US sanctions Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik for ‘destabilizing activities’ | Bosnia and Herzegovina

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, a television station under his control and two other officials for “significant corruption and destabilizing activities”.

The sanctions, involving asset freezes and visa bans, follow Dodik’s threat to remove Serbs from the Bosnian National Army and other state institutions, potentially destroying the 1995 Dayton Peace Treaty and paving the way for a return to conflict.

Official statements accompanying the sanctions focus on the corruption that US officials say underpins Dodik’s political posturing.

“His divisive ethno-nationalist rhetoric reflects his efforts to advance these political goals and distract from his corrupt activities,” a Treasury statement said.

“Together, these actions threaten the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and undermine the Dayton Peace Accords, thereby risking further regional instability.

He said Dodik handed over government contracts and monopolies in the Serb-ruled half of Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS) to close business associates. “With his corruption proceeds, Dodik engaged in bribery and other corrupt activities to further his personal interests at the expense of RS citizens,” the Treasury said.

Dodik has already been sanctioned in 2017, for obstructing the Dayton agreement. The new measures are broader, criminalizing financial donations to him and targeting Alternativna Televizija, a television station based in Banja Luka, the RS’s largest city. The channel is owned by a private company with close ties to Dodik’s family, the Treasury said, and operates as Dodik’s personal propaganda outlet.

“Dodik awarded ATV-related contracts directly to his family members, which he used as another avenue of corruption,” the Treasury said. “He funneled money directly from state-owned companies to ATV for corrupt purposes.”

Dodik shrugged off the sanctions, telling local media, “If they think they’re going to discipline me like this, they’re grossly mistaken.”

A Dodik adviser, Milan Tegeltija, was also banned from entering the United States. US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Tegeltija used his former role as head of the state judiciary for “corrupt acts that included the use of his political influence and official power. to his own advantage”.

A Muslim or Bosnian party leader, Mirsad Kukić, was also targeted by Wednesday’s sanction. He is accused of using his role as manager of the Banovici public mine and his seat in parliament to use “political influence and official power for his personal benefit”.

Although the effect of the sanctions on Dodik is reduced by his limited financial exposure to the United States, Daniel Serwer, a former US special envoy to Bosnia, said they still represent a setback for Dodik.

“They have a psychological impact. The question of the strength of the financial impact,” Serwer said. “Fundamentally, this prevents designated individuals from conducting international financial transactions, which almost all go through the United States in one way or another.”

He added: “The sanctions, in addition to targeting Dodik and Alternativa, are a warning to other politicians and businesses, who may have more to fear than Dodik.”

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