Saturday, 18 June 2022

Ministry: No Information on Moscow's Claim About Killing of 74 Croat 'Mercenaries'

ZAGREB, 18 June 2022 - The Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday that 74 Croatian "mercenaries" fighting on the side of Ukrainian forces had been killed, to which the Croatian Foreign Ministry said that it did not have information on the allegations and warned against spreading unverified information.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no knowledge of the information in question," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

In added that its statement was corroborated by the fact that the Croatian Embassy in Ukraine had not issued any document for the transfer of a deceased person's remains to Croatia since the start of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

"We, therefore, warn against the dissemination of unverified information of a sensitive nature," the Croatian ministry said.

The Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation on Friday published a table with the alleged number of foreign "mercenaries" killed while fighting on the Ukrainian side against Russian attackers.

The Russian ministry claims that since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, 6,956 "mercenaries" have fought on Ukraine's side, of whom 1,956 have been killed while 1,779 have left the country.

Most of them, according to Russian sources, are from Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom, followed by Croatia, and Moscow claims that 74 of a total of 204 Croatians have been killed.

It also claims that 51 Croatians have left Ukraine and that currently, 79 Croatian nationals are fighting on the Ukrainian side.

The number of alleged mercenaries includes also persons training Ukrainian troops and helping repair military equipment sent by Western countries to Ukraine.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian FM Calls for One More Attempt to Reform Bosnia Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - One more attempt should be made to reform the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the present one does not guarantee the equality of its constituent peoples, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said in Brussels on Monday. 

"Bosnia and Herzegovina still does not have an electoral law that guarantees the equality of its three constituent peoples and other ethnic groups, and that is not good for the country's stability. We need to make yet another attempt to carry out the electoral reform because that it the way towards EU membership candidate status," Grlić Radman told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The main topics of the meeting will be the Western Balkans and the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the EU's response to it.

Grlić Radman said that the EU should send the Western Balkan countries a strong message regarding their accession to the Union, first of all by opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia and by making progress with regard to the liberalisation of the visa regime for Kosovo.

He said he would inform his EU counterparts of his visit to Ukraine last week together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"We have to increase pressure on Russia to stop the aggression. Croatia supports the sixth round of sanctions against Russia and can contribute to energy security given its geostrategic position and its infrastructure," Grlić Radman said.

Two weeks ago, the European Commission proposed a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its military invasion of Ukraine, including a ban on Russian oil imports. There is still no agreement among the member states, and the main obstacle is Hungary, which seeks an exemption from the oil embargo.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that the EU is hostage to one member state, without explicitly mentioning Hungary. "We must agree, we cannot be hostages," he said.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has expressed doubt that ministers will be able to reach an agreement on the oil embargo given that some countries have very firm views.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Croatia FM: Good Relations with Ukraine Don't Rule Out Good Relations with Russia

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman thanked his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Monday for Moscow's support when Croatia was gaining independence in the early 1990s and said that Croatia's "good relations with Ukraine do not rule out good relations with Russia."

Grlić Radman was on a return visit to Lavrov and the first EU minister in Moscow this year.

Croatia and Russia will mark 30 years of diplomatic relations on 25 May. Russia recognized Croatia on 17 February 1992, a month after EU member states did.

Speaking at a press conference, Lavrov said Russia saw Croatia as "a respected European partner" with which it has historical and cultural ties.

Grlić Radman spoke of the "brave resistance to the Slobodan Milošević regime's Greater Serbia aggression whereby Croatia succeeded in defending its own territory," thanking Lavrov for the "constructive role, recognition and assistance" in the 1990s.

"In the last 30 years, Croatia managed to achieve great things and Russia was always there when it was necessary, so thank you once again for that", Grlić Radman said.

He added that Russia's president, prime minister, interior, and justice ministers have an open invitation to visit Croatia.

The two ministers talked about intensifying business ties, cooperation in tourism, culture, science, and sports, and the signing of an agreement on a Russian cultural center in Croatia.

Croatia's experience in Ukraine

Grlić Radman said when this visit was being arranged, international circumstances were much more different, but that this provided an opportunity to talk "quite openly" about the current geopolitical situation.

His visit to Moscow coincides with high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Western capitals are concerned about the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, claiming Russia is preparing an invasion, while Moscow seeks legal guarantees from the West that NATO will not spread eastwards.

Grlić Radman told the press he conveyed to Lavrov some messages from an informal meeting of European ministers held in Brest, France last week.

Croatia and Russia believe a solution should be found as part of the Minsk agreements from 2014 and 2015. They envisage the full withdrawal of the army from eastern Ukraine, greater autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk, or restoring full Ukrainian control over the eastern border.

Recently in Kyiv, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who used to chair the European Parliament's delegation for Ukraine, and Croatian diplomats openly supported Ukraine's territorial integrity, offering to share Croatia's experience in the peaceful reintegration of its Danube River Region in the 1990s.

Grlić Radman said that offer was not against Moscow and that "good relations with Ukraine do not rule out good relations with Russia."

He said the peaceful reintegration of Croatia's Danube River Region was one of the most successful operations approved by all UN Security Council member states, including Russia as a significant participant in that process.

"Of course, the Croatian model is not the same as the Ukrainian, but some experiences related to the civilian sector could help," he said, adding that Croatia, "in the bilateral relations with Ukraine, has no intention of doing anything that is not in line with the Minsk agreement."

Lavrov said Croatia and Ukraine had different interpretations of "the transfer of the experience in peaceful integration," with Croatia "thinking about the humanitarian aspects, solving language problems, creating cultural autonomies" and Ukraine wanting to use "the military part of the process that went on."

"Such intentions, which I hope won't occur, are dangerous," he said, adding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said that "Ukrainians who consider themselves Russian can leave for Russia."

"During our talks, we realized that Zagreb understands our rhetoric and remarks" about Kyiv's aspiration to use the military elements of Croatia's experience, Lavrov said, adding that for the Ukrainian issue "there is no plan B, only the Minsk agreement, which must be complied with to the last point."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Foreign Ministry Sends Protest Note to BiH Over Memorial Plaque in Banja Luka

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina has presented a protest note to the BiH Foreign Ministry over a decision to unveil a plaque honoring JNA Major Milan Tepić in the Bosnian Serb entity capital, Banja Luka, who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in a suicidal action in 1991.

When Croatian forces liberated the JNA barracks in Bjelovar on 29 September 1991, most JNA soldiers there surrendered, while Tepić refused. Instead, he destroyed the ammunition depot, killing himself, 11 Croatian defenders, and dozens of JNA conscripts as well as endangering local civilians.

Tepic, who was in charge of the ammunition depot in the village of Bedenik, had planned to blow up all four warehouses at that location but was prevented from doing so by four Croatian soldiers, whose intervention prevented an even bigger disaster.

Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković on Sunday unveiled a plaque commemorating Tepić, describing him as "the last Yugoslav national hero." The plaque was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, January 9, a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court several years ago.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry on Monday deplored the decision by 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 said the Banja Luka city authorities thus "identify themselves with the criminal Great Serbian policy" and jeopardize "the process of building mutual trust and good neighborly relations."

Streets in many Serbian towns have been named after Tepić and in September 2017 a monument was unveiled to him in Belgrade.

Serbia's former foreign minister and now Parliament Speaker, Ivica Dačić, said at the time that "as a JNA officer, Tepić, "who had pledged allegiance to the state and answered for the lives of the young men in his unit, personified honor and integrity."

The unveiling of the plaque in Banja Luka was also condemned by the Croatian War Veterans Ministry, which said that the city authorities have thus confirmed that they promote the Great Serbian ideology.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.