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October 14, 2018 No.
7710

Prominent Russian Expert Lukyanov: 'The Balkan Countries Need Russia As A Counterweight' But Russia Should Avoid Engagement

In an article, titled "Did Somebody Order A Throwback?", the prominent Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov discussed Russia's relations with Balkan countries.

Lukyanov commented on the recent September 30 referendum in Macedonia that had been declared void, as half of the total number of registered voters failed to cast their ballots.

According to Lukyanov, the referendum on Macedonia should have focused on the change of the name, i.e. from "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)" to "North Macedonia," and not on whether Macedonia should become a EU and a NATO member. "The question was 'Do you support membership in the EU and NATO by accepting the agreement between Macedonia and Greece?' In other words, the organizers were not actually interested in settling the genuinely important name issue, but in pushing through a geopolitical choice under a new guise," wrote Lukyanov.

It is worth noting that back in June 2018, a deal was brokered that ended a diplomatic standoff over Macedonia's name with Greece. The deal, known as the Prespa agreement, was submitted to the voters in the September 30 referendum, as changing the name of Macedonia into North Macedonia, would have paved the way for an invitation to the Balkan country to join the EU and NATO.[1]

In mid-July, a diplomatic tit-for-tat ensued between Russia and Greece, when Athens accused Moscow of attempts to foment opposition in Macedonia to undermine a deal between Athens and the Balkan country. [2]

Commenting on the referendum, Russia's ambassador to Macedonia Sergey Bazdnikin commented that it was the West that had meddled in the Macedonian vote. "It is absolutely clear now that Macedonian voters have, so to say, voted with their feet against the decision imposed from the outside. It is obvious that the overwhelming majority, almost two-thirds of citizens do not think that the Prespa Agreement between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia is the best tool to overcome differences around the official name of the Republic of Macedonia," Bazdnikin stated.

The Russian diplomat then added: "We did not make any public statements in connection with the referendum so that it would not look like an attempt to influence its results. Meanwhile, our Western colleagues chose a completely opposite approach, and it is clear that they have attempted to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."[3]

Among the Balkan countries with historical ties with Russia, Lukyanov mentions Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Concerning Serbia, on October 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the Kremlin. Vucic stressed that the meeting was of "great importance" for his country.[4] (See APPENDIX)

According to an article in MK.ru, Vucic's visit to Moscow was aimed at securing Putin's support to consider border changes between Serbia and Kosovo. Recently, Vucic and the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci showed interest in the territorial swap. The swap consists of the following: Kosovo would relinquish its northern Serb-majority part and Serbia in return would give Preševo valley to the east with its Albanian-majority.

MK.ru opined that if Putin supports the swap, then it would be easier to negotiate with the EU and get to an agreement. However, Mk.ru also stated that such a territorial swap would not be in the best interests for Russia: "Common sense implies that Moscow won't benefit from conflict resolution via the territorial swap deal between Belgrade and Pristina. First of all, Russia has always stood for the principle of territorial integrity for Serbia. Second, settlement with Kosovo will open for Belgrade a door to the EU and NATO."[5]

Concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country held general elections on October 7, 2018. Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, President Of Republika Srpska, won his community's seat on Bosnia-Herzegovina's three-person presidency. Dodik, who has close links with Russia, flew to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On that occasion, Putin wished Dodik success in the elections.

On September 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Republika Srpska. During the press conference with Dodik, Lavrov said: "The policy of some external actors who are attempting to make the Balkan region’s people face the choice – either they are with the West or with Russia – is absolutely unacceptable."[6] (See APPENDIX)

Below are excerpts from Lukyanov's article:[7]


Fyodor Lukyanov (Source: Rambler.ru)

Russia Finds It Hard To Formulate A Balanced Attitude Towards Balkan Problems

"There is activity in the Balkans again, and in this part of Europe that is usually bad news. In Macedonia, there was a low turnout in a referendum about renaming, so the question remains in abeyance. In Serbia, the army was put in a state of combat readiness due to the visit by the president of Kosovo to a border area amid talks about a possible 'exchange of territories'. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are elections, which is always stressful in a fragile country. And in all of the above-listed events, everybody is carefully looking for 'the hand of the Kremlin'. In some cases, one does not even have to look too carefully: Vladimir Putin has just met with the president of Republika Srpska, part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, and immediately afterwards – the president of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.

