Russia refutes "media spin" about selling S-300 to Croatia

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday denied the Croatian media claims about the alleged shipments of arms, including an S-300, during the 1990s.

Source: Vecernji list, Tanjug
(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

The Russian embassy in Belgrade said in a statement sent to Tanjug - and on its website, under the heading, "Russia's MFA on spins in Croatian press" - that Russia has always "strictly complied with its international legal obligations."

This includes "those related to the regime of the embargo on the delivery of weapons to the warring sides during the 1991-95 Yugoslav crisis," said Deputy Director of MFA's Information and Press Department Artem Kozhin.

"We consider these statements to be provocative, crudely twisting the facts, and having as their goal to tarnish the policy of the Russian Federation in the Balkans. It is especially unacceptable to mention contacts of the Russian ambassador in Zagreb in the context of these fabrications," Kozhin said, adding that "all responsibility should be on the authors of such 'ideas'."

"Our S-300 - where is it?"

The statement came after the Croatian daily Vecernji List published an article asserting that Russia was "once again putting pressure on Croatia via Ambassador Anvar Azimov - this time in connection with the weapons bought during the war in the 1990s."

According to the article, authored by journalist Davor Ivankovic - "Azimov fiercely pressed the Croatian government two months ago by announcing chaos in Agrokor," while he has now "summoned arms merchant Zvonko Zubak, who worked for a company that was Croatia's main weapons supplier during the war, to the embassy."

Azimov reportedly "asked for an inventory of all arms that arrived to Croatia via Russia from 1992 until 1997."

"Namely, Azimov is obviously still angry at Croatia, its geopolitical choice, and now, the way Croatian PM Andrek Plenkovic is solving the problem of Agrokor also doesn't suit him, it seems," the newspaper said, adding that "two Russian state banks are also very interested in solving that problem."

The article then quotes Azimov as saying that Russia is "disappointed by Croatia's behavior" - and that Croatia "should be reminded of who was arming and rescuing it during the embargo."

"It is obvious that Russia knows what it delivered to Croatia during those years, but they needed additional confirmation. The inventory, that Vecernji List has seen, cites large quantities of arms, including the well-known S-300 PMU system, which was partly delivered to the Republic of Croatia ahead of (Operation) Storm, and which then served as a psychological barrier to the air force of the SRJ (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) averting them from intervening during Storm," said the article.

The S-300 was never fully paid for, according to Zubak - "and so a court case has been ongoing since 2001" with either payment, return, or striking a deal are on the table.

According to the daily, "every Croatian government has run away from the process, but that nonchalance could now complicate life for Croatia."

"It's an open secret that the system left Croatia in, it seems, 2004, and was given for insight to those most interested - the United States and Israel. As there has been no firm confirmation of this, Russia for years pretended this did not concern her. However, now, at least as far as one can read from Azimov's moves, Russia could suddenly become interested in asking the question: 'Where is the missile system we delivered to you?'," said the article, and concluded:

"Azimov may have launched the action, that could represent new pressure by Russia, but it is Moscow Center that will decide on everything."

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