For Atlantic Initiative writes Hana Sokolović
In May 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was established by the United Nations in response to mass atrocities then taking place in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reports depicting horrendous crimes, in which thousands of civilians were being killed and wounded, tortured and sexually abused in detention camps and hundreds of thousands expelled from their homes, caused outrage across the world and spurred the UN Security Council to act.
The ICTY was the first war crimes court created by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. It was established by the Security Council in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Twenty-four years later, at the end of 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was closed, and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals was established, mandated to perform a number of essential functions previously carried out by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The role and influence of Russia in the Western Balkans has been talked about more and more loudly in recent years, given that this role is perceived as dangerous and destabilizing – aggression and invasion of Ukraine show that those warnings were not empty words. On the other side, the ICTY is still the most important legal reference in the fight against historical revisionism and growing nationalism.
Russia’s attitude towards the work of the Hague Tribunal has not been much discussed outside of media reports which have usually followed reactions to sentencing, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Given that Russia has been one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council for thirty years, it is interesting to observe the attitude towards this topic and the fact that out of 24 vetoes that Russia has invested in the UN’s long-term work, one was oriented towards Balkans – in 2015, Russia vetoed a resolution on the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. The resolution claimed that “acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation”. One of the five great powers in the UN Security Council should then be considered as such – as those whose power has a significant effect on the political, social and security aspects of life in the areas where their behaviour is reflected.
SINCE THE BEGINNING…
Speaking about the work of the ICTY, it is important in the geopolitical context to recall from which countries the presidents of this Court were appointed. Presidents of the Tribunal have been appointed from a total of five countries – Italy, the United States, France, Malta, and Jamaica. The five prosecutors have been appointed from Venezuela, the Republic of South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, and Belgium.
When it comes to officials appointed from Russia, in the publicly available ICTY documents, we see that only one judge from the Russian Federation held the position of an ICTY judge (2012-2015, Appeals Chamber), Judge Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov. There are no Russian Federation representatives on the list of current or former judges, secretaries, or prosecutors of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
It is interesting, however, according to Refik Hodžić, a former spokesman for the Hague Tribunal and former director of communications with BiH, that Russia has had high-ranking officials in the Office of the Prosecutor during all those years – emphasising that this does not testify to Russia’s impartiality, but rather the fact that prosecutors from Russia also participated in the work of the Office of the Prosecutor.
“Russia’s attitude towards the Tribunal is a reflection of Russia’s attitude towards international law and the international legal order in general, which essentially followed the transformation of Russia’s policy towards the West. I believe that this attitude would be best explained if we were to make a “timeline” of the important moments in the Tribunal’s development and Russia’s contributions to discussions on the Tribunal’s annual reports at the Security Council, and to place that in the context of other events that shaped Russia’s international policy. Russia voted IN FAVOUR of the establishment of the Tribunal in a unanimous decision in 1993. It supported all the reports of the UN Secretary General leading to its establishment, including the report of the Commission of Experts. The decisive shift happened with the NATO intervention in Kosovo and the second war in Chechnya, in which Russia used the “scorched earth” strategy, and its forces committed horrible crimes.” – Refik Hodžić said in his comment about the topic for the purpose of this analysis.
This would, roughly, be the timeline:
First phase: ENTHUSIASM
In 1993, with support and a vote in favour from Russia, the Hague Tribunal was established. At the UN Security Council session, Yuli Mikhailovich Vorontsov, the first Russian Permanent Representative to the UN said:
“Russia has pursued an unwavering course of putting an end to war crimes and cannot remain indifferent to the flagrant mass violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Murder, rape and ethnic cleansing must cease immediately, and the guilty – whatever their affiliation – must be duly punished”. As it will be clear during this document, the first phase, enthusiasm, lasted a very short time. After a clear commitment that horrific crimes must be investigated and punished, restraint ensued.
Second phase: RESTRAINT
In the ten years that followed, in the documents reflecting the work of the ICTY – press releases, reports to the Security Council and other public documents, one could not notice any major change in Russia’s attitude towards the Tribunal. On the other hand, an insight into the practical functioning of the Tribunal presents a clearer picture:
“The decisive shift happened with the NATO intervention in Kosovo and the second war in Chechnya, in which Russia used the “scorched earth” strategy, and its forces committed horrible crimes. There we saw the first signs of withdrawal of support for the Tribunal for obviously political reasons. Later, this turned into an open subversion of the Tribunal’s work, especially in the context of Russia’s policy shift towards the Balkans – manifested in pressure exerted during budget decisions to close the Tribunal as soon as possible, support to conspiracy theories promoted by Šešelj and Koštunica’s government in Serbia during the famous hunger strike, and the constant political support to forces, especially in Serbia, that did their utmost to minimise the impact of the Tribunal’s judgments on political and other relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of former Yugoslavia and to rehabilitate the perpetrators.” – is the comment of Refik Hodžić, a peace activist with more than 25 years of experience in transitional justice.
Such an attitude of Russia can be observed in 2000, when Dragoljub Ojdanić, general of the Yugoslav army, indicted by the Hague Tribunal on charges of violating the laws or customs of war and committing crimes against humanity, entered Russia, met with Russian Defence Minister and other military officials, spent a few days there and then casually left the country. This instance of military tourism would not be disputable if at that time Russia was not obliged to arrest those indicted for war crimes who are in its territory. At that point already, the international community and the media raised the issues of Russia’s diplomatic response to NATO military interventions a year earlier, but Russians answered quite casually that they had no information that Ojdanić was indicted for war crimes. Two years later, Ojdanić surrendered to the ICTY.
Thanks or not to this experience, Russia demonstrated little more willingness to cooperate in the next situation in which a man indicted for war crimes found himself, accidentally or not, on its territory.
In 2005, after fleeing for more than nine years, Dragan Zelenović was located and arrested in Russia, from where he was extradited to the Hague Tribunal in 2006. He was convicted of war crimes committed in Foča in the spring of 1992. Zelenović admitted these crimes in court on 15 January 2007. According to the Tribunal’s indictment, Zelenović is charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of violating the laws or customs of war, among other things for rape in Foča.
Interpretation of this change can be two-sided – either the previous situation and the ensuing criticism were an adequate reminder of Russia’s legal obligations, or Zelenović served as a tool to show that participation in these legal obligations depends solely on Russia’s mood, will and interests.
Third phase: CONDEMNATION & CRITICSM
And just when one could start believing the image of a cooperative Russia – the death of Slobodan Milošević opened Russia’s cards in 2006. Russian deputies unanimously approved a statement accusing the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of systematically applying double standards and bias since its creation in 1993. The Russians resented the tribunal for denying Milošević permission to get treatment in their country, while the Tribunal responded that the Russians had previously shown a refusal to cooperate. Anton Nikiforov, the chief adviser to the UN’s chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service that Russia has consistently refused to cooperate with the tribunal:
“We have asked Russia for certain documents connected to the Milošević cases and to other cases, but we almost never received anything. Milošević had high-ranking witnesses from Russia. When we asked these witnesses whether they were ready to show us some of the written documents supporting their testimonies – since these documents obviously had an official or confidential character, no one has been able to show them to us.”
Three Russian defence witnesses appeared at Milošević’s defence trial – two former Russian prime ministers, Yevgeny Primakov and Nikolai Ryzhkov, and General Leonid Ivashov, who once headed the Defence Ministry’s International Department.
In late 2010, the Security Council decided to establish the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals to finish the remaining tasks of the Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. With an abstention from Russia, resolution 1966 (2010) was adopted by a vote of 14 to none, and the Council decided that the Mechanism’s branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda would commence its operations on 1 July 2012 and that for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 1 July 2013.
It is interesting that Russia did not veto the establishment of this court, but also that it sent a message with a restrained position, which confirms the previous views expressed on the inexpediency of the legal mechanisms established by the UN Security Council.
Fourth phase: PROTECTION (of Serbia’s political interest and war criminals)
In 2012, Russia’s criticism of the ICTY intensified. In the same year, after a four-year break from presidency he replaced with prime minister’s position, Vladimir Putin was elected president of the Russian Federation – a position he has been holding to date. In Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić became president – the founder and former president of the Serbian Progressive Party – who was proclaimed by Vojislav Šešelj a Chetnik duke in 1993.
The ideology that brought these parties to the political top of Serbia did not differ much from the ideology under which the horrific crimes in the 1990s were committed, the sanctioning of which was within the competence of the ICTY. Such political dynamics in the region, not coincidentally, follow in parallel the dynamic of Russian influence in this area, including their relationship towards the ICTY. Although Russia loudly advocated for the early disbandment of the ICTY before, it seems that in 2012, the open attacks on the work of the Hague Tribunal intensified.
On 19 December 2012, the Russian Public Committee in Defence of General Ratko Mladić was founded and began its work under the Duma. The committee was founded on the initiative of “reputable” Russian socio-political, scientific and military, as well as artistic and cultural workers.
That year, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement criticising the ICTY’s decision to release Ramush Haradinaj and his associates on all counts, as well as Croatian General Ante Gotovina and Police Commander Mladen Markač. The statement, inter alia, read:
“The Tribunal considered unproven the numerous murders, forcible deportation, beatings, torture and ill-treatment committed against the Serb and other population disloyal to “new authorities” of the region. This process was accompanied by scandalous circumstances. For the first time in the history of international justice witnesses in this case were subjected to the blatant blackmail and intimidation, and often they were simply physically eliminated. And such acts were committed in the atmosphere of impunity and connivance of the international offices in Kosovo. The Russian Federation has repeatedly drawn the attention of the UN Security Council to this unacceptable situation and called for its strong reaction to investigate the loss of people life and ensure the more effective regime for the protection of witnesses in Kosovo. Unfortunately, our calls were blocked under various pretexts on inexpediency of intervention in ostensibly objective work of the prosecution and the judiciary.” 
In the same year, the United Nations extended the terms of ICTY’s judges until the end of 2014 to complete the ongoing cases, and Russia abstained from voting. The ICTY resolution received 14 votes in favour, while Russia abstained, expressing disagreement with the current work of the Tribunal, saying it “has serious systemic problems”.
“The systematic failure of the leadership of the Tribunal to honour its promises on deadlines for completing its work has definitely undermined our confidence in this body,” Russia’s UN representative, Sergey Karev, said.
In 2012, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, asked the Hague Tribunal and prosecutor Brammertz to explain why Šešelj’s trial has lasted for almost nine years without any trial judgment being handed down. “Šešelj’s case is terrible, he has been in custody for nine years without a judgment, and we are concerned about that,” Churkin said at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
A year later, at the request of the accused Ratko Mladić, the ICTY was visited by three members of the Russian Duma in their capacity as representatives of the Russian Public Committee in Defence of General Ratko Mladić. Jelena Guskova, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was also a member of the delegation. The purpose of the visit, according to the delegation, was to provide moral support to Mladić. The fact that in the years that followed, Russia’s focus on war criminal Ratko Mladić was largely reflected in the alleged concern for his health, raises the question of why these officials did not raise the question of Mladić’s medical examination during their live visit.
Following the judgment against Radovan Karadžić in 2016, Russia released its position that this was a ‘politicised judgment’. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov gave this comment in an interview with Interfax, published a day after the UN court in The Hague convicted Karadžić of genocide and nine other counts and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. Gatilov accused the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of bias, saying they ignored “crimes committed by Kosovo’s leaders and army”.
In 2017, the ICTY Trial Chamber rejected Ratko Mladić’s motion for provisional release to pursue medical treatment in Russia. The rationale to this decision was that the Trial Chamber was not convinced that he would return to the seat of the Tribunal, given that he evaded arrest for 16 years, but also that his state of health was compatible with continued detention. Russia criticised this decision, stating that the Tribunal used to approve provisional release of convicts for much less serious reasons and that the decision was an illustration of the ‘Hague’s justice’.In addition to Mladić’s motion, the Russian Embassy submitted a verbal note stating that if the Tribunal provisionally released Ratko Mladić for treatment on its territory, it would undertake to receive the accused, subject to all conditions of provisional release set by the ICTY, as well as the obligation to guarantee the personal safety of the accused.
