Sunday, 10 April 2022

Is Croatia Expelling Russian Diplomats? Hundreds of Names on Sanction List

April the 10th, 2022 - Is Croatia expelling Russian diplomats in the face of the horrendous invasion of Ukraine and the alleged war crimes that have since taken place there at the hands of Russian troops? The sanction list of Russian names is long indeed and the Security and Intelligence Agency is also involved.

As Morski writes, five months after, as he put it, he "discovered the warm and poetic soul of Sergei" and read poetry by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Russian, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman has written a decision to expel Russian diplomats from the Republic of Croatia.

This comes as a very important sign of solidarity and a response to the latest developments and brutal Russian aggression in Ukraine where we're being stunned by the crimes and horrors committed by the Russian army in that innocent country.

''In addition to expelling Russian diplomats, we are also actively working on freezing the property of those persons under sanctions,'' Minister Gordan Grlic Radman revealed for RTL. State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Frano Matosic also added:

''There are 893 persons and 65 legal entities on our sanctions list. We expect this situation to change soon again, given that a new package of measures will be adopted in Brussels. Russian diplomats in Croatia, among other things, are being left without the luxury they enjoyed, primarily on the coast, as well as the freezing of the money in their accounts. Their companies are being frozen, in terms of preventing those persons on the sanctions list from using these economic resources to extract funds that could be passed on for aggression against Ukraine,'' said Matosic.

Otherwise, that number is much higher, because not all of the seized yachts whose connection with Russia is being established are counted. The real owners are known for three of them. Croatia doesn't decide on the sanctions independently, those decisions are made in Brussels. The rich often try to hide everything they have, so they register their property on distant islands and in third names, making it challenging to determine what is actually Russian-owned and what isn't.

When it comes to the question of whether or not SOA (Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency) helps in determining what is Russian property in Croatia, the answer is that of course it does.

The Russian Embassy in Zagreb is also closely following everything that is happening, and when asked about the expulsion of Russian diplomats from this country, they say that they don't want to comment on it until they receive official information from the Croatian Government.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Croatian National Security Report 2021: Stable Democracy, Neigbours Having Problems

September 27, 2021 - The Croatian National Security Report 2021 says Croatia is a stable democracy, but some issues which need to have an eye kept on them have been revealed.

Like any country which cares about national security, Croatia has its own intelligence agency. Croatia's Security and Intelligence Agency (acronym, or in spy terms, code name SOA) collects and analyses information in an attempt to detect and prevent the activities of individuals or groups that threaten the independence, integrity, and sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia, and/or those who aim at violently overthrowing constitutional order. Additionally, let's suppose you're in Croatia and you try threatening human rights and basic freedoms or want to endanger the fundaments of the economic system of the Republic of Croatia, in that case, you will also make it to the list of this organization.

''SOA also collects and analyses political, economic, scientific-technological and security-related information concerning foreign countries, organisations, political and economic alliances, groups and persons and other information relevant to national security,'' explains SOA's public website.

As Slobodna Dalmacija writes, SOA has so far published seven reports assessing the threats to Croatia's well being previous years. The latest reports, as Slobodna Dalmacija writes, rates Croatia as a safe and stable democracy. However, the pandemic boosted the rise of extremism and radicalism in the country, namely due to disinformation and conspiracy theories in the European and national response to this unprecedented public health crisis.

The terrorist threat in Croatia is low but not completely out of the equation.

As TCN wrote back in October 2020, a policeman was wounded on St Mark's square (Markov trg) in Zagreb (which is home to both the parliament and governmental building) by 20-year-old Danijel Bezuk, who, shortly after the incident and while on the run, took his own life.

''SOA states that the attack had the features of a terrorist assault from the extreme right spectrum and the gathered data suggest a psychological disorder of someone with a disassociative, bipolar personality. However, no type of extremism has significant basis nor public support and therefore no potential for endangering national security,'' writes Slobodna Dalmacija.

Nonetheless, more serious threats have been identified and explained.

When it comes to internal threats, corruption should come as no surprise. Criminal organisations and individuals, SOA warns, try to illegally affect public representatives.

''The attempts of corruptive influence on political, legal, economic and other processes and on public interest decision making processes are particularly worrying,'' says Slobodna Dalmacija in following SOA's report. Looking at solely external threats, the tensions between EU and Russia didn't bypass Croatia as SOA confirmed 12 state-sponsored cybernetic attacks in Croatia which came with a Russian signature.

