A visit by the delegation of the Investment and Development Bank (IRB) of Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia & Herzegovina, to Russia was “very successful,” stated the acting director of the IRB, a 100% state-owned financial institution, Drazen Vrhovac.
While Bosniak and Croat leaders in Bosnia have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bosnian Serb leaders have continued to seek closer ties with Moscow.
Following the IRB delegation’s visit to Russia, Vrhovac said in an interview with Srna news agency that the cooperation might result in bilateral trade worth $200mn, compared to the current $17.5mn.
“What was particularly highlighted during our stay in Russia was the affection and respect for [Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency] Milorad Dodik, due to the non-introduction of sanctions against Russia, and his friendship with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin,” said Vrhovac.
The delegation received a list of 734 types of raw materials that Russia needs at the moment, he disclosed.
"There are numerous areas in which we can cooperate, from wood processing, food, to medicine. Now it's all up to us and I believe we will use the chance," says Vrhovac.
“The importance of the visit will be seen in the coming period, and the arrival of Russian businessmen in Republika Srpska will be extremely significant. Russian businessmen are interested in cooperation with Republika Srpska, and that is why we are preparing for their arrival in September at the second Invest Srpska 2022 investment conference, which will be held in Prijedor,” said Vrhovac.
Vrhovac is preparing for meetings with the president and prime minister of Republika Srpska, Zeljko Cvijanovic and Radovan Viskovic, as well as with Dodik.
The delegation from Republika Srpska was joined by Bosnian ambassador in Moscow Zeljko Samardzija.
Samardzija said in a statement to Radio Free Europe that he does not support any sanctions against Russia and that they can only be "the result of an agreed foreign policy at the level of BiH".
In a comment on the visit paid by the IRB delegation to Russia, the public relations office of the US embassy in Bosnia told Radio Free Europe that Bosnia is part of the Euro-Atlantic community of countries and that its political and economic future lies in the West.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, Bosnia, through its mission in Brussels, has voted in favour of several packages of sanctions introduced by the European Union (EU) to Russia, according to Radio Free Europe.
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.
A publication by the European Council says that Bosnia aligned with the EU in sanctioning several hundred people and companies from Russia.
Among the restrictive measures is a ban on the import and export of coal, steel and other metals, as well as jet fuel to Russia. The sanctions also include several Russian banks, and individuals close to Putin.
However, the sanctions have not been implemented internally by the Bosnian government, due to the opposition from ministers from Republika Srpska.
The parliament of Republika Srpska passed a set of conclusions in June, one of them reaffirming a neutral stance on what was called “the Russia-Ukraine conflict” and another one on rejecting sanctions against Russia.