President of NATO member state says Crimea will 'never again' be part of Ukraine, argues against sending more weapons

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic in Zagreb, Croatia, in February 2020.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic in Zagreb, Croatia, in February 2020.AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File
  • Croatia's president said that Russian-annexed Crimea will never rejoin Ukraine, breaking from NATO.

  • Zoran Milanovic added that more Western-supplied weapons will only "prolong the war."

  • The county's prime minister disagreed, saying the comments "harm Croatia's foreign policy position."

On Monday, Croatia's president seemingly broke with his NATO allies by suggesting publically that Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, was forever lost to Ukraine.

"It is clear that Crimea will never again be part of Ukraine," Zoran Milanovic said, according to Reuters.

Russia's annexation of the region has not been recognized internationally, including by the EU, the US, or China, and Ukraine has pledged to retake the Black Sea peninsula as part of its current military efforts.

The peninsula was taken before Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

Milanovic also criticized the flow of Western weapons going to Ukraine, according to The Associated Press, including the recent decision by Germany, the US, and other allies to send advanced tanks.

"I am against sending any lethal arms there," he said, addressing reporters during a visit to a military barracks. "It prolongs the war."

He added: "What is the goal? Disintegration of Russia, change of the government? There is also talk of tearing Russia apart. This is mad."

Milanovic's view that sending Ukraine arms will make the war last longer stands in contrast to the view of many Western officials, who say that giving Ukraine the weapons it needs is the best way to end the conflict as fast as possible.

Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in December that giving Ukraine better weaponry would help to end the war. "The Ukrainians have the valor necessary to succeed. They have shown it. They just need the equipment," he said.

In recent months Ukraine has pushed Russian forces back in the east, thwarting its efforts to conquer vast tracts of the country.

Experts told Insider's John Haltiwanger this month that a battle for Crimea could be the next big stage of the war.

Croatia's president has repeatedly criticized Western help for Ukraine, Reuters noted.

In October Milanovic said that Croatia would not train Ukrainian troops as "I do not want Croatia to be involved in this war more than is necessary."

But the country's prime minister, Andrej Plenkovic, who has more political power, has taken a more pro-Ukraine stance.

On Monday he said that Milanovic's comments "directly harm Croatia's foreign policy position," according to the AP.

Plenkovic also said last June that he supported Ukraine's steps to joining the EU, and accused Russia in September of a "violation of international law."

Earlier this month Plenkovic said that "the key thing is that we support Ukraine in regaining their territories, in preserving their sovereignty, in preserving the constitutional order."

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