Political row in Croatia over Russia-Ukraine
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has laid into his own country’s prime minister, criticizing him for making a visit to Ukraine last week that the head of state branded “plain charlatanism.”
The visit could negatively affect Croatia’s relationship with Russia, Milanovic claimed on Friday. “I have sympathy for Ukraine, but I don’t hate Russia,” he said. “It’s a relatively uncomfortable situation. But there are 100,000 Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What does this display of unending love mean?”
The president asked Ukrainians not to get offended, but insisted that the meeting could have negative consequences for Croatia’s foreign policy. “These things are very serious. For me, this is plain charlatanism,” he continued.
Andrej Plenkovic, the prime minister, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the conflict in the country’s eastern Donbass region, where separatists declared breakaway republics in 2014 and have been fighting with Ukrainian armed forces since then. Kiev has accused Russia of supporting the rebels and fueling a civil war, which the Kremlin has denied.
To date, Moscow has not asked any of its international partners to refuse to deal with Kiev, and has taken part in multilateral discussions concerning the Donbass conflict, including as part of the “Normandy Format” talks with Ukraine, Germany, and France.
According to reports, the two leaders discussed the possibility of a “Croatian scenario” in Donbass, which is understood to mean a reabsorption of the territories by force. The phrase refers to the Croatian War of Independence of 1991-1995, when the country’s military took control of territory that it had claimed since it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Plenkovic called the Croatian president’s comments “shameful.” On Friday, Zelensky addressed the matter on Twitter, writing, “If more than 100,000 troops were on the border with Croatia, President Milanovic would call the Ukrainian prime minister’s visit to Zagreb not ‘charlatanism’ but a manifestation of solidarity and friendship.”
Croatia has been a member state of the EU since 2013. The country’s president is the head of state and formally holds the highest office, but the prime minister is considered to be de facto the most powerful officeholder in the Croatian system of government.