SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The separatist Bosnian Serb leader threatened Wednesday to arrest and deport a top international official overseeing peace in Bosnia if he enters the Serb-controlled regions in the war-torn Balkan state.
The warning made by Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik further escalates tensions in Bosnia, where a bloody war in the 1990s killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless. Dodik doesn’t recognize the authority of envoy Christian Schmidt, claiming he wasn’t legally installed for the top peacekeeping job.
Dodik said Wednesday that a decree is in the works about “the arrest and deportation” of the high international representative in case he tries to enter Republika Srpska, about half of Bosnia that is in control of the Bosnian Serbs. The other half is the Bosniak-Croat federation — the entities formed under a U.S.-mediated peace deal that ended the 1992-1995 war.
“If he (Schmidt) comes for a meeting to Republika Srpska, he will be kicked out,” Dodik said, adding that in case the envoy transits through the territory, he will be given an “escort” that will make sure he leaves “as soon as possible.”
There was no immediate reaction from the office of the high representative in Sarajevo.
Dodik has earlier threatened that if there’s an attempt to implement some of Schmidt’s proposed decisions in the Serb-controlled areas, “we will immediately declare independence” from the rest of Bosnia.
Bosnian prosecutors are in the process of filing charges against Dodik for his separatist actions and for defying decisions made by Schmidt, who is German. Dodik could face up to five years in prison if sentenced by a Bosnian court on those charges.
Dodik, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and pro-Moscow Serbian populist leader Aleksandar Vucic, has openly been striving to separate Bosnian Serb territories from the rest of Bosnia and join them with neighboring Serbia. He has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for breaching the U.S. peace deal that ended the war.
There are widespread fears that Russia, acting through its ally Serbia, could inflame tensions in the Balkans to divert at least some of the world’s attention from the war in Ukraine.