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26 Feb, 2024 10:01

Serbia rebukes neighbor over ‘Russian satellite’ claim

The Croatian foreign minister had urged Belgrade to decide whether it is on the side of the EU or Russia in the Ukraine conflict
Serbia rebukes neighbor over ‘Russian satellite’ claim

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has rebuked Croatian FM Gordan Grlic-Radman, over his criticism of Belgrade’s stance on key international issues. Grlic-Radman claimed that Serbia is a de facto “satellite” of Russia, because it has refused to adopt the Western line regarding the Ukraine conflict.

Since the hostilities broke out two years ago, Serbia, which has traditionally maintained close ties with Moscow, has striven to remain neutral. Vucic has said on numerous occasions that his government has come under pressure from Western powers to place sanctions on Russia.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, the Serbian leader wrote that the Croatian foreign minister “not only brutally interferes in the internal affairs of Serbia, but as usual he lies and insults the Serbian people and threatens the citizens of Serbia.”

Vucic added that he has “never been anyone’s errand boy and servant, which cannot be said for Grlic-Radman.”

In a separate statement on Sunday, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said it had “sent a note of protest to the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Belgrade regarding the unacceptable statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Gordan Grlic-Radman,” which was “directed against the President of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Aleksandar Vucic and the Republic of Serbia as a whole.”

The Serbian ministry added that these remarks only serve to heighten the tensions in the region, and expressed hope that their Croatian colleagues would refrain from interfering in Serbia’s internal affairs going forward.

The original statement, which triggered Belgrade’s protests, was made by Grlic-Radman during an appearance on Croatia’s N1 TV on Saturday, in which he said the government of Vucic does not truly represent the Serbian people. In an apparent reference to the Ukraine conflict, he also called on the Serbian president to “decide which chair he will sit on, because it is uncomfortable to sit on two chairs.”

Grlic-Radman went on to claim that Vucic “may possibly be some kind of… satellite of Russia.”

Following these remarks and the Serbian reaction, the Croatian Foreign Ministry insisted that Grlic-Radman had merely “stated the fact about Serbia’s nonalignment with the foreign and security policy of the European Union regarding the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Zagreb argued that Belgrade’s failure to condemn “Russian aggression” in Ukraine disqualifies it from being a “candidate for EU membership” and the benefits that joining the bloc brings.