Crimea will never again be part of Ukraine - Croatian president

FILE PHOTO: NATO Summit in Madrid
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, will never again be part of Ukraine, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said on Monday in remarks detailing his objection to Zagreb providing military aid to Kyiv.

In December, Croatian lawmakers rejected a proposal that the country join a European Union mission in support of the Ukrainian military, reflecting deep divisions between Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

A vocal critic of Western policy in Ukraine, Milanovic has said he does not want his country, the EU's newest member state, to face what he has called potentially disastrous consequences over the 11-month-old war in Ukraine.

What the West is doing about Ukraine "is deeply immoral because there is no solution (to the war)," Milanovic told reporters during a visit to military barracks in the eastern town of Petrinja, referring to Western military support for Kyiv.

He added that the arrival of German tanks in Ukraine would only serve to drive Russia closer to China.

"It is clear that Crimea will never again be part of Ukraine," Milanovic added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to restore Ukrainian rule over Crimea, seized and annexed by Russia in 2014 in a move not recognised by most other countries.

Russia says a referendum held after Russian forces seized the peninsula showed Crimeans genuinely want to be part of Russia. The referendum is not recognised by most countries.

Milanovic criticised Western countries for using double standards in international politics, saying Russia would invoke what he called the international community's "annexation of Kosovo" as an excuse for taking parts of Ukraine.

Milanovic was referring to Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 following a 1998-1999 war in which NATO countries bombed rump-Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and Montenegro, to protect Albanian-majority Kosovo.

"We recognised Kosovo against the will of a state (Serbia) to which Kosovo belonged," he said, cautioning that he was not questioning Kosovo's independence but the concept of Western double standards.

Milanovic, a Croatian former premier from the Social Democratic party (SDP), has embraced an anti-EU stance since he took the mostly ceremonial job of president, aligning his policies with those of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Bosnian Serb secessionist leader Milorad Dodik.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by William Maclean)