Additionally, tensions in neighbouring countries need to be observed closely from the perspective of Croatian national security, warns SOA.

''The report states that Greater Serbian extremism is still present in certain neighbouring countries, and this is evident in their denying Croatia and neighbouring countries their territorial integrity,'' Slobodna Dalmacija reports.

Following previous TCN writing, this is clearly a reference to the tensions in Montenegro as well as Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's calls on ethnic Serbs in Croatia to raise Serbian banners in the country. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, radical Islam, which also questions the integrity and values of both democracy and territorial borders, is also a reason for serious concern.

If you don't look for trouble, but trouble always ends up finding you, you can learn more about the emergency services that can help you in Croatia in our TC guide.

For more about security in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Ex-Intelligence Officer Whose Body Was Found Near Knin Committed Suicide

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - Toni Matas, whose corpse was found in his car near Knin on Sunday afternoon, committed suicide, the Šibenik-Knin County police department said on Tuesday.

The autopsy confirmed the identity of the victim as Toni Matas, who used to work for the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA). His body was found near Knin on Sunday afternoon when passers-by informed the Šibenik-Knin County police department that they had seen a corpse in a car.

Matas's last job was as corporate security director at the Croatian Post.

Local media outlets speculate that Matas had private and business problems lately. Some also claim that his name was implicated in the recent wind park graft scandal. Several days before the tragic event, Matas was questioned by the USKOK office for prevention of organised crime and corruption.

Some media allege that Matas left a suicide note in his car and that the note mentioned pressure he had been exposed to due to his role in the said scandal.

For more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 21 September 2020

SOA Says State of Security Stable in Croatia

ZAGREB, September 21, 2020 - The security situation in Croatia is stable, and in 2019 there were no event or occurrence which could have constituted a threat to the security circumstance in the country, the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) has reported.

There are currently no indications of potential destabilisation of the state of security in the country, reads the SOA report which was made public on Sunday.


Terrorism threat level low

Croatia's current national terrorism threat level continues to be low.

Although the possibility of a terror attack cannot be ruled out, in 2019 there were no indicators of rising threat of terrorism in the country.

The biggest risk concerning this issue are regional followers and sympathisers of Islamist terror organisations and returnees from Syria/Iraq, according to the report.

Seven persons with Croatian citizenship moved into the areas under the control of the Islamic State (ISIL), and two of them were men and five women.

The available data shows that during 2017 and 2018 the two men and a woman died in the Syria/Iraq region and the remaining women of Croat origin are still in civilian camps under the control of Kurdish and Arab forces.

SOA also highlights the fact that not any form of extremism has any strength or potential to topple the democratic constitutional order in Croatia.

The report notes that western Europe is faced with the strengthening of right-wing or anti-immigrant extremism, however, Croatia has not registered any serious anti-immigration extremist movement on its soil.

Islamist radicalism has spread on the southeast of Europe with a marked number of followers, while in Croatia it is marginal with just a dozen people having embraced Salafism, however, they have not shown any inclination to advocate violence.

A risk for the security situation in European societies can be returning "jihadists", and for instance Croatia's neighbours in southeast Europe have reported an estimated 1,000 people who are believed to move to Syria/Iraq to join ISIL. Of that number, a quarter (25%) have died in the Middle East, 30% are still there, and 45% have returned to their countries of origin in southeast Europe.

During 2019, 136 people returned from Syria to those countries in southeast Europe, and of them 12 were fighters who fought for ISIL, while the remaining were women and children.


Five APT cyber attacks countered in 2019

The SOA agency reports that during last year, the authorities detected and stopped five Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and some of those attacks had been directed against the ministries of foreign affairs and defence.

So far this year, APT has increased in intensity, and APT attacks are using the circumstances marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to response to these challenges, SOA has set up a centre for cyber and information security.

Concerning the fight against narcotics trafficking, SOA recalls that recently the police in the Canary Islands have seized close to a tonne of cocaine worth more than €40 million, in an operation launched by the Croatian police. Croatia's law enforcement authorities had collected initial information about the transoceanic smuggling of large quantities of cocaine in which Croatian nationals were involved as members of the so-called Balkan cartel.