"It is clear why no discussion of the Balkan problems can avoid mentioning Russia. Its historical and cultural-religious ties with the Balkans have existed for centuries, and their mutual gravitation is well known. And this is a factor in politics, or rather, its constant background. The question of who is more inclined to use this fact for their own ends – Balkan sympathizers in Moscow or those in the region who would like to draw upon the image of powerful Russia – is debatable. It is more important for the latter, but the former also tend to passionately explain the necessity for [Russia’s] active involvement in Balkan affairs.

"Historical forgetfulness is a bad thing, but nothing good will come of the desire to project the nineteenth century’s patterns on the twenty-first as wel. The Balkans are a region where the past never ends and persistently attempts to become the future. The same conflicts and demarcation lines are reproduced there in slightly differing ways, and this is true both for the peoples of this part of Europe and for their external patrons. The set of patrons has not changed much, only Germany and Austria-Hungary have assumed the form of the European Union, and Great Britain has been transformed into the United States. But movement in the opposite direction is also possible; for example, with the erosion of the EU, the national interests of its member states may start to take precedence. A new player has appeared now – China. The Balkans interest it from the logistical point of view, so it does not want to delve into all those complex relationships, but it has significant financial resources, which fuel the appetite of the local governments.

"Strange as it might seem, Russia finds it hard to formulate a balanced attitude towards Balkan problems. It is precisely because of the rich history –saturated not only in calculations and interests but also emotions and passions. In Russia, one can often feel a kind of fascination with the past, which distorts the picture of the present. The Balkans provide the perfect environment for exactly this sort of experience.

"If one soberly appraises the situation, the following may be observed: the Balkans, even when they are – as often happens – in the focus of international attention, are a political periphery. The reason is primarily because the region's dynamics are largely determined not by the interests of the peoples inhabiting it, but by the presence of external forces. The referendum in Macedonia is a striking example. For almost three decades, the country has lived under the internationally recognized name of the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', which is absurd and anomalous. The solution to the name issue is important for the state, and the compromise offered is well founded. But the citizens were not asked to vote for or against the name 'North Macedonia', which would be natural. The question was 'Do you support membership in the EU and NATO by accepting the agreement between Macedonia and Greece?' That is, the organizers were, in fact, interested not in settling the really important problem of the name, but in pushing through a geopolitical choice under a new guise. It is no wonder that the blatant political maneuvering of one side (the pro-Western one) provokes a corresponding response in the other.

"By the way, if the Macedonian government and those European and American politicians who encourage it had been more honest with the people, they would possibly have obtained a more favorable result. People everywhere are becoming increasingly wary of attempts to manipulate their desires.

"The historical and cultural sympathies connecting us to the Balkans should be nurtured and cherished, but one should be extremely careful with political involvement. And not only because today’s Russia does not have a clear offer to make to the peoples and states of the region. They are in the European gravitational zone and are completely dependent of the EU, whatever happens there. The Balkan countries need Russia as a counterweight, a leverage, a lightning rod, in other words – as a multi-purpose tool. In some cases, it is useful to Russia as well, but only sporadically.

APPENDIX I – Russian MFA On The Referendum In Macedonia: A Long-Term Solution Can Only Be Agreed Without Any External Interference

Comment by the Russian MFA on the results of Macedonia's referendum:

"On September 30, the Republic of Macedonia held a referendum on the Prespa Agreement, which stipulates changing the country’s name to North Macedonia. The 36.8 percent turnout means that the referendum cannot be recognized as valid (the turnout must be at least 50 percent). It clearly indicates that Macedonian voters chose to boycott the solutions imposed on Skopje and Athens externally – as the leading politicians from NATO and EU member states participated in this large-scale propaganda campaign directly, freely interfering in the internal affairs of this Balkan state.

