WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed fresh sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and current and former officials as Washington warned of further action against those linked to destabilization or corruption.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement accused Mr. Dodik, already subject to American sanctions under a different authority, of corruption and threatening the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Treasury also slapped sanctions on a media outlet, Alternativna Televizija d.o.o. Banja Luka, accusing Mr. Dodik of acquiring it to further his own agenda and exerting personal control over it. Alternativna Televizija was not immediately available for comment.
The Treasury designations are the first use of an executive order issued in June allowing the United States to target those threatening peace or stability in the Western Balkans.
The U.S. State Department also barred current and former Bosnia and Herzegovina officials from entering America, targeting Milan Tegeltija, a former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s high judicial council, and Mirsad Kukic, a lawmaker and president of the Movement for Democratic Action.
“Other leaders and entities linked to corrupt or destabilizing actors may also be subject to future actions by the U.S. Government,” Secretary of State Blinken warned in a separate statement.
Bosnia is experiencing its gravest political crisis since the end of the war in the 1990s, reviving fears of a breakup after Bosnian Serbs blocked the work of the central government and Serb lawmakers voted to start pulling the autonomous Serb Republic out of state institutions.
Mr. Dodik, who serves as the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, wants to roll back all reforms made after the war and return to the 1995 constitution under which the state was represented by basic institutions only while all powers had belonged to the regions.
“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, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the statement.
The U.S.-brokered Dayton peace agreement in 1995 ended more than three years of ethnic warfare in Bosnia. Some 100,000 people were killed in the conflict and 2 million forced from their homes.
Mr. Dodik said he was again being punished but did not know for what, telling Bosnian Serb news agency Srna the United States was burdening him with the accusation of corruption despite there being no criminal proceeding against him for it. He added that he has not brought into question constitutional order in Bosnia or its stability in any way.
“These are the sanctions lobbied by several U.S. officials who do not share the vision of Bosnia-Herzegovina that I have and which was signed in 1995,” he said.
“If they think they will discipline me in this way, they are very wrong. I have now only got a motive to fight for the rights that have been taken away from us for 26 years.”
Image: Milorad Dodik, Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaks during an interview in his office in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic