US condemns Russian 'threat' to Bosnia over NATO bid

US condemns Russian 'threat' to Bosnia over NATO bid

The United States has denounced "dangerous" comments by Russia's ambassador to Bosnia, who issued a tacit threat to the Balkan country over its proposed bid to join NATO.

Bosnia has been divided along ethnic lines since a war in the 1990s that killed some 100,000 people.

The country is ruled by a rotating tripartite presidency, with Croat and Muslim leaders in favour of joining NATO, while the Serb leader says he supports military neutrality.

Earlier this week, Russia's ambassador in Sarajevo, Igor Kalabukhov, said his country could "react" if Bosnia were to join the Western military alliance, invoking Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"If (Bosnia) chooses to be a member of anything, that is its internal business. But there is another thing, our reaction", he said.

"We have shown what we expect on the example of Ukraine. If there are threats, we will react."

On Thursday, the US embassy in Bosnia hit out at what it called "threats", calling them "dangerous, irresponsible, and unacceptable".

"No third party has a say in security arrangements between NATO and sovereign countries", the embassy tweeted.

"We will continue to stand firmly by Bosnia and Herzegovina as it takes the necessary steps to secure its place in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations."

Fears of destabilisation have mounted in Bosnia in recent months since Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, a Kremlin ally, issued secessionist threats.

In December, Dodik launched a process of Serb withdrawal from Bosnia's joint army, judiciary and the tax system, stirring fears of breaking up the country or starting a new conflict.

Before making the move, Dodik travelled to Moscow, appearing to have tacit backing from Russia, the Serbs' historic ally.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is run by a dizzying bureaucracy meant to protect a fragile peace, including the rotating presidency, and no major decision can be made without consensus from all sides.

One half of the country belongs to the Serb entity while the other is ruled by a Muslim-Croat federation.

Bosnia condemned the Russian invasion at the United Nations, but failed to agree on imposing sanctions against the Kremlin due to opposition from Serb officials.

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