Serb leader tells EU Bosnia cannot join sanctions against Russia

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FILE PHOTO: Bosnia's member of tripartite presidency Milorad Dodik waves to people during parade celebrations to mark their autonomous Serb Republic's national holiday, in Banja Luka
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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik told European Council President Charles Michel on Friday that Bosnia needs to maintain neutrality and not join EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Michel visited Bosnia as part of his short tour of the Western Balkan countries aimed at reaffirming the bloc's support for their EU integration plans and to invite them to join a new EU geopolitical community in light of the ongoing political and economic challenges.

While embracing the EU's renewed commitment to supporting Bosnia's path to joining the bloc, Dodik, who is a Serb member of the country's three-man inter-ethnic presidency, used the opportunity to outline the stance of Bosnian Serbs towards the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

"I think it is of utmost importance for Bosnia to remain neutral," Dodik said at a joint news conference with Michel and presidency Bosniak chairman Sefik Dzaferovic. "In conditions in which we exist, it would be a problem for us to impose any kind of sanctions and join the EU or global sanctions."

Dodik was speaking on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs, who have been nurturing close ties with Russia based on their common Orthodox Christian religion, as has Serbia which also refused to impose sanctions on Russia.

"Besides showing solidarity with the European Union in this regard, I think that we could have grave economic consequences that would be multiplied compared to EU countries which have collective security mechanisms," Dodik said.

Bosnia's tripartite presidency has not adopted a common stance on the war in Ukraine but its Bosniak and Croat members have strongly condemned the Russian invasion and supported all EU decisions.

Twenty-seven years after the end of a war that claimed about 100,000 lives, the three nationalist ethnic elites are keeping the Balkan country politically divided and prone to endemic corruption while its citizens are leaving en masse.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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