Russia’s Activities in Ukraine Are Justified According to Dodik

In an interview for the Russian news agency Tass, the Bosnian Serb member of BiH’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, strongly criticized the West, arguing that Russia’s activities in Ukraine are justified and comparing the situation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying “we cannot have joint schools, joint textbooks with Muslims.”

Dodik is set to meet with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday (20.09). He stated that he will discuss a number of current political issues with Putin, including the situation in Ukraine.

“Regarding specific projects, we would like to receive additional confirmation that the focus and priority will be on all economic activities related to the refinery for the processing of oil and fuel oil, the construction of gas pipelines, and gas power plants. Of course, we will wait for the moment, and as soon as it appears, we will start working on those projects,” Dodik added.

Dodik noted that Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, where he is the leader of the ruling party, is not a big consumer of gas like Serbia, but that the issue of gas supply is very important for it.

“We want to build a gas pipeline to Banja Luka, to build power plants that would use gas. In that case, the RS would become a major gas consumer. We base those plans on Russia’s potential and our cooperation with Gazprom,” he said. Dodik stressed that “Bosniaks, who are oriented towards the West, are preventing this,” adding that Bosniak representatives tend to vote down opportunities for the RS to solve the issue of the flow of gas from Serbia through the BiH border. However, he said that “they cannot do this forever, because the work will continue on that”.

Dodik said that the RS is grateful to Putin for its consistency in preserving the Dayton Peace Agreement, stressing that Russia never had any political demands from him. He said the RS wants to expand cultural cooperation with Russia, stating that the construction of a Russian-Serbian Orthodox center is underway in Banja Luka, which he hopes will be completed in the near future, and that he will propose to Putin to visit Banja Luka when it is completed. He also said that “foreigners with their insolent behavior and violence” led to the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there is little trust in the EU in BiH.

“Moscow has always been on the side of international law, but it is obvious that this is not enough. The West does not adhere to international norms, for example, in Ukraine, and some of its rules that are constantly changing,” he said.

Asked about his views on the possibility of a referendum on the secession of the RS from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dodik said that the RS remains in the position it is but that it is even more dissatisfied with Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said the idea is to wait for the appropriate moment. Commenting on the statements from Banja Luka and Belgrade in recent months about a unification of all Serbs into one state in the future, Dodik said that nothing can change the idea of unity, but that the West, “brazenly interferes in internal affairs” and tried to prevent it.

“Our aspiration towards Serbia is natural. The situation is similar with the Russians in Ukraine, of whom there are 15 million in that country and for whom the Russian language has been banned by the leadership of that country. That is why Russia’s special operation in Ukraine is justified by the protection of the rights of its people,” he said.

He then compared the situation to BiH. “That’s what we have here – we cannot have joint schools, joint textbooks with Muslims,” he said, referring to Bosniaks. Dodik said that the Americans explained to him in the 1990s why they did not opt for the possibility of national demarcation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“According to them, the creation of a Muslim state on the territory of Europe could not be allowed. And we became collateral damage. If you want us to be on guard here, give us some privileges,” he said. Dodik said that the West is spending huge money to fight what they call malignant Russian influence in the Balkans, and pointed out that the United Kingdom imposed sanctions on him and the President of the RS, Zeljka Cvijanovic, as part of this effort. He said that he did not meet with the new UK Ambassador in BiH since he took over the post.

“Why should I meet with the representatives of the country that imposes sanctions just because Dodik doesn’t listen to them? What should I talk to them about, why should I give him and his country legitimacy? I don’t think anything good of those Western ambassadors who think they can run the countries where they were appointed to that position,” he said. He added that American sanctions were also introduced against him and that the West, due to its helplessness, is trying to solve issues with other nations and through such means. Dodik argued that now Europe is trembling and suffering under sanctions, not Russia, and pointed out that the current political elite in Europe is not used to problems and does not know how to react to them, that they have never lived in an unstable society and are disconnected from the people. He said the people of the RS perceive Russians as brothers, that they understand Russia’s position, rejoice in its successes and worry about its problems.