The operation to break the smuggling ring was carried out in cooperation with the Spanish Civil Guard and French customs authorities. It was also supported by Europol, the Drug Enforcement Administration - Zagreb Office, the UK National Crime Agency, Dutch police, and Bosnia and Herzegovina police.


Security circumstances in Croatia's southeast neighborhood unstable

The countries in Croatia's southeast neighborhood are encumbered with a lot of security, political, economic and social challenges.

Religious and ethnic nationalism still constitutes a problem in those countries.

Occurrences linked to Great Serbia extremism are noticed in some countries and they are evident through attempts to deny the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Croatia as well as of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, reads the report.

This extremism is manifest in public appearances and speeches as well as rallies of Great Serbia extremist organisations.

Advocates of Great Serbia extremism are trying to stoke up anti-EU and anti-NATO mood in the southeast of Europe, and are promoting their attachment to Russia.

The report reads that radical interpretations of Islam are still present in southeastern European countries. There are enclaves in which some communities are practising radical Islamic doctrines and do not recognise the law and the democratic order of the countries in which they live, which SOA identifies as a security risk.


Emigration deteriorates position of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Apart from the political situation in which they are trying to reach the full equality with the other two constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Croats are also facing a trend of economic emigration, and the further downsizining of this community will affect their survival and consequently the multi-ethnic nature of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When it comes to the topic of  irregular migrants, their numbers have been rising on the eastern Mediterranean route. The Frontex statistics show that along this route, which is also called the Balkan route, there were an estimated 82,000 illegal migrants last year, or 46% more than in 2018.

The report underlines that Croatia should strengthen its energy independence and that the LNG terminal would boost the energy security of the country and its neigbours.

The SOA also highlights that white-collar crime and corruption can stifle the economic development of the country.


For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

First Step Taken Towards Establishing Intelligence College in Europe

ZAGREB, February 26, 2020 - Twenty-three countries, meeting at a conference in Zagreb on Wednesday, signed a letter of intent to establish the Intelligence College in Europe.

"The Intelligence College is a tool for cooperation, and cooperation is the only way for Europe to remain safe and prosperous," said the Director of Croatia's Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA), Danijel Markić.

"A safe, stable and prosperous Europe is our common goal," he said, adding that the aim of this initiative was to become "a bridge towards other communities."

The initiative aims to ensure dialogue between the European intelligence community, decision makers and the academic community.

Markić said that it was necessary to find a better way of communicating at a strategic level because of the diversity of intelligence services. Some are internal or external, with police powers or without them, and SOA is a hybrid service.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković described the Intelligence College as "a very good form of cooperation which is more open than is usual in the intelligence community." He added that it would not be "operational cooperation", but that the College would deal with "strategic issues, communication and training."

The Intelligence College will not function as a platform for the exchange of security and intelligence data. It will be based in Paris, and conferences and seminars will be held in countries that join it.

Thirty countries, including all 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, have been offered to participate in the initiative. To date, 22 EU member states and the UK have given the green light to the Intelligence College, while EU members Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg and Greece have not yet joined in. Plenkovic believes that "the other countries will join with time."

Ranko Ostojić, the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs and National Security, stressed the importance of intelligence services and their cooperation with other actors, stressing that "whoever is in control of information also controls the situation."

"You see what's going on with the new epidemic which may turn into a pandemic. Professional, experienced people who possess information can be of great help to decision makers," he said.

The idea to establish the Intelligence College was floated by French President Emmanuel Macron in a speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017, when he expressed the need to establish a kind of European intelligence academy where EU intelligence communities would converge through training, education and exchange.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Croatia and Serbian Intelligence Services Trade Accusations

ZAGREB, December 1, 2019 - The Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) on Saturday responded to a statement by the Serbian Security Service (BIA) saying that it had reported a Croatian and a Serbian national on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures, including SOA.

SOA said the report in question "is a trumped-up report aimed at diverting the attention of the domestic and international public from serious scandals in Serbia, of which two are recent - suspected corruption and illegal trade in weapons between Serbia and foreign countries and the release of a video showing a Russian intelligence officer, a member of GRU, handing over money to a Serbian Army officer."

"We are worried about the fact that Serbian security institutions, in an attempt to cover up suspected breaches of international law and downplay the work of its political, security and military bodies for the benefit of third countries, have been constantly behaving aggressively towards the Republic of Croatia and its citizens as well as towards NATO allies," SOA says in a statement published on its website.

