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Russia Makes Good On Promise To Serbia, Blocks 'Genocide' Measure

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on July 7
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on July 7

Russia made good on a promise to Serbia and Bosnian Serbs to block a United Nations resolution condemning the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica as an act of genocide, prompting Serbia's prime minister to say he will now attend a commemoration of the event.

Aleksandar Vucic announced at a Belgrade news conference on July 7 that he would attend ceremonies on Srebrenica's 20th anniversary July 11 after he received assurances from UN Security Council members Russia and China that they would not allow a resolution "humiliating" Serbia and the Serb Republic to be adopted.

"I will go proudly and represent a Serbia that is capable of admitting that certain individuals had committed crimes.... We must do that for our own sake," Vucic said, referring to the mass killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995.

"These people have names. We condemn each one of these horrible crimes and will sentence each of these criminals," Vucic said. "It is time to show that we are ready for reconciliation and that we are ready to bow our head before other peoples' victims."

However, he said, "there is no collective guilt."

Vucic at the news conference thanked Russia and China for stopping the UN resolution with its reference to genocide, and said they did not ask for anything in return.

Before Vucic's announcement, Russia informed other security council members that it would veto the resolution because it uses the "divisive" term genocide, which is offensive to Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, though it has been used repeatedly by international tribunals and UN officials to describe the mass killing.

A security council vote on the resolution was postponed until July 8 to give Britain, Russia, and United States time to try to find compromise language.

"The text of the resolution is so fundamentally bad that it cannot be corrected. Russia is acting in accordance with the talks we had with them," Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said afterwards.

The disagreement over the text revived divisions from the Balkan wars when Russia sided with ethnic Serbs and Serbia, while Western countries supported Bosnian Muslims and Croatia.

Russia has circulated a rival UN resolution which doesn't mention either Srebrenica or genocide, but no vote has been scheduled on it.

Council diplomats said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who was a journalist during the Bosnian war, and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin were meeting, along with British diplomats, to discuss differences on the text.

Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft objected to Russia's characterization of the pending resolution as "anti-Serbian."

Using the term genocide "is not a political statement. It is a legal fact," Rycroft said. "What happened in Srebrenica was the worst single crime in Europe since the Second World War."

In view of the history and ongoing battle over Srebrenica, Vucic's attendance at the July 11 ceremony in eastern Bosnia is a landmark event.

Former Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the 15th Srebrenica anniversary in 2010. But Vucic, a former nationalist, is more closely associated with the Greater Serbia ideology that fuelled much of the bloodshed.

Serbia in 2010 acknowledged that a "grave crime" took place in Srebrenica and condemned the massacre, as it sought closer ties with the West, but stopped short of calling it a genocide.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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