BiH-Russia: Dodik meets Putin in Sochi a week before the general polls in BiH

BiH-Russia: Dodik meets Putin in Sochi a week before the general polls in BiH

Republika Srpska president, Milorad Dodik, met the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi, on Sunday, 30 September 2018, a week before the general polls in his country. The short meeting was arranged for after the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix race in Autodrom VIP section.

During the meeting, Putin showed that he knows basic economy facts and main problems in Republika Srpska, but also emphasised that “relations between Russia and Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina are developing successfully, the economic sector included”.

Russian president also said that he know that trade with Russia amounts to some 75 percent of the Republic’s overall foreign trade.

“We have made direct agreements on our natural gas deliveries. There are also promising ideas and plans for developing a plant for aviation equipment repairs, and engines, too. In addition, of course, a major project is converting an oil refinery on the border with your neighbours to natural gas (in order) to relax 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 neighbours’ housing and utility services. Yet, this concern should be addressed, and we will do this together with you”, stressed Putin regarding Croatian state leadership’s objections about the pollution that is coming from the Brod Oil Refinery, a Russian-owned facility in Republika Srpska.

Dodik confirmed that Croatian objections belong to the present and agreed that it is not as big an issue as BiH’s neighbouring country wants to present it.

“Indeed, we want to solve all environmental issues with our neighbours, but, as you correctly said, this is not so much about (these) problems as it is about a desire to create a picture of problems”, Dodik noted.

Additionally, Dodik stressed that RS would like to implement the reconstruction of two thermal power plants with Russian companies. During the meeting, he informed Putin that recently the foundation stone for the Russian-Serb centre and Church was laid in Banja Luka and that Russian FM, Sergey Lavrov, has visited the construction site. Dodik also said that BiH would hold the General Election on October 7, on Putin’s birthday, and offered him the badge in the RS flag’s colours as a gift, saying “the colours of the RS flag are the same like the ones on the Russian flag though in different order.”

“I hope you will give me a nice present and hold this election at a high organisational and political level, and in accordance with your country’s laws. Once more, I would like to wish you to be successful said Putin at the end of the meeting.

Dodik said to RS media that it is very important for RS to have the attention of Russia in the future.

“It would be catastrophic for our people to lose Russia’s attention, its help and support”, Dodik said.

Opposition leaders did not officially react on the meeting but unofficially the two things discussed the most was the timing and the place of the meeting. The opposition considered the few-minutes long meeting at the hall of the Autodrom in Sochi, a courtesy meeting, not a serious diplomatic moment.

“The meeting on the sidelines of the F1 race can be considered as a serious diplomatic attempt (of the president) to present the most important issues RS is preoccupied with and (strengthen) relations with Russia by no one”,  an opposition candidate said to IBNA off the record. The source explained that anonymity was the alpha and omega here because such a comment could be “interpreted as jealousy of the meeting in Sochi”.

The other major opposition remark is linked with the time of the meeting. They (opposition) people consider that such an event that takes place only a week before (the general) elections serves Dodik and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD)’s campaign perfectly.

The third opposition remark had to do with what was discussed at the unofficial get together. No,  “burning issues” were touched, issues Serbs in BiH are concerned with. A rather important one (among other) being the status of Serbs who, in several Federation BiH cantons, they are not a constitutional nation…. / IBNA