Dodik confirms Republika Srpska’s good relations with Russia

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The President of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik – who is sanctioned by the United States and the United Kingdom – met with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, on February 21 in the city of Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, which is part of Russia, the Kremlin announced.

Dodik told Putin through an interpreter that the Republika Srpska does not accept joining Western sanctions against Russia despite, as he says, daily pressure, and that it does not want to join the NATO alliance.

“We confirm the good relations that the Republika Srpska has and cultivates with the Russian state and with you. What we are doing in the current circumstances is that we refuse any opportunity to join Western sanctions against Russia,” Dodik said.

He emphasized that relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina are complicated by, as he said, “the fact that we are still under Western protectorate”, and he reiterated his previous claims – for which he has the support of Russia – that the high international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, was not appointed to this position by the decision of the United Nations Security Council.

He also spoke about his good relations with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and with the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, saying that this “makes the situation easier” for the Republika Srpska.

Putin appreciated that Dodik’s visit would be “useful” and that he is grateful for maintaining regular contacts and that the relationship between Russia and the Republika Srpska is constructive.

“Representatives of the leadership of the Republika Srpska visit us regularly and cooperate with us in various fields. I am sure that your visit will also be useful, and that we will be able to use the time to discuss bilateral relations in many different areas,” Putin said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Putin said that “Russia knows that the situation is not simple”.

Due to Russia’s occupation of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and their allies imposed a series of sanctions against Russia.

The fourth meeting since the invasion of Ukraine began

This is Dodik’s fourth meeting with Putin since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine and their tenth conversation since 2014.

Dodik and Putin last met in May 2023 when Dodik said, “The Republika Srpska remains pro-Russian, anti-Western, and anti-American”.

On the occasion of Dodik’s meeting with Putin, the office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that “Bosnia and Herzegovina has undertaken to follow the security and foreign policy instructions of the EU”, as a candidate country for membership in the European Union.

“This excludes cooperation with countries under sanctions, as well as personal meetings with the leaders of those countries,” the office said.

Dodik is one of the few officials who has met with Russian and Belarusian officials since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

He arrived in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, after spending two days visiting Belarus, where on February 19 he met with the authoritarian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has been under EU sanctions since 2020 for irregularities in the presidential elections of that year, which he claimed to have won.

The capital of Tatarstan hosts a high-tech and various sports tournament at an international level, called the “Games of the Future”, which gathers around two thousand participants.

However, pro-Russian rhetoric and closeness to Russian leaders show no concrete benefit for the Republika Srpska. Investments from the 27 EU member states account for 64 percent of total foreign investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Russian investments amount to less than four percent.

In the Republika Srpska, Russia ranks fifth on the list of investors, after Serbia’s neighbors, Italy, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

Several major projects, which the Republika Srpska government started in this entity with Russian companies and oligarchs, led to multimillion-dollar losses.

Among them are the unsuccessful revitalization of the Birač aluminum factory in Zvornik, with oligarch Vladimir Romanov’s company, the failed construction of the Ugljevik thermal power plant and the “Mrsovo” hydroelectric power plant on the Lim River, in the municipality of Rudo, as well as the sale of the oil industry to the Russian state company Zarubezhneft.

Russia’s strongest foothold in Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the oil industry, specifically in the Optima Group, the largest oil company in Bosnia and Herzegovina, owned by Zarubezhneft, a Russian state-owned company responsible for oil operations abroad.

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