In the same year, the ICTY was closed and the jurisdiction for the remaining cases was transferred the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. In 2020, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution to extend the operating period and the term of the prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT, the Mechanism), which was due to expire on 30 June. Council members generally had a positive assessment of the Mechanism and the progress it has made, with the exception of Russia, which was consistently critical of the ICTY. During the semi-annual talks on its operation in June that year, Russia emphasised the importance of protecting the detainees of the Mechanism, including their access to medical care, specifically referring to the case of Ratko Mladić. During the presentation of the IRMCT work report at the UN Security Council, Russia underlined that this body should be closed as soon as possible; it maintained an abstention during the vote; and but also criticised the reappointment of the same officials from the ICTY.
In 2020, Russia continued to express concern for Ratko Mladić’s health, calling his medical treatment ‘inhumane’. The statement of Gennady Kuzmin, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, completely focused on the attitude towards Serbs, as he stated:
“The predecessor of the IRMCT, the ICTY, has a very sad record of observing the rights and upholding the health status of accused and detained Serbs: twelve of them died either during the proceedings or in service of sentence. We hope the Mechanism will not inherit the cruel practices of the ICTY.”
In June of the same year, the Russians reiterated that the Hague Tribunal failed to perform its function, or bring reconciliation among nations. Speaking at a UN Security Council session on the judgment against Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, Gennady Kuzmin, said:
“Soon it will be 30 years, almost one third of a century, during which time the biased and cost-intensive Hague machinery of justice has been grinding the fates of those who took part in the war in the Balkans. (…) The ICTY went down in history as a tool of revenge rather than a body of justice. The Residual Mechanism inherited all negative features of its predecessor.
President Agius recently authorised a decision to transfer former leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadžić to the UK to serve his sentence there. It was done contrary to the requests of Mr. Karadžić and his lawyers, who made a reasonable point that his life and safety would be put at risk in Great Britain. As it is known, there was an incident, when one of former Serb military commanders, Radislav Krstić, was stab-wounded in a British prison. Now the IRMCT leadership and the Government of the UK bear full responsibility for the life and health of R. Karadžić. We will closely monitor the observance of his rights.”
During the vote at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Russia proposed a reduction in the requested financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
It is interesting to see the extent to which Russia has been willing to use the mechanisms and power at the UN Security Council in the years since the founding of the ICTY to position its attitude on the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia’s role. The use of the veto by Russia rose considerably since 2011, with the conflict in Syria accounting for the bulk of these. Since 2011, Russia cast 19 vetoes, 14 of which were on Syria. The remaining Russian vetoes since 2011 were against two resolutions related to the conflict in Ukraine, one on the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, one on sanctions against Yemen, and one on Venezuela.
Speaking of the veto relevant for this analysis, veto on the Resolution that would have condemned the Srebrenica genocide, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had appealed for the council not to vote on the resolution, which he described as “not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated.”
“The blame for the past is placed basically on one people,” Churkin said, but he added: “Our vote against … will not however mean that we are deaf to the sufferings of the victims of Srebrenica and other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
With the narrative of blaming one people, Russia has confirmed its participation in the extremely represented manipulation and revisionism – and that narrative implies that the recognition of genocide brings collective responsibility of all Serbs. All verdicts related to the genocide in Srebrenica, passed in international and domestic courts, oppose this narrative. The long-standing narrative in which the focus shifts from this horrific crime to the idea of collectivizing guilt runs through countless statements by Serbian political officials, as well as those in the Republika Srpska. From such manipulation arises the thesis that the recognition of genocide would disrupt relations between the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Following the evolution of the Russian attitude towards the work of the Hague Tribunal, it is clear that the relationship culminated by the use of this veto. Stopping the international condemnation of the genocide in Srebrenica was the ultimate act of Russian support for Hague convicts, which until then was reflected in the alleged concern for their health and well-being.
ON THE RUSSIAN AND REGIONAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS WAR CRIMINALS AND THE TRIBUNAL
“A few years after the arrests of Karadžić and Mladić, there was already a clear legacy of the tribunal, judgments that reveal the extent and scope of crimes committed on all sides, and a change in Russia’s narrative was visible, a very antagonistic one. This was reflected in press releases and reports to the Security Council – Russia raised questions about to the prosecution of crimes against the Serbian people. Near the end of the Mladić case, they have treated it highly politically, demanding that Mladić be released for treatment in Russia – thus undermining public confidence in the healthcare Mladić was provided by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. In several statements, they supported claims about the alleged unfair trial of Mladić and repeatedly raised the issue of unfair treatment before the Security Council.” – said in an interview for the purposes of this analysis Denis Džidić, Executive Director of the Balkan Research Network of BiH (BIRN).
