Milorad Dodik, who is running for reelection to the Bosnian Serb presidency on October 2, has met with Putin seven times since 2014, according to Putin’s office. (file photo)
The Serb member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, met in Moscow on September 20 with Russian President Vladimir Putin and received the Russian leader's backing in his upcoming bid for reelection.
Dodik, who is running for reelection to the Bosnian Serb presidency on October 2, has met with Putin seven times since 2014, according to Putin’s office. Many of the meetings have taken place ahead of elections when Dodik wants to show the pro-Russian Bosnian Serb electorate that he has the Russian leader’s support.
"The elections are coming up and I wish you success," Putin said according to a transcript of the conversation between Putin and Dodik published by Bosnian media. "I hope that it will be so, after the results of the vote, that the position of the patriotic forces will be strengthened, which will enable us to further develop fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation."
They also commented on the recently announced soccer match between the national teams of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia.
Dodik said he was "especially proud that this will happen, even though part of the country was not in favor of it,” while Putin said that sport "should unite people, not divide," according to Radio Television of Republika Srpska.
The game has been scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg on November 19, one day before the World Cup is scheduled to start in Qatar.
Russia's national team was barred from the World Cup because of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Bosnia failed to qualify.
Dodik, who has openly sought secession for Republika Srpska from Bosnia-Herzegovina, told TASS in an interview ahead of the meeting that he planned to discuss with Putin the construction of a gas pipeline and two gas-fired power plants in Republika Srpska, as well as strengthening cultural cooperation by building a Russian-Serbian Orthodox center.
He also repeated his separatist views in the interview and added his endorsement of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Russia “was forced to retaliate" after Western countries backed Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Dodik said in the interview on September 19.
Bosnia remains divided into a Bosniak and Croat federation and the mostly Serb entity of Republika Srpska under the terms of the 1995 Dayton Agreements that ended three years of war in the former Yugoslav republic marked by ethnic cleansing and brutality.
Dodik has caused controversy and drawn sanctions from the European Union and the United States by pushing for Republika Srpska to withdraw from the Western Balkan nation’s joint military, top judiciary body, and tax administration.
He said in June that the war in Ukraine had forced a six-month delay in plans to move ahead with the secession.
Bosnia's mission to Brussels has voted for several packages of sanctions introduced by the European Union against Russia in response to the war to align itself with the EU as it seeks membership.
But the sanctions have not been confirmed by Bosnia's Council of Ministers due to the opposition of Republika Srpska.