“We understand very well that the West’s fight against Orthodoxy has never stopped. That fight was the motive of all the campaigns and had essentially a single goal – to take control of the rich supply of natural resources that Russia has. It is for this reason that Napoleon and Hitler came to Russia, and today’s West also wants to dominate those expenses,” he said. According to Dodik, the West, with the help of Gorbachev, brought Russia to its knees and intended to rule over it, but did not count on Putin to lift it up and unite it.

He said that Russia was forced to carry out a special operation in Ukraine because for years the West did not react to the destruction of the Russian population in Donbas and Lugansk.

When asked what are the prospects for BiH’s accession to NATO, Dodik answered that it will not happen as the RS will not allow it. He stated that Serbia is not in favor of NATO membership either, since the alliance bombarded the Serbs with depleted uranium twice.

A New Framework in the Negotiations with Pristina

After the session of the National Security Council, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that last night (09.09) he spoke with the envoys of Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, and Miroslav Lajcak and that the conversation “wasn’t easy”.

„I was informed that Putin has ‘raised the curtain’ and now it is up to everyone to declare which side they want to be on, on the side of the curtain where the economy does not exist, or on the side of success where they are,“ said Vucic.

He also said that „a new framework for negotiations with Pristina“ was proposed and that in the coming days „there will be much more pressure to reach a solution that Serbia would accept“.

„The conversation was not at all easy, but I can say a few things: The representatives of the most powerful European countries pointed out that they have the support of the USA and Turkey for this, believe that in the conditions when there is a war in Europe, there is no need for new conflicts and that it is necessary to reach the fastest possible solution. And the second thing, which I think is much more important, is that the big Western powers, plus Turkey, as they told me, want to solve the problem because there is a war in Europe,” Vucic said.

“Maybe we in Serbia don’t understand that Europe has to defend itself and in accordance with such a potential solution, they would avoid the possibility of providing a clear answer to President Putin regarding the legal precedent and granting independence to Kosovo. After that they would say – an agreement has been reached so that in all of this we have once again become the collateral damage of the large conflicts and of their unprincipled behavior from the past“, stressed Vucic.

Vucic stressed that he was told that Putin “raised the curtain.”

„Now it’s up to everyone to declare which side they want to stay on, on the other side of the curtain where the economy doesn’t exist, or on the side of success where they are,“ Vucic said.

He also stressed that authorities in Pristina “trampled over all agreements.”

Kosovo-Serbia land swap would be a fair solution

Bujanovac Mayor Nagip Arifi said that Kosovo and Serbia should exchange territories so that Serbia gets northern Mitrovica and Kosovo gets the Presevo Valley and that this would be a fair solution.

The Presevo Valley is a region in southern Serbia that has a large ethnic Albanian population and includes the municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo, and Medvedja.

Arifi said he raised the issue at the beginning of his meeting with Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi on Monday (05.09) in Bujanovac but that Bislimi “did not respond and maybe he was surprised at that moment.”

“I think this is the best solution for both the Presevo Valley Albanians and for Kosovo. (Serbian) President Vucic always mentioned a compromise and he was probably thinking of something like this. However, he believes that only a part of the Presevo Valley should be given to Kosovo in return for the north, but the entire Valley should be given to Kosovo”, Arifi told the Pristina Koha.

Arifi added he was optimistic that “someday the Presevo Valley will be swapped for northern Kosovo.”

BiH Adopts One of the Key EU Candidacy Conditions

The delegates of the House of Peoples of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly adopted the Law on Public Procurement, on Monday (29.08). The Annual Audit Report on the main findings and recommendations for 2020 was also adopted.

The reports of the Audit Office of BiH Institutions on the financial audit of 74 state institutions for 2020 and 2021 were also accepted, as well as a series of reports on the audit of performance on several topics, including the Report on the work of the Commission for deciding on conflicts of interest for the year 2021 and the Report on the work of the BiH Appeals Office for the year 2021, while the Report on the implementation of laws under the jurisdiction of the Central Election Commission in 2021 did not receive the support of the House of Peoples.

The Annual Report on the Results of the Activities of the Ombudsman Institution for Human Rights of BiH for the year 2021 was also adopted.

The Adoption of the Public Procurement Law was also welcomed by the Head of the EU Delegation to BiH Johann Sattler who said it was an important and long overdue step today towards implementing the 12 June Agreement and fulfilling EU’s Opinion Priorities and an EU candidacy condition.

