Croatian President Zoran Milanović’s Pro-Russian Stance Raises Concerns Amid Ukraine Conflict

Zoran Milanovićis a Croatian politician functioning as President of Croatia since 2020. Before taking the presidency, he was Prime Minister from 2011 to 2016, as well as president of the Social Democratic Party. Judging by his political trajectory, he appears to be a politician with pro-Russian leanings.

In December 2021, Milanović slammed Prime Minister Plenković’s visit to Ukraine made at the beginning of a new escalation of the situation over Ukraine calling it “plain charlatanism”. A harsh response from Ukraine’s government followed Milanović’s comments made on 25 January 2022 about Ukraine being not suitable to join NATO as well as the country being unethical and Russia deserving to be offered a way to have its security demands met. 

Milanović also referred to the 2014 Maidan Revolution in Ukraine as a “coup d’état”. The foreign ministry of Ukraine called Croatian ambassador Anica Djamić, whereafter the ministry published a comment that said, “[…] Zoran Milanović’s comments retransmit Russian propaganda narratives, do not conform to Croatia’s consistent official position in backing of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, damage bilateral relations and sabotage unity within the EU and NATO in the face of current security threats in Europe.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine summons a public refutation of these insulting remarks by the President of Croatia, as well as non-repetition in the hereafter.” The same day, he was included in the blacklist of Myrotvorets. Russia’s pro-government media platforms gave Milanović’s pronouncements much promotion, presenting them as a symbol of a split in the ranks of the EU and NATO and indicating that other EU leaders would follow suit. Croatia’s prime minister Plenković responded by saying that on hearing Milanović’s words he thought it was being said “by some Russian official”; he also expressed apologies to Ukraine and repeated that Croatia supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

On 1 March 2022, Milanović stated: “One has to be worried when Ukraine threatens to use nuclear weapons. In June Milanović again remarked on the war in Ukraine by stating: “Zelenskyy’s words lead to defeat, once Russian boot arrives somewhere, it never leaves. It is a powerful military force.”

Zoran Milanović’s pro-Russian stance, evidenced by his criticisms of Ukraine and alignment with Russian narratives, raises concerns about Croatia’s commitment to NATO and EU unity. His remarks dismissing Ukraine’s sovereignty and downplaying the seriousness of the conflict reflect a departure from official Croatian policy, drawing condemnation from Ukraine and prompting diplomatic tensions. Milanović’s statements risk undermining European solidarity and playing into Russian propaganda efforts to sow division within the EU and NATO. As President of Croatia, Milanović’s rhetoric regarding Ukraine’s conflict and NATO’s response highlights the challenges posed by divergent perspectives within the European political landscape.

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