"Despite the fact that two thirds of Macedonia’s population did not vote in favor of the Prespa Agreement, the results of the vote were instantly hailed by the EU and NATO leaders, and in Washington as well. The desire to ensure and speed up Skopje’s accession to NATO despite the will of the people of Macedonia is evident.

"Our principled position remains the same: a long-term solution can only be agreed upon by the two parties on their own, without any external interference, and only within the framework of the law and with broad public support. The Prespa Agreement clearly fails to meet these criteria. It is inconsistent with the international law and the Constitution of Macedonia, which was repeatedly emphasized by the Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, including from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is closely monitoring the development of this situation. We proceed from the fact that according to paragraph 3 of the UN Security Council Resolution 845, the results of the talks between Skopje and Athens will be considered at the UN Security Council."

(Mid.ru, October 1, 2018)

APPENDIX II – Putin's Meeting With President Of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic


The President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic presented Vladimir Putin with a book My Fair Serbia. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

On October 2, Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "… I remember well your previous visit on May 8–9. Most recently, we celebrated the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

"I note with satisfaction a steady increase in bilateral trade, namely, 23 percent last year and another 13.3 percent in the first half of this year. Russia’s investment in the Serbian economy is also growing and now stands at $4 billion…"

President of the Republic of Serbia Alexandar Vucic (speaks in Russian): "Mr. President, my friend,

"First of all, thank you very much for your kind words and hospitality. It is, as always, a great honor for me.

"However, today's meeting is of great importance for my country, Serbia.

"I am pleased with the way our relations are unfolding, which is the result of our open, constructive and productive discussions. Russian-Serbian international relations are very good.

"I must express my deep gratitude to you personally, Mr President, for your firm position in upholding international law and vital national and state interests of the Republic of Serbia.

"As you are well aware, the situation in the Western Balkans is very complicated, and as a state Serbia is faced with numerous daily provocations. Despite this, regardless of our willingness to reach a compromise and to maintain peace and stability, we are still very far from reaching any decision on the matter concerning Kosovo and Metohija.

"I would like to emphasize once again that as an independent and free state Serbia will maintain military neutrality, and I believe that Serbia is the only country in the Western Balkans that enjoys such a definition today.

"With regard to our economic ties, you were right when you said that our trade is on the rise. I am quite pleased with this and I hope that we can improve our economic relations in the future.

"In closing, I would like to thank you once again for everything you are doing for Serbia and to take this opportunity to invite you to visit Belgrade in the near future. This, as I said earlier, will be a great honor for us and our people.

"I have prepared for you a book My Fair Serbia written by Russian authors.

"Many thanks again for your very warm welcome and hospitality."

Vladimir Putin: "Thank you."

(Kremlin.ru, October 2, 2018)

APPENDIX III – Putin's Meeting With President Of Republika Srpska Entity Of Bosnia And Herzegovina Milorad Dodik


Meeting with President of Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "Mr. Dodik, I am happy to see you in Russia again, this time in Sochi.

"No so long ago, you attended the economic forum in St Petersburg. In this regard, I would like to note that relations between Russia and Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina are developing successfully, including in the economic sector.

"As far as I know, trade with Russia amounts to some 75 percent of your Republic's overall foreign trade. Our companies operate in the oil and oil processing sectors. One of our companies owns an oil refinery and a lube refinery.

"We have made direct agreements on our natural gas deliveries. There are also promising ideas and plans for developing a plant involved in aviation equipment repair, including engines.

"And, of course, a major project is converting an oil refinery on the border with your neighbors to natural gas to solve environmental concerns. I do not think that the oil refinery is actually creating such big issues. This is more about switching to a more environmentally friendly type of fuel and your neighbors' housing and utility services. Yet, this concern should be addressed, and we will do this together with you.