All progress made by Serbia to indicate respect for the work of the Tribunal, such as the extradition of Slobodan Milošević to the Hague Tribunal in 2001, the arrest of Radovan Karadžić in 2008 and Ratko Mladić after 15 years in hiding in 2011, was undermined by radical parties; therefore, the narrative of war criminals being victims has never been silenced in Serbia.
While President Boris Tadić commented Mladić’s arrest with “Serbia has cleared its name”, Russian officials, on the other side, used this opportunity to express doubts about the work of the Tribunal – “Kosachev stressed that news of Mladić’s arrest provoked twofold feelings – on the one hand, one cannot but welcome the fact that a man accused of horrible crimes will be brought before the court, and on the other hand, “there are certain doubts that this court will be 100% objective and fair”.
While Russia loudly expressed its views on unprecedented injustices, such as the one after the judgment against Ratko Mladić – the Serbian political leadership (un)skilfully tried to position itself as empathetic but also distant. Thus, after the judgment against Mladić, Aleksandar Vučić said that it was expected and called on the citizens of Serbia ‘to turn to the future’. With far lesser subtlety, Milorad Dodik had this comment about the judgment: “As far as the judgment and the court are concerned, this has nothing to do with law and justice. The real goals of the Tribunal have not been achieved – the promise was to punish the perpetrators of crimes, to contribute to more understanding among the nations”. Dodik’s statements often sound like an echo of Russia’s views, spoken into a much smaller megaphone – yet producing enough noise to leave room for Vučić’s diplomatic commentary.
“With the strengthening of authoritarian regimes in Serbia in general – first of Nikolić and then of Vučić – and the repressive rule of Milorad Dodik in the RS, Russia’s support and narratives reflect on the region. These regimes have Russia’s support in daily politics – when it comes, for example, the OHR, NATO, and thus the relationship with the ICTY – where the attitude held upon its establishment transformed into its opposite until 2015-2016 when Russia opted for an openly offensive attitude towards the Tribunal. Their relationship is not visible only with respect to the ICTY, but all issues that are within Russia’s interest.” – said BIRN BiH Executive Director, Denis Džidić.
In November this year, Aleksandar Vučić officially met with Vladimir Putin for the nineteenth time in his four-year term. However, Milorad Dodik is less successful in the meeting count – if we only count those meetings that he can prove they actually happened, given the fact that Dodik’s latest trip to Moscow to meet Putin was not captured by any photos or videos. Nevertheless, Russian policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly and transparently supports Dodik’s undermining of institutions.
SILENT MANIPULATIVE RECOGNITION OF GENOCIDE
What no doubt came as a surprise to Putin’s loyal politicians from Republika Srpska and Serbia is his largely manipulative and abusive – but contextually clear, recognition of the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has remained overshadowed by fears of the conflict with Ukraine.
Russia’s largest news agency, TASS, states about Putin’s address on December 10:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin fears that if Kiev gains control of the border in Donbas and does not provide guarantees of protection to residents, nationalists could organize a massacre there that can be compared to Srebrenica. He expressed this opinion at the session of the Human Rights Council. “
The text continues by defining the war crime in Srebrenica as genocide:
“The Srebrenica massacre was a genocide in July 1995 against more than 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war.”
In the days after December 10, until the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin repeated the construction of genocide against the Russian people, which, as he claimed, must be prevented by military intervention.
The paradox of the president of the state that vetoed the Srebrenica resolution in the UN speaks of uncompromisingness in building the perception of a threat, in which the long-standing narrative of disputing genocide is abandoned and this time – genocide in Srebrenica is recognized as an argument in his own political construct, as a genocide whose recurrence on its own people Russia now fears.
This is not the first time that Putin has abused the Srebrenica trauma as a parallel to Donbas, but it seems to be the first time that there has been recognition of the Srebrenica genocide in Russia’s public and media space – though for completely distorted reasons and political motives. The ease with which Putin abandons the financially and politically nurtured narrative for decades shows that the function of this new attitude is only one: he will admit the Srebrenica genocide because the real scale of the crime serves as an adequate tool to create an image of fear of repetition against his people – all in order to justify the crimes that Russia plans to commit.
