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News 23 Nov 16

Russia Snubs Croatia's Peace Initiative on Ukraine

Russia has unambiguously slated the Croatian Prime Minister's proposal to use a Croatian peace agreement from the 1990s as a model for a similar peace agreement in eastern Ukraine.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Andrej Plenkovic (left) during his visit to Kiev on Monday. Photo: Facebook/Croatian government

Russia on Tuesday flatly dismissed a call by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic for Russia and Ukraine to draw on the experience on the peace agreement signed in Croatia in the 1990s.

Plenkovic floated the idea while visiting Ukraine on Sunday and Monday, saying that Croatia was ready to help Ukraine peacefully reintegrate eastern parts held by pro-Russian rebels through sharing its own experience of peaceful integration.

Plenkovic said that both countries had been “victims of brutal military aggressions” - by Yugoslavia in Croatia's case and Russia in Ukraine's.

The Croatian leader was referring to the so-called "Erdut Agreement", named after a village in eastern Croatia, signed between Croatia and rebel Croatian Serbs, in 1995.

The UN-sponsored agreement terminated the conflict in Croatia and peacefully reintegrated the remaining slice of rebel-held territory in the east into Croatian government hands within two years.

Russia - which has no intention of re-integrating either Crimea or rebel-held parts of eastern Ukraine back into Ukraine - reacted with predictable iciness.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that “the ‘price’ of Croatian reintegration of its territory was the persecution of 250,000 Serbs in the [Croatian military] operations ‘Flash’ and ‘Storm’”.

The two Croatian army operations in May and August 1995 brought most Serb rebel-held parts of Croatia back under government control.

According to the UN and other NGOs, over 200,000 Croatian Serbs fled Croatia in 1995 and over 600 Serb civilians were killed in the operations.

The Russian Ministry further called on Croatia to deal with the problem of “breaching the rights of Serbs and other minorities”.

Russia - a staunch ally of fellow Orthodox state Serbia - in June 2015 accused Croatia of converting Orthodox Serb believers to Catholicism and pointed to the much reduced size of the Serbian community.

According to the 1991 census, taken before the conflict in Croatia started, 580,000 Serbs then lived in Croatia. The 2011 census listed only 186,000.

On his visit to Kiev, Plenkovic reiterated that Zagreb “supports the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and the implementation of the policy of not recognizing the illegal annexation of Crimea”.

The Russian ministry called this “absurd”, insisting that the “unification of Crimea and Sevastopol with the Russian Federation was based on the free will and legitimate declaration of the population”.

Since he became Croatian Prime Minister, Plenkovic has involved himself closely in the situation in Ukraine, heading a delegation of the European Parliament in talks with Ukrainian officials in late September.

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