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Bosnian Serb Leader Submits To Questioning Over Illegal Referendum

Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska
Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska

Under U.S. pressure, the leader of Bosnia's autonomous Republika Srpska submitted to questioning by prosecutors on December 30 for holding a referendum in violation of a Constitutional Court ruling.

The country's chief prosecutor called in Milorad Dodik three months ago, but he refused to travel to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, citing security concerns. Dodik said he would only agree to be questioned on Serb republic territory.

The prosecutor's office said on December 30 that Dodik agreed to be questioned in Sarajevo as a suspect in a case involving a referendum held in the republic last September in defiance of the Constitutional Court, which had ruled against holding the vote because it discriminated against the region's non-Serbs. The plebiscite was on "celebrating Republika Srpska day."

Dodik told the Bosnian Serb news agency Srna that the investigation is politically motivated and prosecutors are under the influence of foreign nations and Muslim Bosniaks.

Dodik's decision to come forward follows a conversation with top U.S. officials, who Dodik said asked him to answer the summons and to distance himself from a referendum on secession of the Serb Republic that his party announced for 2018.

The U.S. Embassy said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee and Ambassador Maureen Cormack spoke to Dodik to underscore their concerns about his statements and actions.

"Defying a decision of the Constitutional Court violates the rule of law, and those responsible must be held accountable. We take any attempt to undermine the Dayton peace agreement very seriously," they said, referring to a U.S.-brokered peace deal that ended the Bosnian war in 1995.

The U.S. officials said they urged Dodik to show commitment to the peace accords and support the country's judicial institutions.

Dodik and his party advocate independence for the Serb republic and closer ties with Russia. He has also repeatedly questioned the legality of Bosnia's judiciary and threatened to hold a referendum on the status of those institutions.

Earlier this week, Dodik said he had received an invitation to attend a private ball during the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in January, but the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo refused to issue him a diplomatic visa so he could attend. He currently is seeking a regular visa to make the trip.

With reporting by Reuters and
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