"Particularly worrying is the fact that the Republic of Serbia is systematically using its security services to hamper efforts to shed light on the fate of people abducted or gone missing during the Homeland War and to cover up war crimes committed against Croat civilians and soldiers during the Great Serbian aggression on the Republic of Croatia, which includes, among other things, accusations of espionage on behalf of the Republic of Croatia," SOA says, adding that it would continue to work, in cooperation with other Croatian institutions, on protecting national security and the interests of Croatia and its citizens, including the search for people gone missing in the Homeland War.

BIA said on Friday that it had reported two persons on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures.

The two persons, who were reported to the prosecutorial authorities in Sremska Mitrovica, are Croatian national Nikola Kajkić and Serbian national Dražen Letić, BIA said in a statement.

The suspects, BIA says, conveyed information to Croatian intelligence circles and undertook other activities to aid the work of Croatian intelligence structures in order to jeopardise Serbia's national security and its international political and economic interests.

More news about relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

BiH Presidency's Member Accuses Croatia over Intelligence Agency

ZAGREB, June 6, 2019 - The Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Šefik Džaferović, on Wednesday said that he still expects a reply from Croatia to a protest note that the BiH Presidency sent regarding alleged pressure by the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) on citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who are suspected of being connected to radical Islamic groups.

Commenting on SOA's latest report about the security situation in Croatia, which also mentions the alleged recruiting of BiH citizens to collaborate with SOA, Džaferović said that that document is yet more proof of Croatia's unfair relations toward Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"I expect a response from Croatia to the protest note that the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent due to numerous cases of abuse of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who stayed in Croatia and various conditions, including those regarding collaboration with (Croatia's) their intelligence services," Džaferović said.

In its report, SOA said the affair that was dubbed in Bosnia and Herzegovina as "Salafi" was an attempt to influence through the media the stability of Croatian state institutions and to falsely present Croatia as an "unreliable member of NATO and the EU."

The Croat representative to the three-man Presidency, Željko Komšić, too accused Croatia on Wednesday. He told the Sarajevo-based Patria agency that Croatian police were sending all illegal migrants to BiH, including some that had not come from BiH, and in that way "amassing" them in the country.

He blamed the HDZ BiH party for the deteriorated situation with illegal migrations in the country, saying its personnel is in the most responsible positions in the border police.

HDZ BiH has absolute influence on Bosnia and Herzegovina's border police and instead of the border police protecting the BiH-Serbia border, where the majority of migrants are entering the country, the border police are energetically protecting the BiH-Croatia border and that is why we have the situation where migrants can relatively easily enter BiH but can't get out. We are of the impression that our neighbours are deliberately concentrating migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Komšić said.

He called on Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to jointly approach the problem of the migrant crisis in the two countries, in an effort to protect the citizens of BiH and Croatia as well as migrants and refugees themselves.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Security Situation in Croatia Stable, Says SOA

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - The security situation in Croatia is stable and there are currently no indications or visible potential for its more significant destabilisation, the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) says in a public report on its activities in 2018, posted on its website.

The threat of terrorism in Croatia is small, however, considering the nature of modern terrorist threats, Croatia's membership of Euro-Atlantic associations and belonging to western democratic value system, and its developed tourism sector and visibility in global media, there is a potential risk of terrorist threats, SOA says, noting that there is also a constant risk of lone wolves who carry out terrorist attacks on their own, encouraged by public calls from terrorist organisations.

SOA says that one of the security challenges for Croatia is the transit of foreign nationals believed to support terrorist activities, in the context of migration trends.

"To reduce the risks of this challenge, SOA has been taking appropriate preventive action with the aim of protecting the Republic of Croatia as well as other European countries," says the report.

SOA also says that seven persons who (also) have Croatian citizenship - two men and five women - have stayed in the territory controlled by the Islamic State terrorist organisation. None of those people were radicalised in Croatia nor did they join ISIL from Croatia, SOA says.

According to available unconfirmed information, the two men were killed while fighting on the side of ISIL while some of the women have been staying in civilian camps in Syria that are controlled by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The women followed their jihadist husbands into ISIL and some of them have had children during their stay in Syria and Iraq, but their exact location and fate need confirmation due to the chaotic situation after ISIL's defeat, says the report.

