U.S. sanctions Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik

Sanctions have now been put on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, with the U.S. accusing him of “corrupt activities” involving a critical peace accord. The Biden administration placed the sanctions against Dodik on Wednesday, with the Treasury Department alleging he has a history of bribing and grifting to achieve wealth during his time in office.

However, the primary reason for the sanctions is to punish the leader for alleged violations of the Dayton Accords, a peace agreement written in 1995 sponsored by the United States that helped to end the Bosnian War.Bosnia's member of tripartite presidency Milorad Dodik attends a news conference, following the donation of a batch of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic, at Sarajevo International Airport in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, March 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado RuvicMilorad Dodik

According to U.S. officials, Dodik has been advocating for Bosnian Serb separation for years, with that autonomy being one of the key factors in beginning the war.

“Together, these designations reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH (the abbreviation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), the rule of law and democratic institutions, and a better future for BiH’s citizens,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Meanwhile, Dodik did not seem to be fazed by the U.S. sanctions on Wednesday.

“These are their sanctions, not ours. They are not the Holy Scripture,” he told reporters. “I do not intend to apply for a visa for America even if my sanctions are lifted tomorrow.”

With tacit support from Russia and Serbia, Dodik recently intensified his secessionist campaign, pledging to separate from Bosnia’s loose central authority and form a Bosnian Serb army, judiciary and tax system.

Bosniak officials have warned that Dodik’s policies could lead to clashes and called on the U.S. and the EU to crack down against him and his associates.

The United States has already imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on Dodik, and both American and German officials have recently threatened more sanctions in case Bosnian Serbs further weaken Bosnia’s central institutions.

Dodik has repeatedly said he doesn’t care about new sanctions, adding that this would bring Serbs even closer to their “true friends” — Russia and China. He has also denied that withdrawal from the central institutions is contrary to the Dayton peace agreement and would lead to a quick secession or a new war.

The chief international representative in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, said in a written statement Wednesday that the new U.S. sanctions against Dodik were “a logical consequence of the destructive and dangerous attitude in reference to his failure to meet the basic requirements of responsible leadership.”

Schmidt added that Dodik “has to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions and should return to reasonable and accountable actions without violating the State Constitution and the rule of law.”

The U.S. also designated a media outlet, Alternativna Televizija d.o.o. Banja Luka, which it said is owned by a company linked to Dodik’s family. The administration says Dodik acquired the organization to advance his own agenda and exerts behind-the-scenes control over its content, including by mandating approval of politically sensitive stories.

The two other officials designated by the State Department are Milan Tegeltija, the former head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, which appoints, dismisses and oversees the work of all the country’s judges and prosecutors, and Parliamentary Assembly Representative Mirsad Kukic.

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