US NATO Troops Deployed at Checkpoints in Kosovo Following the Collapse of Talks

American NATO troops were deployed at main roads in the northern part of Kosovo Friday (19.08) as tensions increased following the collapse of political talks in Brussels, Associated Press reported.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, announced after the meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels that “unhappily, we did not reach an agreement, but it is not the end of the story.

US Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill said on Friday (19.08) that the outcome of the meetings between officials from Belgrade and Pristina is positive despite the fact that no progress has been achieved.

The head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic said that President Vucic will address the nation on the issue of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at 1.30 pm Sunday.

“Vucic has postponed his address because he cannot reconcile himself with the fact that we have conflicts in Kosovo, that we have no solution and are working day and night to find solutions”, Petar Petkovic told a media conference in the Serbian Government.

Former LDK Leader Criticizes Successor for Failure to Meet Albanian President

The former chairman of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Isa Mustafa, commented on the lack of a meeting between President of Albania, Bajram Begaj and his successor in the party, Lumir Abdixhiku. Mustafa, saying that relations with Albania have a special meaning as they are relations within a nation.

He adds that the Presidents of Albania welcomed Kosovar officials even in the 90s, when nobody accepted them as a state.

“Relations with Albania have special weight and significance. They are not only state, political, economic… but also relations within a nation. On this level, we want to see each other as best as possible, because this is how we gain confidence that we are stronger. That’s why the formal aspects become unimportant, me to you or you to me, when we consider ourselves members of a family”, Mustafa stressed.

Mustafa also said that both the Assembly of Kosovo and the Headquarters of the LDK are a common house and there is a need for understanding.

“We have many experiences with Albania. Even in the nineties, when nobody accepted us as a state, the President of Albania (SB) came down to the entrance of the Presidency and took us inside. Even in the following years. Our home is the Headquarters of the LDK but also the Assembly of Kosovo. It is also the seat of the President of Albania. There is always a need for understanding”, he added. 

During the day, Albanian President Bajram Begaj met the leaders of PDK and AAK in the premises of the Assembly, but not the leader of LDK, Abdixhiku. The LDK unofficially told Kosovar media that Begaj had asked to meet in other premises and not at the party’s office, which the LDK did not accept.

Serbia’s Natural Gas Reserves are at a Historic Maximum

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that natural gas reserves in Serbia are at a historic maximum.

“We have secured 262 million cubic meters of gas in our part of the Banatski Dvor storage facility, and we have purchased another 200 million cubic meters, just for Serbia’s needs, that we have stored in Hungary,” Vucic wrote on “The Future of Serbia” Instagram profile.

He added that the state is overhauling all the thermal capacities that it can, and trying to open new coal deposits.

“All in all, I am certain that the citizens of Serbia will have at least a slightly less cold winter than we had expected,” Vucic said.

The Serbian power company (EPS) has submitted to the Energy Agency a proposal for a 6.5 percent electricity price increase, Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic told. Mihajlovic said she expects the procedure to end and the decision to be released by the end of the month and added that the average household electricity bill will go up from 280 to 340 Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars).

The Minster described this price increase as important because the prices of everything that electricity “is made from” have gone up and added that this is something everyone needs to think about “much more seriously” next year.

Commenting on preparations for the coming winter, Mihajlovic said “we have relatively prepared everything”, which does not mean that problems cannot arise, like, for example, if gas does not arrive even though it is paid for.

“We are importing electricity and gas, we are importing four to 15 percent of electricity daily and we will definitely continue to import it, but if we had not worked well and secured money in the budget, this would not be possible,” Mihajlovic said.

„So, the state has done and will do everything it can,” Mihajlovic promised, noting that, once the crisis is over, public companies will have to be more efficient.

Albania Swears in Ninth President Bajram Begaj

Albania’s new President, Bajram Begaj, was sworn in on Sunday (24 July) and called for the country’s political parties to cooperate on matters key to the future, particularly the rule of law.

Begaj is a retired military officer who had a long career in the Albanian Army before resigning his post as Chief of General Staff to accept the role of President. Politically independent, he was nominated by the ruling Socialist Party and received 78 votes out of 140 seats.

