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Bosnian Serb leader Dodik defiant over sanctions as tensions flare


US sanctions imposed on Milorad Dodik final week have underlined the shifting opinion concerning the Bosnian Serb chief in western capitals — and the resurgent risk of ethnic pressure within the Balkans.

Dodik was first elected as Bosnian Serb chief greater than 20 years in the past, within the wake of peace accords that ended Europe’s deadliest battle for the reason that second world warfare. He was seen within the west as a determine able to serving to Bosnia — cut up between a Serb-controlled entity and one other dominated by Croats and Bosniaks — transfer past its sectarianism.

However the more and more nationalist politician has portrayed the 1995 Dayton peace accords as a car of western pursuits. He has boycotted Bosnia’s establishments since July and desires to finish Bosnian Serb co-operation on issues reminiscent of defence, tax and judicial affairs. The prospect of what in impact can be a quasi-secession has sparked worldwide warnings of the chance of renewed ethnic violence.

Final week, Washington moved to freeze belongings linked to Dodik within the US for alleged “destabilising and corrupt actions” jeopardising the Bosnian peace course of. This week, the EU threatened to comply with go well with with its personal punitive measures, condemning “inflammatory rhetoric” at controversial celebrations held in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated area on January 9.

Bosnian Serbs celebrate an outlawed holiday with a parade in Sarajevo on January 9, 2022
Bosnian Serbs rejoice an outlawed vacation with a parade in Sarajevo on January 9 © AP

Dodik, who has drawn nearer to rulers together with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has responded with defiance.

“In the event that they assume they are going to self-discipline me they’re massively mistaken,” he informed state tv RTRS after the US sanctions. “I actually have a new motive to battle for the rights which are being wrestled from us for 26 years.”

The Dayton settlement cut up Bosnia into the autonomous Serb Republic and the Federation, dominated by Croats and Bosniaks, with the 2 linked by a weak central authorities. Serbs make up about 1.3m of Bosnia’s 3.3m folks. Worldwide oversight has prevented violence for many years, however over time the assemble has hardened ethnic divisions which are being exploited by leaders reminiscent of Dodik, analysts say.

Dodik’s threats additionally got here after Valentin Inzko, Bosnia’s worldwide Excessive Consultant, imposed a genocide denial ban in July, simply earlier than leaving workplace. The Excessive Consultant’s workplace was created within the Dayton accords to assist keep peace and develop democratic establishments.

Bosnia and Herzegovina map showing the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska areas

Haris Silajdzic, former Bosnian prime minister and president, who helped to dealer the accords, believes that Dodik needs the Serb Republic to wrest public lands and property from the management of the nationwide authorities.

“They need . . . to get the assets of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” stated Silajdzic. He and different politicians and analysts stated this is able to in impact imply management for Dodik.

Valery Perry, a senior affiliate of the Sarajevo-based Democratisation Coverage Council, stated there was a severe threat of corruption. “It’s troubling that the worldwide neighborhood haven’t pushed again in opposition to this extra,” she stated.

Dodik didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Majda Ruge, senior fellow on the European Council on International Relations, referred to as Dodik’s secession transfer a “determined escalation”, including that the separation of taxation alone would price the Serb Republic an annual $360m in misplaced funds revenues, in contrast with gross home product of $7bn.

Elections are due in Bosnia in October. The opposition within the Serb Republic says its features are encouraging Dodik to battle on points reminiscent of identification.

“Dodik is an effective bluffer,” stated Branislav Borenovic, chair of the opposition PDP social gathering. “He’s making an attempt to maintain a disaster on the agenda. That’s the one approach for him to remain in energy. He has no actual solutions to the economic system challenges, the pandemic, corruption, emigration, rule of regulation challenges.”

Borenovic additionally stated the genocide denial ban had helped Dodik. “When Inzko imposed this regulation, he gave [Dodik’s party] new gasoline, a disaster — and they’ll use it so long as they will, till the elections if attainable,” he stated.

Inzko stated he had sought to do the precise factor, calling Dodik “a person with out character” who “tries to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Dodik, Inzko stated, “was pro-west, now he’s ridiculing the west. He as soon as stated [wartime Bosnian Serb leader and convicted war criminal Radovan] Karadzic was a warfare legal and needed to be delivered to The Hague, now he’s glorifying him”.

Dodik’s threats of secession come because the west is battling for affect within the Balkans with Russia and China. Since 2006, Dodik has strengthened relations with Putin, whose major strategic aim within the area is to dam additional enlargement of the EU and Nato. Dodik visited the Russian chief in December and stated Putin had assured his assist in opposition to the “liberal west”.

A Bosnian Serb soldier returning to his home in 1996 as part of the Dayton peace agreement
A Bosnian Serb soldier returning to his residence in 1996 as a part of the Dayton peace settlement © Reuters

Nevertheless, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, has distanced himself from Dodik regardless that his personal Serbian nationalism has drawn criticism from the west.

“The worldwide neighborhood made hundreds of errors in Bosnia,” Vucic informed the Monetary Instances in a latest interview in Belgrade. “Taking competencies and authorities out of the Serb Republic, not listening to the folks . . . However you need to be 100 per cent strict in obeying the Dayton peace accord and the Bosnian structure.”

Sources in Bosnia and western diplomats say that whereas the US strikes might herald harder sanctions, the west can be holding the door open to talks with the Bosnian Serb chief. “That is without doubt one of the the explanation why we now have not been as escalatory as folks need us to be,” a senior US state division official stated.

The ECFR’s Ruge stated she was optimistic {that a} unified western response would possibly drive Dodik to alter course on secession. “It may be prevented,” she stated, “if all vital western capitals get on the identical web page.”

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