SOA also notes that no extremism, regardless of its ideological, religious or ethnic grounds, enjoys broader public support in Croatia, a significant number of followers or significant motivating potential.

Members of extremist groups have very small potential for causing violence, incidents or large-scale conflicts and their activities do not pose a more significant threat to national security, SOA says, noting that there is also no serious anti-immigration extremism but adding that the growing anti-immigration trends in Europe could in the medium term lead to the strengthening of such groups in Croatia.

SOA also notes that unlike western EU countries and countries in Croatia's southeast neighbourhood, Islamic radicalism has not managed to mobilise a more significant number of followers, which it attributes to the local Islamic community's good status, reputation and integration in the Croatian society.

Analysing security trends in the neighbourhood, SOA says that Croatia's southeast neighbourhood is still unstable and not entirely consolidated politically and security-wise. "The complexity of the current security and political situation in the southeast neighbourhood is evidenced by the fact that some of those countries continue to function with active involvement by the international community and that situation is not likely to change soon."

SOA also notes that Croatia was a target of a number of cyber-attacks in recent years and warns that considering the country's presidency of the EU in 2020 there is an increased risk of cyber-attacks against state institutions' information and communication systems. "In cooperation with other relevant agencies, SOA is working to enhance the capability of defence against such threats to national security."

The security-intelligence agency also reports about attempts by criminal groups from neighbouring countries to smuggle narcotics, illegal migrants and high-profit goods in Croatia, in cooperation with local criminal groups and individuals, and to hide in Croatia from criminal prosecution in their home countries or from rival criminal groups.

More national security news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Bosnia Still Investigating Alleged Croatian Spying Scandal

ZAGREB, April 20, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadić said in Sarajevo on Friday that the investigation into the alleged recruitment of Bosnian citizens by the Croatian intelligence agency SOA had not been completed yet, expressing regret that the SOA and the Bosnian intelligence agency OSA had not settled this problem in direct communication between themselves.

The two agencies "should have settled it between themselves and it should never have become public because it disturbed citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in the region," Tadić told the press in Sarajevo.

It was the first time that the public prosecutor had commented on the scandal which broke out after the news website and Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektić claimed in mid-March that SOA agents tried to recruit citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with ties to radical Islamist groups to illegally transport weapons within the country and plant them in Islamic places of worship as proof that Bosnia and Herzegovina has become a stronghold for thousands of potential terrorists.

After that, prosecutors opened an investigation into those claims, and Tadić said on Friday that her colleagues had found that the three persons named in this case – Deputy Security Minister Mijo Krešić, Croatia's Consul General in Tuzla Ivan Bandić, and Mato Đaković, a journalist with the Bosnian Serb TRS television network, were not involved in such activities.

At the same time, prosecutors opened an investigation into Minister Mektić on suspicion of disclosing confidential information and jeopardising national security.

Tadić would not comment on this case, but she did confirm that the investigation into the allegations that SOA agents had put pressure on citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in attempts to recruit them, was continuing.

The chief prosecutor said that there was also a third line of investigation leading to Slovenia. She said that a prosecutor would go to the Slovenian town of Novo Mesto to interview a Bosnian citizen who said that SOA agents had intimidated him to get him to collaborate with them.

When that part of the investigation has been concluded, the Prosecutor's Office will present the results of the investigation to the public, Tadić said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Bosnia to Send Protest Note to Croatia over Spying Affair

ZAGREB, April 18, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency on Wednesday instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send a protest note to Croatia over actions by the Croatian Security Intelligence Agency (SOA) towards citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina during their stay in or transit through Croatia, the country's collective head of state said in a press release after its meeting in Sarajevo.

The protest note was prompted by claims that SOA agents had attempted to get citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with links to radical Islamic Salafi groups in that country to plant weapons in Islamic places of worship to prove true the claims by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović that Bosnia and Herzegovina was becoming a stronghold for thousands of potential terrorists.

SOA director Danijel Markić has dismissed the accusations, but has confirmed that Croatian intelligence agents interviewed some citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding their ties to radical Islamist groups.

"SOA, of course, interviewed those people and will continue to do so in the future for the sake of our own security and the security of our neighbours, the European Union and NATO," Markić said last month after the affair broke out.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Page 1 of 4