The president’s office was responding to claims by the Defence Ministry earlier in the day that it had prevented an international scandal over the participation of the Honorary and Protection Battalion in a commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier this year.
The office said that Banožić, “with his lying statements” and the ministry’s press release today, “is undermining without precedent” the international reputation of Croatia and the Croatian Army, the relations with BiH as well as “disturbing the public with fabrications.”
The president’s office said that Banožić’s claim via the ministry that he had prevented an international scandal was incorrect and insulting to the Croatian Army, which, it added, “unlike the minister, has always acted and acts in line with the law and legal commands and decisions.”
In March, members of the Honorary and Protection Battalion were sent to attend the burial of the remains of four Croatian Defence Council members in Bugojno, BiH in line with the law, based on a request from the president’s office, on the command of the chief of the General Staff and with the minister’s written decision, Milanović’s office said.
It added that Banožić tried to obstruct the legal sending of members of the battalion to Bugojno by waiting for the last minute to sign the decision to that effect, despite receiving a request from the chief of the General Staff in line with the law and in time.
The president’s office asked Banožić to say why it bothered him that members of the battalion should attend the commemoration, which was also attended by the president’s advisor on veterans, retired general Marijan Mareković, and by Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on the government’s behalf. The office noted that the ministry, in its press release, did not mention that Grlić Radman was at the commemoration.
Milanović’s office said that Banožić was abusing the Defence Ministry for his political clashes with the president and the military Chief-Of-Staff, Admiral Robert Hranj, adding that it was dangerous and irresponsible to accuse the president and the chief-of-staff of breaking the law via the ministry’s website..
The president’s office also carried a response from Hranj, who issued “a strong protest” against the ministry press release which, “based on a number of gross untruths, completely distorts the situation.”
Hranj told Minister Banožić that communication between state officials via the Defence Ministry website was “entirely inappropriate” and that contentious issues must be resolved in direct communication.
He added that it was also “absolutely unacceptable” to state “gross untruths with the evident objective to defame the other party.”
The admiral said the ministry press release, “besides stating numerous untruths, brings an unnecessary dose of mistrust and casts a shadow on the good relations” between Croatia and BiH, “especially their armed forces.”