Kostajnica and then taken to the Manjača concentration camp in northwestern Bosnia. Dr. Zlatko Tomašić was also among the Croats freed that day. Most of those released volunteered yet again to rejoin the Croatian forces.

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