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US sanctions Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik

January 5, 2022

The actions of Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik "threaten the stability" of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the entire region, the US Treasury has said.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
The US Treasury also sanction a TV channel they said had ties to Dodik's familyImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

The US Treasury announced it was sanctioning Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik on Wednesday as Bosnia-Herzegovina faces its gravest political crisis since the 1990s. Dodik is the long-time ruler of Republika Srpska, a Serb entity in Bosnia, which was created under the Dayton Peace accords in 1995.

The US Treasury said Dodik improperly used his position to amass riches through a patronage system of bribery and graft.

"Milorad Dodik's destabilizing corrupt activities and attempts to dismantle the Dayton Peace Accords, motivated by his own self-interest, threaten the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region," Brian Nelson, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, said in a statement.

The practical effect of the sanctions will be to report, freeze and block any assets Dodik may have in the United States. US citizens and companies will be barred from dealing with them.

Who is Milorad Dodik?

Dodik represents Bosnian Serbs. He is one of three leaders who form Bosnia's tripartite presidency alongside representatives for the country's Muslim Bosniak and Bosnian Croat populations.

The tripartite presidency is one of many legacies of the Dayton Accords. The peace agreement ended the country's civil war, which killed more than 100,000 and left millions homeless. 

However, the Dayton Accords left and created many more bureaucratic intricacies to stitch Bosnia's fragmented society together in a workable peace.

For years, Dodik has advocated the separation of the Republika Srpska, the semi-autonomous Serb entity within the Bosnian state. Dodik's efforts are considered a violation of the Dayton Accords, brokered by the US in the city of that name in the state of Ohio.

Nationalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Recently, Dodik has turned up the volume on his efforts to see a Bosnian Serb state secede from Bosnia. Last month, he called for Bosnian Serbs to formally have their own army, judiciary and tax system.

Dodik has received tacit support from Serbia and Russia for his efforts to splinter the fragile Bosnian state.

Additionally, the US Treasury sanctioned Alternativna Televizija, a channel the US said is owned by a company linked to Dodik's family and is used for propaganda purposes.

US and German officials had threatened more sanctions if Dodik continued to pluck away at Bosnia's fragile central government and institutions.

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How has Dodik reacted?

Dodik appeared to be unperturbed by US measures in the past, which included a US-imposed travel ban. He has also said that any sanctions bring Bosnian Serbs close to "true friends" like Russia and China.

The nationalist leader has claimed that — were Bosnian Serbs to withdraw from Bosnia's central institutions — there would be no violation of the Dayton Accords nor a fresh conflict.

After Wednesday's announcement in Washington, Dodik said, "These are their sanctions, not ours."

He added, "I do not intend to apply for a visa for America even if my sanctions are lifted tomorrow."

ar/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)