WHERE HISTORY AND REVISIONISM STAND TODAY
Today, twenty-seven years after the founding of the ICTY, crimes that have been legally qualified and their perpetrators continue to be the cause of national and political polarization. Belgrade is further polarising because, on the one hand, it worships the mural of a convicted war criminal (Ratko Mladić) as a divine sign of heroism and, on the other, it demonstrates common sense resistance to such an idea. In case anyone has a shadow of doubt about the decision to support a man sentenced to life in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war during the 1992-1995 war in BiH, let us note that in 2018 Russia organised both local and international promotions of a book on the heroism of Ratko Mladić.
Amendments made to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s criminal code, which include banning the denial of war crimes and genocide, imposed by the former High Representative Valentin Inzko, were the trigger for what many analysts call the biggest post-war crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And in this crisis – as expected – its initiator Milorad Dodik enjoys the support of Russia.
“The ICTY is just a reflection of what is happening in international relations. The ICTY was established in a period of non-balance of power; when regional and global balances of power were gradually regained, the ICTY started on the path to its end. This coincides with the growth of autocratic regimes, which formally did not find the ICTY a hindrance as its closure was agreed in 2003, but essentially it was a hindrance because it violated the ideas of nationalism: state sovereignty and the right of a supranational body to try the subjects of nation states.
Accelerated globalisation has minimised barriers to global trade, helped countries become more powerful, but has also led to crises (job losses, rising inequality). The international financial system has become unstable, and economic crises have become more frequent. In the meantime, senseless “wars against terrorism” were waged and democratisation of the “Arab world in the spring” was taking place. All the crises gradually became political problems, which eroded the liberal order. The rise of China and the revival of Russia have led to the end of the unipolar order.” – Mirza Buljubašić, Assistant Professor at the University of Sarajevo
And Russia’s power on the world stage is also reflected in the choice of zones of interest where it can exert its influence. In exchange for a protective stance on war criminals before the UN Security Council, Russia today has loyal political allies at the top of Serbia and Republika Srpska. These pawns in Russia’s competition with other world powers are bringing back to life the advocacy of ideologies that were at the core of the war crimes of the 1990s. Creating the illusion of endangerment and the struggle for one’s own independent ethnically homogeneous space is on the political scene of Republika Srpska today.
The behaviour and actions of the current member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, demonstrate that the attitude towards war crimes and ICTY judgments is only a reflection of what is happening in international relations. “I know perfectly well what happened, genocide happened in Srebrenica. This was confirmed by the court in The Hague and it is an indisputable legal fact,” said Milorad Dodik, then Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, as a guest on a BiH television in November 2007. “The entire people in the Republika Srpska and Serbia are suffering the consequences of having one Mladić decide not to surrender and go to court. And then he says he loves the Serbian people. The hell he does”. – today’s admirer of war criminals, who finds support for his actions in Russia now after a bipolar change of his attitudes, spoke energetically at that time.
From enthusiasm for prosecuting war crimes to protecting war criminals, Russia has significantly influenced the freedom and power that today’s politicians in Republika Srpska and Serbia have in relation to their political interests and allies in the world. The historical revisionism related to war crimes committed by the military and political leadership of the so-called Republika Srpska in the 1990s is largely encouraged by the fact that where the world’s great powers make decisions, there is one willing to veto in favour of this revisionism.
In a long historical span, the genocide in Srebrenica practically happened yesterday – and Vladimir Putin’s latest acknowledging statements serve as his demonstration that a crime of such monstrous proportions against one nation can indeed happen. And in the short historical span from the formation of the ICTY until today, Russia has done absolutely nothing to get their loyal political allies to abandon the narrative of genocide denial and glorify war crimes and war criminals. On the contrary – it used political and financial power to support building a parallel historical narrative which today does not correspond to their current military-political lie. Because in his parallels, it is no coincidence that Vladimir Putin fails to mention the perpetrators of the genocide in Srebrenica, while speaking of Ukraine and Russia. Out of the horror of the trauma, Russia grabs as much as is enough for their performance – taking care not to damage those from whom they expect applause.