Dodik met with Putin and further intensified his pro-Russian and anti-Western rhetoric
Republika Srpska (RS) remains staunchly pro-Russian, anti-Western and anti-American, the President of the BiH entity, albeit under US sanctions, confirmed during talks with the Russian President in Moscow on 23 May.
As Russian aggression against Ukraine continues, RS President Milorad Dodik, in a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, asserted that the RS is exposed to numerous pressures from the West because of its support for Russia.
“We have not allowed a formal decision to be taken on sanctions against the Russian Federation and have therefore been exposed to various forms of pressure from our Western partners in the form of sanctions and the suspension of certain projects and programmes. But we decided not to be part of the hysteria that is being created,” Dodik said in a meeting with Putin.
Attack on U.S. politics and ambassador
In a statement to the public service of Radio Television of Republika Srpska (RTRS) after the meeting, Dodik described countries imposing sanctions on Russia as “hostile”. Amid accusations and harsh rhetoric against the US embassy in BiH, he described Ambassador Michael Murphy as “anti-Serbian”.
Dodik claimed that the US ambassador’s goal is “to destroy the RS by the end of his mandate”, while Ambassador Murphy has made it clear in previous statements that the US never wanted to abolish the RS, but to corrupt it. Murphy had previously warned that Dodik was increasingly brazenly attacking the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina with nationalist rhetoric.
“Instead of focusing on the real issues that citizens are concerned about – corruption, poor job prospects and inflation – President Dodik has chosen to attack the Dayton order and undermine the country’s institutions,” Murphy said on his blog in November 2022.
A video of the start of the meeting between Putin and Dodik in Moscow on 23 May was published on on Alternative Television from Banja Luka, which is close to Dodik and under US sanctions, as well as on the public broadcaster RTRS.
According to RTRS and a brief Kremlin statement, “Putin told Dodik that he was grateful for the friendly attitude towards Russia and for the neutral stance of the RS towards the Ukrainian issue.
“Only such an attitude can lead to any positive decision. In any case, we are grateful for your restraint”, Putin said.
He also said that the growth of trade in goods should be maintained and that he knew that there was interest in the RS to cooperate with Russian companies in various areas.
The price of gas for the RS remains the same, but the cost of transport is increasing.
Dodik told RTRS after the meeting that he had received confirmation from Putin that the price of Russian gas for the RS would remain the same until December this year, with “some small increases” related to transit, not to the price of gas itself.
The construction of a new pipeline to bring Russian gas to the RS via Serbia is a key demand that Dodik is making conditional on support for other projects to be decided by the BiH Council of Ministers. According to previous official announcements, Russia’s Gazprom is also expected to participate in the construction of the pipeline.
Incidentally, Dodik and Putin met on the sidelines of a meeting at which “more than 500 high-level guests from the highest level of the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries” were announced. Dodik is one of the few officials of the country who has met Putin since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February last year.
The pro-Russian RS leader and his Union of Independent Socialists are blocking Russia’s sanctions at state level in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He often repeats that the RS could secede from the state of BiH, in which it is one of two entities, under the Dayton Agreement.
Dodik is on the sanctions list of the United States of America and the United Kingdom for undermining the Dayton Agreement, which stopped the war in BiH in 1995, and for undermining stability in the country and the region, as well as for corrupt practices.
EU and Washington criticised over meeting
The meeting between Dodik and Putin followed a statement by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko in mid-May that Russia would continue to invest in the RS and that “Russia should be more present in the region”.
This is the third meeting between Dodik and Putin since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022, and their ninth conversation since 2014.
The European Union (EU) and Washington have already reacted to his departure for Moscow.
European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said in Sarajevo last Sunday that the EU needs allies in the war between Russia and Ukraine, “and they are not going to Moscow”.
In the same tone, a message from the US embassy in BiH to Radio Free Europe before Dodik’s departure for Moscow stressed that “no government at any level should expand cooperation with Russia while it continues its aggression against Ukraine”.
Dodik also presented Putin with the Order of the Republika Srpska on a necklace, which he was awarded earlier this year ahead of the 9 January RS Day, declared an unconstitutional holiday by the BiH Constitutional Court.
Dodik was also hosted by one of Putin’s closest associates, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, the day before his talks with the Russian President on 22 May in Moscow.
Results of previous meetings are not very visible
According to official Kremlin data, Dodik has so far met Putin three times in St Petersburg at the International Economic Forum, twice in Moscow, once in Sochi after a Formula 1 race and in Belgrade during the Russian president’s official visit to Serbia in January 2019.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Dodik and Putin met in St Petersburg last June and in Moscow on 20 September, just before the general elections in BiH on 2 October.
According to the official transcripts of the meetings, available on the Kremlin’s website, the talks were mainly based on Russia’s support for Republika Srpska, but also on economic cooperation.
However, the pro-Russian rhetoric and proximity with Russian leaders, who have been isolated by the EU, does not appear to be of additional benefit to the RS. Investments from the 27 EU bloc countries account for 64% of all foreign investment in BiH, while Russian investment is less than 4%.
Russia is the fifth largest investor in the RS, behind neighbouring Serbia, EU members Italy and Austria, and the UK.
Russia’s strongest foothold in BiH is in the oil industry, specifically in the Optima Group, the largest oil company in BiH, which is 100% owned by Russia’s “NeftegazInKor”, a subsidiary of “Zarubezhneft”, a Russian state-owned company in charge of oil business abroad./RSE/