Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic say he finds “the campaign about Russia arming Croatia in the early 1990s interesting.”
“This campaign is interesting to me – if it starts from Zagreb’s information system, and is then taken over in Belgrade – it’s all clear to me. We heard a precise and unambiguous explanation from the Russian embassy,” said Vucic.
He added that he “had no information that Croatia has an S-300 – it’s not a needle.”
“I don’t want to go into who traded with whom – do we want to strengthen the air defense? Yes, we do, that’s what we will do,” he said on Easter Sunday, as he was visiting a Serbian Army Air Defense (PVO) unit.
According to Vucic, he agreed the delivery of MIG-29 planes, tanks and combat reconnaissance vehicles with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We have no agreement on the S-300s, but if I may tell you, I mentioned it first in conversation with Putin, and we talked about it. I also mentioned in conversation with (Belarus President) Lukashenko,” Vucic told reporters.
His comments came after Croatian daily Vecernji list reported, without citing any sources, that Russian ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov recently invited Croatian arms merchant Zvonko Zubak to the embassy “to ask him where the S-300 missile system that Russia delivered to Croatia in the early 1990s was.”
Former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said on the occasion of these reports that the Russian ambassador “only wants to remind Croatia that Russia helped the Croatian defense and the struggle for independence, and not only with weapons.”
Azimov, however, said that the embassy “never invited anyone to talk about arms shipments to Croatia.”
“There have been conversations, but not at our request, rather at the request of the other party, that initiated the whole process. We have rejected the proposal of any cooperation that Mr. Zubak stated on that occasion. Russia and the Russian embassy did and do not intend to exert any pressure on Croatia. Cooperation between Russia and Croatia on the military-technical program took place and continues to take place in compliance with international obligations that Russia has, and there is nothing controversial in that,” Azimov said – according to Vecernji list.
Previously, the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the Croatian media reports about deliveries of arms from Russia during the 1990s.
Speaking on Sunday at a Serbian Army barracks in Jakovo, Vucic, who was accompanied by Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic and Army chief Gen. Ljubisa Dikovic, touched on other topics, including “the extreme Islamic factor.”
He said that Serbia’s security services are “seriously and successfully” cooperating with those from Germany, the US and other countries.
According to Vucic, Serbia’s security services are also closely monitoring the events in Pristina, where they cooperate with KFOR.
“Very monitor very closely, and we are concerned for various reasons. But, we are satisfied, I think it’s good that Islamic State cells are being discovered in time, there’s more in the Balkans,” Vucic said.
He added that the Serbian security services had “very good cooperation with NATO.”
Vucic condemned in the strongest terms the damaging of a mosque in the village Labljane in the municipality of Novo Brdo in Kosovo by a Serbian citizen.
Speaking about the country’s military, he said the Air Force would be modernized in the future, “which will provide a safe sky over the land, as well as its independence in internal and foreign political activities.”
Vucic said that Serbia has modernized its missile and radar system that can detect “invisible” planes.
“If we had such a modernized system in 1999, we would probably have been able down more enemy (NATO) aircraft,” Vucic said, adding that Serbia is facing “further modernization of the air defense system.”