NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday from Sarajevo that Russia’s “separatist rhetoric” and its “malignant” intervention in Bosnia are of concern to NATO, demonstrating the alliance’s strong support for the territorial integrity of this divided region in the Balkans.
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“We are concerned about separatist rhetoric that seeks division and malicious foreign interference” in Bosnia, Stoltenberg said, citing Russia in particular.
Bosnia has been divided since the end of the sectarian war (1992-1995) along ethnic lines, and consists of two entities, a Serb entity and a Croat Muslim entity, and they are linked by a weak central government.
The Bosnian Serb political leader, Milorad Dodik, who has good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, regularly raises the possibility of the secession of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska.
According to the NATO Secretary General, the current situation threatens to jeopardize “stability” in the country and impede ongoing reforms. He added: “The allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” “Your security is important for the Western Balkans and for Europe.”
This statement issued by Jens Stoltenberg comes a few days after a warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accused Moscow of wanting to create new crises in the Balkans and Moldova to divert the world’s attention from the war in Ukraine.
“Pay attention to the Balkans. And believe me, we are receiving information: Russia has a plan (…) If the countries of the world do not do anything now, there will be such an explosion again.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European military mission in Bosnia (EUFOR-Althea) has strengthened its presence in Bosnia and increased the number of soldiers there from 500 to 1,100 soldiers.
Mr. Stoltenberg is touring the Western Balkans. After Bosnia, where he met Bosnian Prime Minister Borjana Kristo, he has to go to Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia.