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Dodik Says He Wants Bosnian Serb Entity To 'Unite' With Serbia

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attend a press conference in Belgrade on April 14.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has again called for a union between Serbia and Republika Srpska -- one of Bosnia-Herzegovina's two entities -- amid already high tensions in the region.

Dodik -- who has been targeted by sanctions from the United States and Britain over alleged destabilization efforts and corruption -- has repeatedly threatened to push for the independence of Republika Srpska.

Dodik was speaking on April 24 at a commemoration ceremony in the northern Republika Srpska village of Gradina held for the victims of who perished in the World War II Croatian camp of Jasenovac.

During World War II, tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and anti-fascist Croats were killed at Jasenovac -- known as "Croatia's Auschwitz." The camp was run by Croatia's Nazi-allied Ustase regime.

"No one will prevent us [Serbs] from uniting because it is our right and our history. The last century was the century of Serbian suffering, and this century is one of Serbian unification," Dodik said.

He claimed the "Serbs will not survive in these areas if Republika Srpska does not become independent in the coming years."

The 1995 Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian War established an administrative system under which Bosnia remains partitioned between the Serbian entity -- Republika Srpska -- and the Bosniak-Croat federation connected by a weak central government.

Dodik, who rejects the administrative arrangement and the authority of the Office of the High Representative -- the international community's overseer of civil and other aspects of the Dayton agreement, went on to criticize the international community and accused Western diplomats of trying to "eliminate" Serbs from Bosnia.

Making a parallel between the World War II killings at Jasenovac and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, Dodik avoided referring to the latter as "genocide" and said Western diplomats "cannot equate the crime committed in Srebrenica with Jasenovac because it is not the same."

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the UN's top judicial authority, the International Court of Justice, have each recognized the killings by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica as genocide.

More than 50 people have been sentenced to a combined 700 years in prison for their roles in genocide and war crimes at Srebrenica, including former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and ex-military commander Ratko Mladic, who were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attended the commemoration but did not comment on Dodik's remarks about uniting with Serbia, although he has previously spoken on several occasions in support of Bosnian sovereignty.

Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska's ruling Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), has repeatedly called for the referendum and the secession of the Bosnian Serb entity from the rest of Bosnia, which he labeled an "experiment by the international community" and an "impossible, imposed country," saying Bosnian Serbs had "a right to decide their own future."

The United States and Britain have placed sanctions on Dodik and several other ethnic Serb politicians in Bosnia for undermining the hard-won peace.

His comments come a day after ethnic Serbs boycotted en masse local elections in four municipalities in northern Kosovo with ethnic Serbian majorities where local mayors resigned in November 2022 to protest a cross-border dispute over vehicle registrations.

Only 1,567 people -- or 3.47 percent of voters -- showed up at polling stations for the vote on April 23. Dodik has been trying to separate the entity's military, police, and tax administration from the central Bosnian government, actions that contravene the Dayton accords.

Republika Srpska has attempted multiple times to implement a property law that aims to transfer Bosnian state property to Republika Srpska.

Russia and Serbia tacitly support the actions of Dodik, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow before last year's Bosnian elections.

Dodik opposes imposing sanctions on Russia for its illegal invasion of Ukraine and recognizing Kosovo as independent state.

Ethnic Serbs compose some 1-2 percent of Kosovo's population of around 2 million people.


(c) 2023, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


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