Some “Russophobe” EU member states directed by Washington are hindering the strengthening of the relations between Russia and Croatia, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov has been quoted as saying ahead of his tour of the Balkans, which excluded Croatia. EURACTIV Croatia reports.
In an interview with Croatia’s Večernji list newspaper, Russia’s veteran diplomat also said that the West had no real appetite for an honest discussion with Moscow and instead preferred to rely on unsubstantiated insinuations against Russia as a pretext for punitive measures.
Speaking about relations with Croatia, Lavrov said: “I would not qualify our (Croatia-Russia) bilateral relations as stagnating. What remains to be a serious obstacle in the path of further strengthening Russian-Croatian ties is the spiral of sanctions that keeps being promoted by Brussels and a number of Russophobe EU member states on direct orders from Washington”.
“I would like to hope that our European colleagues will have enough wisdom, foresight, common sense if you want it, to fully restore the dialogue,” Lavrov added.
The Russian top diplomat is currently doing a tour of the Balkan region, which he described as “a natural and historical environment for Russian-Croatian interaction”.
According to Moscow’s Kommersant daily, the visit’s objective is to maintain Russia’s influence in the region, in light of the European Commission’s intention to invest €20 billion in the region.
In response to the annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine, the EU has since March 2014 progressively imposed restrictive measures against Russia.
On 1 October, the EU leaders added new individuals and entities to the list of those individuals and entities subject to restrictive measures. The list has now reached a total of 177 individuals and 48 entities.
“Unfortunately, we can’t help but notice that Washington and a number of EU capitals have recently been redoubling their efforts to restrain Russia’s development, in an attempt to teach us a lesson for our independent foreign policy and consistent protection of our national interests,” Lavrov said.
He added that in order to justify their actions, such as the introduction of new anti-Russian sanctions, they “throw in various accusations and insinuations”.
Referring to the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the EU decision to freeze assets and impose travel bans on several Russian GRU military intelligence officials, Lavrov strongly criticised both the EU and Germany.
“Take only Berlin’s patronising refusal to respond to numerous requests from our Prosecutor General’s Office in relation to the so-called Navalny’s case, which is in direct violation of Germany’s obligations under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters,” he said.
Lavrov emphasised that no one has ever provided any facts or evidence for claims of meddling in elections, in particular in the US, organising cyberattacks, using fake news and disinformation, or destabilising the situation in the Middle East and the Balkans.
“Traditionally, everything remains at the level of insinuations in the ‘highly likely’ style […] Therefore, we have no choice but to conclude that there are no elements to expect a mutually respectful discussion of emerging problems, as the West has obviously developed a habit of presuming Russia’s blame in everything,” he said.
No visit to Croatia
Meanwhile, the Croatian government reacted to a EURACTIV media partner Jutarnji list’s article suggesting that Lavrov had decided not to visit Zagreb because Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković did not want to meet him.
“As soon as a meeting with Prime Minister Plenković was requested, it was confirmed to the Russian side that the prime minister would receive Minister Lavrov. The meeting was planned for 27 October,” the government said in a press release.
The statement also emphasised that a large number of members in the Russian Embassy had tested positive for the coronavirus and that this prevented the embassy from participating in the visit’s final preparations and implementation, which prompted the Russian Federation to postpone it.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Zoran Radosavljevic]