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Friday, October 07, 2022

Bosnia’s Dodic: From liberal to genocide-denying autocrat | Nation World News

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — He was once described in Washington as an anti-national “breath of fresh air” in the genocide-ravaged Balkan Moras, the killer of ethnically divided Bosnia.

How does time change?

This week Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodi, now a genocide-denying separatist, was slapped with new US sanctions for alleged corruption. He responded in typical style, saying that the United States and other Western democracies “prepared Bosnia to their tastes” are long gone.

Dodick claimed that he corruptly amassed large wealth for himself, his relatives and associates, the allegations being “monstrous lies”.

“America is a great power, but they are also big liars,” he said.

Dodik says the West is punishing him for supporting the rights of ethnic Serbs in Bosnia – a dysfunctional country of 3.3 million that never really recovered from a fraternal war in the 1990s that was fueled by ethnic cleansing and genocide. became a surname for.

Dodi claimed that the sanctions would help free Serbs from Bosnia in a eager embrace of their “true friends” – Russia, China, champions of liberal democracy within the European Union and neighboring Serbia.

The 63-year-old political science graduate first came to prominence in 1998 as a moderate reformist, narrowly elected regional prime minister of Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia’s two postwar administrative units. NATO-led peacekeepers surrounded key buildings held by police loyal to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzik – later convicted of wartime genocide and crimes against humanity – to ensure Dodi could take control.

According to her spokeswoman at the time, shortly after, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited her and “felt like a breath of fresh air from the room.”

But in 2001, after losing the presidential election in Republika Srpska, Dodik changed course, reinventing himself as a nationalist radical and separatist. He gradually gained control of all levels of government of Republika Srpska, and in 2009 managed to expel foreign judges and prosecutors from Bosnia’s court system – amid reports he was under investigation for corruption and erosion of democracy. Were.

1995, the US-brokered Dayton Peace Accords, which ended Bosnia’s more than 3 1/2 years of bloodshed, established two separate governing bodies – Republika Srpska and one in mostly Muslim Bosniaks, over half of Bosnia. Overpopulated and Catholics were dominated by Croats.

They are linked by shared, state-wide institutions, and all actions at the national level require the consent of all three ethnic groups.

In the years immediately following the war, the international community put Bosnia on a path of reform, pressuring its leaders to give up hate speech and accept painful settlements in exchange for financial and other support. But a decade ago international attention shifted to other global crises. Of the 60,000 international peacekeepers deployed in 1995, only 600 remain. Bosnia was mostly left to its own devices due to the growing influence of Russia, China and Turkey and exposure to widespread corruption and economic decline.

Over the years, Dodik faced countless accusations by national and international rights and media freedom groups of curtailing media freedom and popularizing vile rhetoric against political opponents of all ethnic stripes. He infamously defended a 2008 approval by a regional development bank, for a $2 million friendly loan to a firm co-owned by his son, saying that “better than getting[the young man]addicted to drugs.” Was.”

His family’s net worth is hard to estimate, but in 2019 Dodi reported annual income and assets of more than 1.2 million euros ($1.36 million), including an 800,000-euro villa in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Dodick says claims about his children’s wealth have been maliciously escalated by his political opponents.

One of them, Drasko Stanivukovic, mayor of Banja Luka, the largest city in Republika Srpska, said the family owned at least 70 companies – including companies owned by his “relatives, friends and business associates”. .

Dodik regularly laments the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, by Bosnian Serbs, even dismissing it as “a fabricated myth”.

In recent months he has repeatedly expressed hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban will serve as his defense against the “tyranny” of Western democracies, a hotbed of Orban’s December controversy. Welcoming that the EU’s main challenge on Bosnia is “how to manage the security of the state in which two million Muslims live.”

After serving for 15 years as president or prime minister of Republika Srpska, Dodi was elected to the multi-ethnic presidency of Bosnia in the fall of 2019, which also includes a Bosniak and a Croatian official.

Last summer, with the tacit support of Moscow and Belgrade, Dodi led a Serb walkout from Bosnia’s multi-ethnic institutions – thus blocking decision-making – the move of the International High Representative to deny Bosnia’s genocide. to oppose.

The Dodic and Serb officials under his control say they will no longer respect the decisions of the High Representative, a post created under the Dayton Accords with broad powers, including enforcing the law or sacking officials who are involved in the delicate war. The latter weakens the ethnic balance.

This winter, Dodi intensified his separatist campaign, pledging to create an exclusively Serb army, judiciary and tax system. He described Bosniaks as “second-class people” and “treacherous converts” who sold their “core (Orthodox Christianity) for dinner.”

US, British, German and other Western officials recently began accusing Dodik of creating ethnic tensions to divert attention from the corrupt practices of himself and his comrades.

But Dodik says the sanctions will not discourage him from “fighting for the rights of Republika Srpska”.

“No matter what they do, they can’t stop me,” he said.

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