Russia’s “secessionist rhetoric” and “malicious” interference in Bosnia worry NATO, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said from Sarajevo on Monday, showing the Atlantic alliance’s strong support for the integrity territorial of this divided region of the Balkan country.
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“We are concerned about secessionist rhetoric, which seeks division and malicious foreign interference” in Bosnia, Mr. Stoltenberg, citing Russia in particular.
Divided since the end of the intercommunal war (1992-1995) along ethnic lines, Bosnia is made up of two entities, one Serbian and one Croat-Muslim, linked by a weak central government.
Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik, who maintains ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, regularly raises the possibility of secession from the Serbian entity Republika Srpska (RS).
According to NATO’s secretary general, the current situation risks endangering the country’s “stability” and hampering ongoing reforms. “Allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. “Your security is important for the Western Balkans region and for Europe.”
This statement by Jens Stoltenberg comes just days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Moscow wanted to create new crises in the Balkans and Moldova to divert world attention from the war in Ukraine.
“Pay attention to the Balkans. Believe me, we are getting information: Russia has a plan (…) If the countries of the world do nothing now, such an explosion will happen again,” Zelensky said, quoted by Ukrainian media on Thursday.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European military mission in Bosnia (Eufor-Althea) strengthened its presence in Bosnia, increasing the number of soldiers there from 500 to 1,100.
Mr. Stoltenberg is on a tour of the Western Balkans. After Bosnia, where he met the Bosnian Prime Minister Borjana Kristo, he must go to Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia.