Politics Regional

Russian-Serbian provocation in the Balkans

On December 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was paying an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, a completely routine diplomatic trip ended in an international scandal!

During a meeting with one of the chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, the Russian diplomat was presented with an icon of the 18th century. In doing so, it was separately emphasized that the icon had been brought from Luhansk, a city in eastern Ukraine, uncontrolled by the central government in Kyiv, but controlled by the pro-Russian quasi-republic Luhansk People’s Republic (considered by Kyiv a terrorist group). The incident with the icon predictably provoked a protest by the Ukrainian diplomats, who sent a protest note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that they explained how the Ukrainian church relic ended up in the territory of their country. Interpol was engaged in the investigation of all the circumstances.

Having visited Belgrade (the capital of Serbia, which is the main Russian ally in the Balkans) during his Balkan tour, the deeply worried S.Lavrov immediately announced that he had returned the icon to his grantor until all the circumstances were clarified.

It should be noted that Milorad Dodik, who S.Lavrov met, is one of the three co-chairs of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely the representative of the Republika Srpska, a territory inhabited by ethnic Serbs.

Representatives in the Presidency of the Bosniaks and Croats refused to meet with the Russian minister because of his ambiguous statements regarding the independence of BiH’s foreign policy. The latter said earlier that he supported the resolution adopted by the Parliament of the Republika Srpska in 2017, which refers to military neutrality and its unwillingness to join NATO or other military alliances.

Let us recall that in 1992 a war broke out in the country, in which the opposing sides actively resorted to the practice of ethnic cleansing. The conflict was ended in 1995 with the signing of the Dayton accords, according to which the territory of BiH was divided into the regions according to ethnicity, and the general administration is carried out by the previously mentioned Presidency. Recently, there have been increasing calls for the revision of these accords and the implementation of a full-fledged constitution in the country, which, according to a number of politicians, should help BiH to get closer to the EU.

While the Bosniaks and Croats generally support this scenario, the Serbs hold the opposite point of view. Milorad Dodik, since 2006, has been advocating for holding a referendum in his autonomous entity – the Republika Srpska – on the recognition of his independence.

This leads to the assumption that the situation with the Ukrainian icon, most likely stolen by Serbian mercenaries in eastern Ukraine (they are openly fighting for the pro-Russian “LPR”), was not an accident, but a well-planned information campaign on the part of Russia and its Serbian friends.

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