Bosnia alarmed at Serb arms deal

Bosnia alarmed at Serb arms deal

The purchase of thousands of firearms by the Bosnian-Serb police has raised concerns of deepening Russian influence.

A shipment of 2,500 automatic rifles from Serbia is due to arrive in the Serb-run region of Bosnia next month ahead of a scheduled opening of a training centre where Russian advisers will allegedly play a role.

The Bosnian-Serb government defended the purchase as necessary to prevent terror attacks. It denied plans to bring in Russian police trainers.

A 2015 attack on a police station in Zvornik by a 24-year-old returned Bosnian-Muslim refugee Nerdin Ibrić was labelled a terrorist attack, although his father was killed by Serb police in an act of ethnic cleansing in 1992.

The Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s, created two semi-autonomous regions: the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat federation, ensuring that ethnically based politics would dominate. Nationalist parties have a tight grip on power in both regions and corruption is rampant. Bosnia has the world’s highest official rate of youth unemployment.

Observers fear a heavily armed police could be used by the Bosnian-Serb separatist leader, Milorad Dodik, to intimidate opponents ahead of election scheduled for October.

Dodik paid tribute to Russia’s late UN ambassador this week for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution two years ago that would have classified the 1995 Srebrenica massacres as genocide.

He laid flowers at a monument to Vitaly Churkin, the longest-serving Russian ambassador to the UN, who died of a heart attack in 2017.

It is feared a strengthened police force could bolster Dodik’s push for independence, potentially destabilising the region.

A Russian-run “humanitarian centre” in Nis, Serbia, is alleged by the US to be providing a hub for Russian intelligence operations, such as an attempted coup in Montenegro in October 2016.

Russia sees Dodik as a barrier to Bosnia joining Nato and President Vladimir Putin has met him at least six times since 2014.

Dodik has close ties with the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club closely tied to the Kremlin, which is under US sanctions for its paramilitary role in the Ukraine invasion since 2014.

The Russian-trained paramilitary group, Serbian Honour, is now openly deployed in Banja Luka.

Aleksandar Trifunović, a Bosnian-Serb journalist, said: “It is an organisation of angry muscle men that the government is using to threaten and intimidate its own people. However, this time they go beyond the usual show. This time it feels dangerous.”



Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: Kremlin


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.