Bosnia should be free of international supervision, Russia has said, despite concern about Bosnian Serb plans to split away.
“I believe the country [Bosnia] needs to get rid of this stifling supervision once and for good. The time has come for the Office of the High Representative to become a thing of the past,” Russia’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told EUobserver.
“I’m not saying something like ‘he [the high representative] should be kicked out immediately’, but the termination of this institution should be definitely considered,” Chizhov added.
The Office of the High Representative was created in 1995 to oversee implementation of Bosnia’s Dayton Accords peace deal.
The post is currently held by Christian Schmidt, a German politician.
But for Russia, Schmidt got the job unfairly because Western powers had failed to obtain the necessary UN Security Council blessing for his appointment.
“There is this new German, Mr Schmidt, who claims to be the high representative, but we do not recognise him as such,” Chizhov said.
“There is nothing personal, he may be a nice person and an experienced politician, but he’s not the high representative,” Chizhov added.
The Russian ambassador spoke amid plans by Milorad Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity, to pull out of federal structures and create its own army and intelligence service.
And for its part, Germany has called for EU sanctions to try to stop him doing so.
“The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is worrying, efforts to secede are unacceptable. For me, this means that the existing [EU] sanctions regime should now also be used against Mr Dodik,” German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said.
The EU fears the break up of Bosnia could lead to fresh instability, some 20 years after the Western Balkans wars ended.
And when asked if Russia backed Dodik’s Serb-army plan, Chizhov said: “I would outline our position as stressing the need to avoid radical steps, and that applies to everybody”.
But the Russian ambassador also downplayed the importance of Dodik’s actions.
And he framed them in the context of Russia’s opposition to Bosnia’s possible future Nato membership.
“Well, I am concerned [about fresh instability] but not with what Milorad Dodik is doing,” Chizhov said.
“Russia is equally concerned with what is happening in Kosovo and around it. In Bosnia, at least they are not fighting, whereas in Kosovo the situation is really precarious,” he added, following a recent flare up in violence around Kosovo’s ethnic Serb enclave.
“There have been attempts to change the nature of the Dayton balance, moving toward a more unified structure of state power, which would open the way for Bosnia to join Nato,” Chizhov said.
“But for the time being, it so happens that the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, is against [Nato],” he said.
Nato and Bosnia have been in talks on membership since 2008, but little has happened on that front in recent times and its accession is a dim prospect for now.
Russia has been calling for the abolition of the Bosnian high representative for at least two years.
It also tried and failed to stop North Macedonia and Montenegro joining Nato, including by fomenting nationalist protests in Skopje and via an attempted coup in Podgorica.
And its recent hostility to Schmidt comes amid redoubled efforts to restore its Soviet Union-era sphere of influence in eastern Europe, including demands for Nato to take back promises on, one day, letting Georgia and Ukraine join.