RS police purchase of firearms – real threat or media exaggeration?

RS police purchase of firearms – real threat or media exaggeration?

Republika Srpska Ministry of Interior ordered 2 500 automatic rifles, with the news triggering a new dispute in BiH. Though in this case, the story is ‘supported’ by the UK newspaper ‘The Guardian’ and its relevant article, thus making it an internationally important issue.

On Tuesday, ‘The Guardian’ had a big story about the purchase of firearms, reading that it may be used against the Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik’s opponents.

“Serb civil society activists, the central Bosnian government in Sarajevo and western diplomats believe that a new heavily armed police unit will be used by the Bosnian Serb separatist leader, Milorad Dodik, to entrench his position and intimidate opponents ahead of elections in October”, was stressed in the newspaper story.

According to ‘The Guardian’, it is linked with Dodik’s close ties with Russia and his resistance to BiH’s entrance into NATO. Recently, Dodik and the RS were under pressure because of the group called “Srbska čast” (“Serbian honour”) whose members wear military uniforms and, allegedly, it is linked with Russian extremists’ groups such as the “Night Wolves”. Almost all media in the Federation of BiH published stories about the military exercises of the “Srbska Čast” members, their criminal past and rumours about the organisation of a military camp in Russia, where kids from RS were trained for military action. ‘The Guardian’ article reminded readers that “Srbska Čast” has close co-operation with a Russian humanitarian centre in the Serbian city of Niš, which is suspected by U.S. authorities of providing a hub for Russian intelligence operations.

Republika Srpska authorities have not denied the intention to modernise the police forces with new automatic guns. They are already ordered from the Serbian factory “Crvena zastava” and, unofficially, the value of this shipment is nearly two million BAM (one million euros). Dodik confirmed the order, saying that it is normal because the police forces have not been given had new arms in the past twenty years. He said that the guns will be used to better fight terrorism, emphasising that old arms were not efficient in the “Zvornik case”, when 24-years-old Nerdin Ibrić, killed a Serb police officer and wounded two others before being shot dead. It was identified as a terrorist attack but ‘The Guardian’ undermined the importance of this case, saying that the attack was qualified as “terrorist” only because Ibrić was shouting “Allahu Akbar” during the incident. Also, they said that his father was killed at the beginning of the war by the Serbian police “in the beginning of ethnical cleansing”.

RS Minister of Interior, Dragan Lukač told media that the purchase of firearms is not a secret and that the Ministry has all necessary licenses issued by the relevant state institutions. On Wednesday, Lukač repeated that there is no “case” in this transaction and that all aspects of the purchase are legal. Commenting the statement in ‘The Guardian’, that Russian instructors will train RS police forces in Zalužani barracks, near Banja Luka, Lukač said that it is not true.

“The construction of this training and educational centre in Zalužani is nearly finished but the instructors will not come from Russia but from the U.S. and the European Union,” Lukač to press in Banja Luka.

The fact is that ‘The Guardian’ built its story on the basis of the Sarajevo-based internet site “Žurnal”. However, journalists of this local web medium did not even try to check how the story of the purchases of firearms for the police forces in the Federation of BiH goes. That bit is a bit complicated because this entity has under its control the police forces and ministries of Interior in all 10 cantons, at entity level. But, few minutes of research can be enough to get the necessary information. As a matter of fact, according to the public procurement plan for this year, only the Sarajevo canton police will buy firearms and equipment that will cost two million BAM -as mentioned before- a purchase that will respond to the whole of the Republika Srpska. And nobody brought this into question. Other cantons, have either already bought or will buy pistols, automatic guns and various police equipment…/IBNA