The Russian embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has criticised the suspension of a Bosnian Serb property law and warned of potential destabilisation in the tense Balkan country unless the decision by the top UN representative is revoked.
German diplomat Christian Schmidt, head of the UN Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, had on Tuesday suspended a law passed in Republika Srpska in February, which ruled that property used by local public authorities belongs to the semi-autonomous Bosnian Serb region.
The Russian embassy, in a statement carried by local media on Wednesday, reiterated that Moscow does not recognise Schmidt and considers his moves illegitimate.
The Russian comments highlight a dispute with the West over policies in the volatile Balkans where Moscow has sought to increase its historic sway. With war raging in Ukraine, there have been fears of tensions soaring in the Balkans as well.
The law is seen as part of the Serb drive in Bosnia to gain as much independence as possible. Bosnia also has a Bosniak-Croat entity, along with joint, central institutions designed to keep the country together after its 1992-1995 war.
In announcing his decision, Schmidt said only the Bosnian state can regulate property issues and urged dialogue within Bosnia to resolve the dispute.
Bosnian Serb leaders have rejected the decision.
The US embassy has said that the international community was “left with no choice but to act” after Bosnian Serb leaders refused to “engage constructively” in solving the problem and took “unconstitutional, unilateral action” instead.
Russia has supported Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, a member of the multi-ethnic Bosnian presidency, who has faced US and British sanctions for undermining the 1995 peace agreement ending the war that killed more than 100,000 people and made millions homeless.
In its statement, the Russian embassy warned against Schmidt’s actions and the sanctions on Dodik, saying that “all responsibility for possible destabilisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina will lie on the representatives of the international community.”
The war erupted because Bosnian Serbs wanted to join neighbouring Serbia. Dodik has repeatedly called for Serb separation from the rest of Bosnia.
The High Representative in Bosnia has the authority to suspend laws and replace officials who are viewed as violating the US-brokered peace deal.
The agreement also established a multi-national council overseeing the peace implementation where Russia routinely opposes Western moves.