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Croatia: Relations with Russia important

President of Russia Vladimir Putin With President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia attaches emphasized the importance of its relations with Russia, especially as a trading partner, and highlighted that Russia's role in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday.

Sources quoted the president as saying at a press conference devoted to her foreign-policy activities that “Russia is an important trading partner to us, that is what many of our companies say, and its role in our neighborhood in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

She added that “it was important that Russia supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as President Vladimir Putin had confirmed several times.”

The Croatian president said that Putin's visit to Croatia had been agreed and that she wanted it to be a well-prepared, meaningful visit. "There have been plans for the visit to take place before the end of June, but since we are in an election year, I'm afraid that President Putin's visit would be put too much in the context of the elections. I want to avoid that, so we are proposing the next year regardless of who the head of state may be," Grabar-Kitarović said.

She assured she was pursuing a two-track policy in relations with Russia: absolute respect for international law when it comes to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states, and dialogue with Russia.

Russia "knows and understands how complicated the Balkans and its history is, but has always considered this region as one for constructive cooperation," Putin was quoted as saying earlier in January.

"When we talk about the situation in the Balkans, a serious factor of destabilization is the policy of the US and some Western countries which is aimed at strengthening their domination in the region," he says, mentioning NATO's strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999, Kosovo's separation from Serbia and the "illegitimate recognition" of Kosovo's independence, "dragging Montenegro into NATO", and forcing Macedonia's accession to NATO and a change of its name contrary to the will of its citizens.

Russian and Croatian leaderships held several meetings in 2018 and both sides pointed out that economic relations have improved.