Britain sanctioned two top Bosnian Serb leaders on Monday for actively undermining the Bosnian state, and accused Russia’s Putin of encouraging them.

Criticising Russia, UK Sanctions Bosnian Serb Leaders

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) attend a press conference with Chairman of Bosnian Presidency Milorad Dodik (R) in East Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 14 December 2020. Lavrov arrived for a two-day working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

Britain announced sanctions on Monday against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and ally Zeljka Cvijanovic for what it said were their efforts “to undermine the legitimacy and functionality of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans and constitute the first under the UK’s Bosnia sanctions regime, the foreign office said.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Dodik, who is the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, and Cvijanovic, the president of the mainly Serb Republika Srpska entity, were “encouraged” in their actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“These two politicians are deliberately undermining the hard won peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Truss said in a statement. “Encouraged by Putin, their reckless behaviour threatens stability and security across the Western Balkans.”

Dodik and his party have pushed in recent months to further sever ties between the Republika Srpska and the rest of Bosnia, pushing the country into its worst crisis since the end of the 1992-95 war in which some 100,000 people died. Dodik has repeatedly advocated Bosnia’s dissolution and threatened to create a separate Bosnian Serb army.

“Recent action by Dodik and Cvijanovic in in direct contravention to the Dayton Peace Agreement and the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Britain’s ambassador to Bosnia, Matt Field, said in a video message shared on his Twitter profile.

Britain said Cvijanovic had used her position “to table legislation in Republika Srpska seeking to transfer state competencies to the entity level.”

Addressing the Republika Srpska parliament after he learned of the sanctions, Dodik shrugged off the move. “I do not have any property in the UK and I have not been there in 10 years,” he said.

Britain’s decision follows that of the United States, which in January sanctioned Dodik and a number of current and former officials and warned of further action.

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