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Russia Abstains On Extending Bosnian Force

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said Bosnia should not be pushed in the EU's direction.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said Bosnia should not be pushed in the EU's direction.

Russia has abstained in a UN Security Council vote that extended the mandate of an European Union peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina for another year.

Russia's UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said the Balkan country's citizens should not be pushed in the EU's direction.

The unprecedented move reflects the wider tensions between Moscow and the West over the Ukraine crisis and other issues.

The measure passed on November 11 with "yes" votes from the other 14 Security Council members, and Russia stopped short of using the veto power it holds as a permanent member.

Philippe Bertoux, a member of the French mission to the UN, wrote on Twitter (@phbertoux) that Russia had never voiced opposition to the EU force in Bosnia until now.

"Russia imports the bad Ukraine atmospherics in an unrelated issue. Dangerous game," Bertoux tweeted.

The peacekeeping force, known as EUFOR, is meant to calm tensions that have lingered since the 1992-95 civil war between Bosnia's three ethnic groups -- Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs.

Bosnian Serbs, who are backed by Russia and want an independent state, have prevented any effort to strengthen state institutions.

Last week, the United States and EU welcomed a German-British proposal to move Bosnia closer to EU membership.

The proposal would postpone action on the complicated issue of minority rights while Bosnia moves ahead with reforming its economy and strengthening the rule of law.

Churkin, rejected the proposal, saying any movement by Bosnia toward the EU "cannot be forced from the outside."

This was the first time in 14 years that the vote to extend the EU peacekeeping mission was not unanimous, noted Britain's representative, Michael Tatham.

Tatham called Russia's position "cynical and deeply regrettable" and said its argument that movement toward joining the EU is imposed from outside shows contempt for Bosnia's citizens.

The UN high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, spoke about the need to change the "vicious downward cycle of tit-for-tat politics" and warned those pushing for secession that the country's borders won't be redrawn.

Inzko said Bosnia faces a decisive four years ahead after elections in October.

Bosnian Ambassador Mirsada Colakovic told the council that the country is looking forward to "moving to the next stage of the integration process" with the EU.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Twitter
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