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Lavrov Denies Russian Interference In Bosnian Affairs During Visit To Republika Srpska


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives for a press conference in Sarajevo on September 21.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Western allegations that Moscow was interfering in the affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, even as he met with the leaders of Republika Srpska in the entity's capital.

Lavrov met in Banja Luka on September 21 with Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.

Lavrov also met with officials in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, although Dacic did not participate in those talks.

Lavrov told reporters that Russia respects Bosnia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and is not interfering in the country's national elections set for October 7.

"We will always respect the Bosnian people's choice and will work with anyone they elect," he said. "We never give advice to other countries' people as to whom they should vote for."

Bosnia is split into two entities: the ethnic Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosniaks and Croats. The two entities are linked by joint state-level institutions, including the tripartite presidency.

Dodik is running for a place in Bosnia's presidency on a platform of greater autonomy for Republika Srpska.

Earlier, local analysts had speculated that Lavrov's visit was timed to lend support to Dodik's candidacy. In August, the Serbian newspaper Vecrnje Novosti wrote that Russia might back an independence bid by Republika Srpska.

In Banja Luka, Lavrov said Moscow is "firmly committed to the Dayton accords and stands against any attempts to review them," referring to the 1995 agreements that ended the Bosnian war and led to the creation of the two entities.

Western leaders have accused Moscow of interfering in the affairs the internal affairs in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia -- all formerly part of the former Yugoslavia.

Lavrov rejected the allegations, saying that "Russia, along with Europe and the United States, co-authored the Dayton accords...and we don't see any reason why Russia would step back from these issues and turn the Balkans into an area of conflict."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and TASS
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