- Published: 13.06.2017.
Plenkovic: We don't want to see any more people getting killed in Ukraine
Ten thousand people have been killed in Ukraine in the last three years and Croatia does not want to see any more Ukrainians killed, so in cooperation with the international community Croatia is willing to share its experience to help in the peaceful reintegration of the occupied Ukrainian territory, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman at his side, Plenkovic said that Croatia had been a victim of Serbian military aggression in the early 1990s, when parts of its territory had been occupied, and had the experience of peaceful reintegration of its territory.
"In the present situation in which Ukraine finds itself, with the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Croatia wants to help Ukraine to peacefully reintegrate its territory into its constitutional and legal system," Plenkovic said.
A working group has been set up to offer to Ukraine a catalogue of measures which Croatia implemented during the peaceful reintegration of its own territory in the late 1990s, Plenkovic said. The group will be led by Croatian state secretary Zdravka Busic and Ukrainian assistant foreign minister Olena Zerkal.
The measures include restoration of trust, contacts and cooperation between the Ukrainian authorities and the authorities in the occupied areas, mine removal, and social transfers.
Plenkovic said that this initiative complemented the activities of the international community, namely those of the Normandy Group (Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Minsk agreement.
Groysman thanked Plenkovic, the Croatian government and people for their "principled support to Ukraine at a time when it is a victim of Russian aggression" and for the initiative to establish the working group offering Croatia's experience with the peaceful reintegration process.
"I regret very much that Russia attacked Ukraine militarily and economically, as well as on the energy and information levels," Groysman said. "With the support of the international community, Ukraine continues to fight for compliance with international law and for its own territory," he added.
The Ukrainian PM was asked to comment on Russian criticisms addressed to Plenkovic after his visit to Ukraine last year when he first announced Croatia's assistance in the peaceful reintegration of the occupied Ukrainian territory.
"During his visit to Ukraine, Plenkovic reaffirmed his commitment to international laws and principles, and the Russian leadership can hardly fathom those principles. Anyone who advocates those is criticised by Moscow and that is one way of waging hybrid warfare," the Ukrainian prime minister said.
Groysman called on Russia to "pull its troops out of Ukraine and become a truly democratic country."
Plenkovic said that this was not his personal policy on Ukraine. "This is the policy of the Croatian state, the policy backed by all Croatian institutions. This policy is principled, responsible and the only one possible, and whether someone likes it or not is another matter. Our country is a member of the UN, EU and NATO, and we share the fundamental European values of the international order, respect for international law. This is the point of the Croatian position, and it will stay this way regardless of any criticisms," he said.
"Issues of principle, such as the territorial integrity of Ukraine, are not affecting the establishment of relations with Russia. All other responsible countries do that too," he added.
Plenkovic said that Croatia and Ukraine were very close and friendly countries. "Ukraine is the first UN member to have recognised Croatia. In these 25 years the two countries have developed relations, signed many international treaties and are working on promoting their economic cooperation," he said.
Plenkovic said he expected more Ukrainian tourists to visit Croatia, especially after the EU's decision to liberalise the visa regime for Ukrainian nationals, which entered into force two days ago. He said that Croatia was actively supporting Ukraine in the EU institutions and by sharing its knowledge from the EU accession process.
"Our cooperation is at a very high level and our bilateral relations have never been better," Groysman said. "Trade is growing steadily and there are a lot of chances for it to grow further," he added.
The Ukrainian prime minister said that his country supported Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's "The Three Seas Initiative" and wanted to take part in it.
In conclusion, Groysman once again praised the Croatian prime minister, who had previously served as head of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Ukraine. "Plenkovic is well known and well respected in Ukraine, which enables us to expand our cooperation," he said.