“I will be a servant of our people, a staunch collaborator of national unity. I will be a contributor and supporter of communication and initiatives and ideas that move our society forward,” the ninth president said in his speech.

He added that dialogue and cooperation between political forces, listening to the voice of the free media, and respect and acceptance of debate are needed for the country’s progress.

“Our common interest remains the consolidation of institutions that have the responsibility to protect and promote the interests of Albanians wherever they are,” he added.

Before the official swearing-in ceremony, outgoing president Ilir Meta received Begaj at the presidency. He took the opportunity to show him around his new offices and to shake his hand.

Meta’s five-year term was rocked by turbulence as the Socialist Party tried to impeach him on more than one occasion, dismissing him in June 2021. A decision on his dismissal was then sought in the Constitutional Court. They claimed that comments and actions by the president during the 2021 electoral campaign violated various laws and incited violence.

The Constitutional Court struck down all claims, claiming that it did not find any evidence of the violation of laws.

Albania officially opened negotiations towards EU membership on Tuesday (19 July) in a ceremony in Brussels where no representatives of opposition parties were present.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said this was due to not knowing who the opposition was, about the division of the Democratic Party into two factions, one led by Enkelejd Alibeaj and the other by ex-prime minister and president Sali Berisha.

Both claim they are the legitimate leader, and the other is illegitimate.

Berisha was declared persona non grata by the UK last week, a year after the US made the same designation.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell welcomed his swearing in at this “historic milestone on its road to the EU.”

Russia Today to Open Offices in Serbia

Russia’s state television Russia Today will open offices in Serbia. The EU has banned the station’s broadcasting activities “for inciting and supporting Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine. The information was confirmed for Nova.rs by Sputnik Serbia’s editor-in-chief Ljubinka Milincic.

“Yes, it is true. They will not start work in Serbia now, but preparations are underway,” Milincic said. According to Nova.rs information, Milincic’s daughter will head the television, but this was neither confirmed nor denied by Ljubinka Milincic.

“Should I let you in on that secret, or not? Leave it for them to say,” said Sputnik Serbia editor-in-chief. The Council of the European Union (EU) decided in March this year to suspend the broadcasting activities of the Russian state media Russia Today and Sputnik in the whole of the EU. The sanctions imposed by the EU refer to the transmission or distribution by any means such as cable, satellite, IP-TV, platforms, websites, and applications, and all relevant licenses, authorization, and distribution arrangements have been suspended, the Council said.

Brussels said that these two media outlets were important instruments in “inciting and supporting Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine, and are “a significant and direct threat to the EU’s public order and security”.

NATO Delegation Visits Bosnia to Assess Progress in Partnership for Peace

A delegation from the NATO Headquarters in Brussels visited Bosnia this week in order to conduct a joint assessment with BiH institutions of the progress that the country has made within the framework of participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

The PfP program is designed to help preserve security, stability, and prosperity for the citizens of all allied and partner countries through enhanced dialogue and cooperation. Within the framework of the PfP program, countries, such as BiH, identify their priorities, goals, and areas in which they need the help of the Alliance.

The result is a customized, tailor-made support package that helps BiH ensure civilian democratic control and oversight of the Armed Forces, effective management of the budget, developing capabilities that benefit citizens, manage civilian emergencies, crises, and disasters, including water rescue, and rescue by air, developing fire fighting capacities, as well as the developing Armed Forces that work together and according to the highest international standards.

This visit followed only a few days after the NATO allies agreed on a significant expansion of support to BiH at the Madrid summit. Commander of the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, Brigadier General Pamela McGaha, referred to this greater support offered and praised the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces of BiH for their achievements so far.

“It has been 15 years since Bosnia and Herzegovina entered our Partnership for Peace program. At the summit in Madrid last week, BiH was given more attention than ever before and support was offered throughout the Alliance. In a little more than two months, the largest unit of BiH will complete the NATO evaluation process. These achievements underline the strong commitment of both parties in this partnership – both the Alliance and BiH – for reforms and modernization. Your efforts in this area will enable the security, stability, and prosperity of BiH and all its citizens in the future”, McGaha stated.