July 3, 2018 / 3:44 PM / 3 months ago

Britain warns Bosnian Serb leader against inventing 'fake threats'

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Britain warned nationalist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik on Tuesday against “inventing fake threats” from Britain as part of his campaigning ahead of an October election, saying such rhetoric may damage relations with the United Kingdom.

FILE PHOTO: Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, speaks after the results of a referendum over a disputed national holiday during an election rally in Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 25, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, has been accusing Britain of sending intelligence specialists to Bosnia to meddle in the election campaign.

Bosnia holds parliamentary and presidential elections on Oct. 7 and Dodik will run for the Serb seat in the country’s three-man inter-ethnic presidency. Bosnia is divided into a Serb Republic and an entity for its Muslim and Croat populations.

“It is very disappointing that President Dodik has chosen repeatedly to portray the UK as in some way a threat to the Republika Srpska,” the British Embassy in Sarajevo said in a statement. “Inventing fake threats may be a good way to score electoral points, but it risks damaging the long-term relationship with the UK.”

Dodik’s accusations against Britain began last month after the UK defence ministry announced it would send about 40 military personnel to join the EU peacekeeping force EUFOR in Bosnia. EUFOR has replaced NATO troops that were deployed to keep peace immediately after Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

The British daily The Times reported in June, citing defence ministry documents, that UK soldiers would be deployed to help prevent Russian meddling in the October elections in Bosnia.

“This is an act that borders on intrusion into this country,” said Dodik, who favours ties with Russia to those with the West. “Forty British intelligence officers disguised into a military unit are coming to Bosnia, and their task will be to listen in, monitor and create information for the media.”

The British Embassy dismissed Dodik’s accusations as “ridiculous conspiracy theories” and said that Britain would continue to provide troops to EUFOR to support its mission.

EUFOR has said the British contingent will be fully integrated with the rest of the force.

“The UK does not take sides in elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the Embassy said in the statement. “We would kindly ask all concerned to ... stop trying to draw the UK into their election campaigns.”

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Peter Graff

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