"We have projects that are dynamically developing in the humanitarian sphere. Citizens of the Republika Srpska study at Russian universities. I know that recently the foundation was laid for a Russian Orthodox church. Your citizens are making serious efforts to learn Russian. We are prepared to give any assistance and help.

"I know that on October 7 you will have elections. I want to wish success to you and your supporters. I hope everything proceeds within the legal framework and successfully, and will contribute to further stabilization in the republic.

President of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik (retranslated): "Thank you, Mr. President. It is a great honor for me to meet with you again.

"I want to assure that cooperation between our countries is indeed going very well. What you said is absolutely correct. We are cooperating successfully in the economy, and we want to develop this cooperation further.

"Indeed, we want to solve all environmental issues with our neighbors, but, as you correctly said, this is not so much about problems as it is about a desire to create the appearance of problems.

"We would also like to implement the reconstruction of two thermal power plants with your companies. We are holding corresponding talks and hope that this will be successfully implemented.

"Two weeks ago, we had a ceremony to consecrate the foundation stone for a Russian-Serbian religious and educational center. A total of 6,000 square meters has already been built on this foundation. There will be room for a museum, exhibitions and similar events. We are very much involved in this and expect the construction to be completed as early as next year.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently visited us, and it was a special event for us to which we paid particular attention.

"On October 7, we will have our election. However, I know that this is your birthday. I would like to wish you all the best.

"Your principled stance regarding the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been of help to us, because others do not have such a principled approach, primarily western countries.

"Our election campaign is nearing the finishing line, and we believe in a good outcome.

"Thank you for all your support for the development of relations with Republika Srpska and Serbia. Of course, we see this as fraternal cooperation. I would like to present to you the flag of Republika Srpska, which is actually the Russian flag upside down."

Vladimir Putin: "True.

"Regarding environmental issues, if people have any concern, it should be resolved, all the more so as the oil refinery's switching to natural gas will definitely improve the situation.

"As regards the election and my birthday, I hope you will give me a good present and hold this election at a high organizational and political level, and in accordance with your country's laws.

"Once more, I would like to wish you success."

(Kremlin.ru, September 30, 2018)

APPENDIX IV: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks And Answers To Questions At The Joint News Conference Following Talks With President Of Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Milorad Dodik In Banja Luka


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with President of Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Milorad Dodik. (Source: Mid.ru)

The following are Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the joint news conference with President of Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Milorad Dodik in Banja Luka, on September 21, 2018

Lavrov: "Esteemed Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

"It is very pleasant to be in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This morning we worked in Sarajevo, and just now have had very good talks in Banja Luka.

"When discussing Russia’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik and I concentrated on relations with Republika Srpska.

"We wish to develop our ties in every area, including the economic, trade, investment, humanitarian, cultural and education areas. The growth in trade between Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely determined by our trade with Republika Srpska, including the increased exports of its fruits and vegetables to Russia. Today, we discussed in detail ways to help settle the issues that will make it possible to export meat and dairy products from Republika Srpska to Russia.

"We are grateful to the leaders of Republika Srpska for their invariable support of Russian companies operating in that country. These are primarily subsidiaries of Zarubezhneft – the Srpski Brod Oil Refinery, the Modrica Oil Refinery and the network of Nestro Petrol stations.

"Gazprom has been directly supplying Republika Srpska with Russian gas for several years. Last December, Gazprom LNG signed an agreement with GAS-RES to establish a joint venture to build an LNG plant near the city of Zvornik. We hope that this liquefied natural gas will be in demand not only in Republika Srpska but also in neighbouring Serbia.

"Republika Srpska is actively developing ties with various Russian regions. St Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko visited recently to discuss promising economic and humanitarian projects.

