World Bulletin/News Desk
As the process of absorbing Crimea into Russia completed after Putin signature of laws, the events have been carefully watched in the Balkans, where the break-up of Yugoslavia and the ethnic wars of the 1990s left several simmering border conflicts, just barely held in check by huge international missions.
Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which is majority ethnic Russian, has again stirred dispute over the principle of sovereignty, last tested when the West supported Kosovo's secession from Bosnia neighbour Serbia in 2008 over Russian objections.
As time goes by another sovereign state could appear on the world map – the Serb Republic. Currently, that territory is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the leader of the Serb Republic Milorad Dodic advocates the idea of the republic gaining independence. Voice of Russia reports some some experts saying Banja Luka has a lot more legal grounds than Kosovo to proclaim itself independent, while many others say they stand little chance of success.
"If the international community granted Kosovo the right to be independent, it opens the opportunity for the Repuiblika Srpska to become independent," Milorad Dodic made that statement a year ago.
As the Crimea crisis neared its climax last week, Dodik visited Moscow, where he was rewarded by Russian Patriarch Kirill for his efforts "to consolidate the unity of Orthodox nations".
Ethnic Serb leaders in Bosnia, who look to wartime backer Serbia and fellow Orthodox Christian ally Russia for support, have frequently threatened secession since the end of a 1992-95 war in which some 100,000 people were killed.
The Bosnian war ended in a U.S.-brokered peace accord that split the country into two highly autonomous regions - a mainly Muslim Bosniak and Croat Federation and a Serb Republic - linked by a weak central authority. Government is highly decentralised and frequently held hostage to ethnic bickering.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik sees Bosnia as "a non-viable state" and described the Crimean referendum as "an example of respect for the UN Charter and the right of people to self-determination".
Banja Luka also has formal grounds to proclaim its sovereignty, says Petr Iskenderov, an employee of the Institute of Slavic Studies, according to Voice of Russia report:
"The events can easily develop along the Kosovo scenario. But while in Kosovo's case the Albanians from Kosovo acted against the will of the central authorities in Belgrade as Kosovo was not even an autonomous republic, but was an autonomous region, the Serb Republic has wide autonomous rights within Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is reflected in official documents and officially confirmed at the international level. Thus, the decision of the Serb Republic to exit Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a lot more legitimate from the point of view of international law, than in the situation with Kosovo."
The report claims many Serbs living Bosnia and Herzegovina consider that country to be an artificial state and the Serb Republic is the most economically advanced part of that country.
Hovewer, analysts say there is little chance that he can go through with the threat of a referendum, AFP reports, not least because of the vast differences between the situation in Crimea and the Balkans.
"The context is not the same. Serbia does not have the same international authority as Russia and it is not currently in its interest to allow this referendum," said political analyst Miodrag Radojevic of the
Institute of Political Studies in Belgrade.
Sasa Popov, an analyst at Serbia's Igmanska Initiative, a think tank, said a referendum on independence for Republika Srpska "is not realistic".
"The case of Crimea is different. There, Russia has used a dramatic situation in Ukraine to retake a territory that it previously owned. Republika Srpska has never been part of Serbia," he added.
Last Mod: 21 Mart 2014, 17:27