Croatia urged to prevent citizens joining Ukraine war
The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked Zagreb to prevent "the perverse practice" of Croats joining Ukraine's army, according to the Croatian website Index.Source: Tanjug, index.hr, TASS
A statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Moscow wished to remind Croatia, whose citizens are fighting in the Ukrainian army, that a new peace agreement reached in Minsk calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Ukraine.
The statement on Thursday came after Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusic confirmed that a number of Croats had joined the war in Ukraine.
The Russian MFA added that Moscow was "concerned and surprised" that Pusic confirmed that "Croatian soldiers were fighting in the Ukrainian army," and noted that "the legitimacy of Croats’ involvement had not been called into question."
TASS said in a report that "dozens of Croats had joined the Azov volunteer punitive battalion."
"Participation of foreign mercenaries, including Croatian, in Ukraine’s internal conflict is unacceptable and only aggravates the situation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs reacted by saying that Croatian volunteers who are fighting in the ranks of the Ukrainian army "do not enjoy institutional support" while their departure to the battlefields in the east of Ukraine was "not related to any Croatian state institution."
"As far as the Croatian nationals who left for the Ukrainian front, we have only stated the facts, and we are monitoring the situation. The fact is that there are Croatian citizens in the Ukrainian battlefield, specifically eight of them, but their departure was not related to any Croatian state institution, nor do the institutions in any way support them. Regardless of the fact that it is a very small number of individuals, it concerns us, and we follow the situation with the utmost seriousness," reads a statement issued in Zagreb.
Pusic said on Wednesday that Croatian citizens who fight in Ukraine do so "exclusively in the regular Ukrainian army."
Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic stated that Croatian security services have "certain information" about the Croats who fight in Ukraine, and stressed they were fighting exclusively "on the side of Ukraine."
"Volunteers join the legitimate government (sic) and are not committing a criminal offense," said Ostojic.
The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, called on "all foreign fighters in Ukraine, even those who came from Croatia," to return to their home countries "so that the agreement from Minsk can bring concrete results as soon as possible."