"We appreciate the attention paid by the leaders of Republika Srpska to the consolidation of contacts between our peoples that are linked by the bonds of friendship and historical roots.

"I am very grateful to our friends here for their support of the initiative to build a Russian Orthodox Church in memory of the family of Tsar Nicholas II in the center of Banja Luka. It will be a key element of the future Russian-Serbian cultural center.

"This caring attitude towards our common glorious history is also manifest in the fact that the Immortal Regiment march has been held on May 9 in Republika Srpska as in the Russian Federation for a second year.

"We also discussed regional affairs. As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia is firmly committed to the Dayton agreements and objects to any attempts to revise them. Any reforms are only possible by the agreement of two equitable entities and all three constitutional nations. We invariably note the commitment of Republika Srpska and personally President Milorad Dodik to the Dayton agreements.[8] We discussed this with members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo earlier today.

"We consider absolutely timely, if not overdue, the task of liberating Bosnia and Herzegovina from the manifestations of external control and finally turning it into an independent and sovereign state that decides its own destiny.

"Our positions coincide fully on other persisting problems in the Balkans: in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. We are confident that these issues should be settled on the basis of mutual agreement of the parties involved fully in keeping with the opinions of the population in these countries. The policy of some external actors who are attempting to make the Balkan region’s people face the choice – either they are with the West or with Russia – is absolutely unacceptable. I already spoke about this in Sarajevo but let me reiterate that Russia co-authored the Dayton Agreement and UNSC Resolution 1244 on Kosovo settlement, alongside with Europe and the United States. We see no reasons to stop this interaction and turn the Balkans again into a point of contention between Russia and our Western colleagues.

"I would like to once again thank President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik and all his colleagues for hospitality, for their very warm welcome and constructive talks."

Question: "How would you comment on the West’s statement regarding Russia’s influence in the Balkans, especially in Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that the President of Republika Srpska is a Russian man, even though we are perfectly aware that throughout all those years Russia has been very clear about the need to comply with the Dayton Agreement?"

Sergey Lavrov (answering after Milorad Dodik): "As to my response to your question, I agree with what President Dodik has just said. We have always been honest in our foreign policy. If we agree to something, we always observe our obligations. It fully applies to our stance on the Dayton Agreement. We are not trying to change it; we are not trying to preserve elements of protectorate over Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the contrary, at all forums, including the UN Security Council and the Peace Implementation Council, we stand up for Dayton Agreement’s basic principles, namely the constitutional equality of the two entities and the three peoples under the constitution. According to the Dayton Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized to be an independent sovereign state. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a UN Security Council member for more than 15 years. I think it is unacceptable at the current historical stage that the Office of the High Representative still exists here appointed by the West, which can annul any agreements between the three constitutional peoples.

"As to the other Balkan countries (and you asked about what I think in general of the West’s position regarding Russia’s influence in the Balkans), I can say the following. A very ambiguous situation emerged in Macedonia after signing the Prespa Agreement, whose legality is questioned by many political forces in Macedonia. A referendum is pending, as you know. I invite you to look at the media and social networks, the internet to see what Russian thinks about it. We do not say anything that could be interpreted as campaigning for a particular voting. At the same time, look at the number of Western visitors that have been to Macedonia in the past month: heads of many leading European countries, US administration representatives. They are not shy in their public speeches in Skopje to campaign for voting in favor of the Prespa Agreement at the referendum. If that is not interference in internal affairs, then I do not know what could be called such interference.

"You probably noted the early September statement by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, who said that the Balkans are a EU territory and nobody else should try to meddle there. We do not object in any way to the striving of the Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to join the EU. But such arrogant great-power chauvinist statements do no credit to the EU. Such a position contradicts the natural right of all the Balkan states not only to strive to join the EU but also to develop relations with other countries that meet the interests of those respective states."

Question: "Can Russia really leave the Council of Europe?"

