Croatian Foreign Minister, Gordan Grlic-Radman, on Wednesday described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal," expressing hope that "the Russian autocratic regime would not last long" and claiming that Croatia "would know how to respond if Russian threats were to become a reality."
Speaking in an interview with state radio, Grlic-Radman said that he did not consider threats by the Russian ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor Kalabukhov, as realistic, describing them as “a form of intimidation.” A few days ago Kalabukhov warned that Moscow had the right to respond to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s potential membership in NATO, asking the interviewer: “How do you know we do not have plans also against Croatia, Poland, and Bulgaria as NATO members?”
In an unlikely scenario of the threats becoming a reality, Croatia “would know how to respond” with its allies, said Grlic-Radman. “The ambassador’s threat concerns not only Croatia but the entire EU, and if it were to become a reality, it would activate Article 5” of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an armed attack against one member state is considered an armed attack against them all, Grlic-Radman said.
“That would cause a new escalation of the conflict, which is in no one’s interest and I am certain it will be avoided, and ways would be found to negotiate with the Russian president,” Grlic-Radman said. He added that Putin “has already committed war crimes, but one must negotiate in war.” Putin will “not have any choice because he has not accomplished what he wanted – to conquer Ukraine,” said Grlic-Radman.
Two months after his official visit to Moscow, where he said that “good relations with Ukraine really do not rule out good relations with Russia,” Grlic-Radman said that he was referring to the Russian people.
“The regime and the people are not the same thing. People stay, policies change. I hope this autocratic regime will not last long,” he stressed.
Grlic-Radman said that the EU had pursued a two-track policy towards Russia, with sanctions as well as an open diplomatic channel with Moscow, and that a number of EU ministers had visited Russia before the invasion of Ukraine to advocate de-escalation. He said that five Croatian nationals were still in Ukraine and that anyone who wanted to leave the country had done so.
More than 9,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Croatia and the number keeps growing, he said.