Sergey Lavrov: "Russia wants to remain in the Council of Europe as it was at the time when we joined it. I mean the Council of Europe which had it written in its founding document, the Charter, that each country has equal rights in all its structures. No member of the Council of Europe can be discriminated against in any of the Council’s bodies. We are ready to keep on working in that Council of Europe. All the rest depends on the members of that organization."

(Mid.ru, September 21, 2018)

APPENDIX V - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks And Answers To Media Questions At A Joint News Conference Following Talks With Foreign Minister Of Bosnia And Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, Sarajevo, September 21, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, Sarajevo, September 21, 2018

Lavrov: "… I had a meaningful meeting today with three members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as detailed talks with the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As my colleague have said, Russia firmly believes in the non-alternative nature of the Dayton agreements. We support sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, of course, the constitutional authority of its two entities and the principle of equality of the three constitutional peoples. We want the results of the elections that are to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina next month to be based on these principles as well. This will contribute to consolidating all Bosnians around the Dayton principles, which, I believe, is a key to the successful development of the Bosnian state. We very much appreciate the willingness to expand cooperation with Russia, as reiterated by all the members of the Presidency today, as well as during the talks. In turn, we are also interested in cooperating with Bosnia and Herzegovina and both its entities.

"Bilateral turnover is growing steadily. This trend is accompanied, in particular, by a significant increase in the export of Bosnian fruits and vegetables to Russia. Major investment projects are being implemented by our companies, specifically, Zarubezhneft, Sberbank and others.

"This year, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina mark 40 years of cooperation in the gas sector. We continue uninterrupted gas supplies to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Gazprom successfully cooperating under two separate contracts with both the Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We note the stepped up activities of the Intergovernmental Russian-Bosnian-Herzegovinian Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, which creates better conditions for increasing the volume of cooperation.

"We have traditionally close ties in culture and education. We continue to provide scholarships for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina who want to study at Russian universities. The number of these students is on the rise, which we are pleased with. We have a promising future in military memorial affairs which is due to our historical and spiritual closeness. Some cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are participating in the Immortal Regiment drive for the second year, something that is held in Russia on May 9.

"We have a very good contractual and legal framework. This year, it was supplemented by labour migration agreements, as well as agreements in labor and employment. Work is nearing completion on new agreements, including in the areas of avoidance of double taxation, cooperation in culture, science and education, social security, and tourism.

"We have just signed a plan for working consultations between our Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2019-2020. It provides for further harmonization of our approaches, exchange of views on key international issues, including processes in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic area, interaction in the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. There will also be consultations on matters of southeastern Europe, primarily the Balkans. Our positions are very close. My colleague and friend just mentioned the need to comply with the principles outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 with regard to the Kosovo settlement. We welcome the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Most importantly, things that are agreed upon as part of this dialogue must be fulfilled. We also agree that all external players should not create confrontational situations in the Balkans and none of these external players should claim control of the Balkans and tell everyone else to stay away. Our country closely and productively cooperated with the EU, the United States, including during the coordination of the Dayton agreements. I see no reason why this cooperation should now be questioned.

"In closing, I would like to thank our hosts and Mr. Minister personally, for the hospitality and the invitation to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Thank you."

Question: "During the ongoing election campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina several politicians are trying to brag about their alleged support by the Russian Federation. Does Russia have favored candidates in these elections, above all Milorad Dodik?"

Sergey Lavrov: "We favor the favorites of the Bosnian people who will cast votes for their chosen candidates. We never try to promote certain candidates during the elections in other countries. We will always respect the choice of the Bosnians and will work with whomever they vote for."

(Mid.ru, September 21, 2018)

 

 

 

[2] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7589, Russia In The World – Russia-Greece Relations: Diplomatic Tit-For-Tat, July 26, 2018

[3] Sputniknews.com, October 2, 2018.

[4] Kremlin.ru, October 2, 2018.

[5] Mk.ru, October 2, 2018.

[6] Mid.ru, September 21, 2018.

[7] Rg.ru, October 2, 2018.