Ukraine War Veterans Bind Russia and Bosnian Serbs
Fighting in foreign wars was outlawed in Bosnia in 2014 in response to the flow of roughly 200 Bosniaks to fight with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and of ethnic Serbs to the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists rebelled in 2014 following the ouster of Ukraine's then pro-Russian president.
The Russians at the Visegrad cemetery, however, do not disguise their connections to Serb mercenaries; nor have such connections harmed their ability to nurture political ties to the most powerful parties in Bosnia's mainly Serb Republika Srpska entity, whose rulers are heavily pro-Russian.
The relations run through two non-governmental organisations - Zavet, or 'Oath', which is registered in Bosnia and has representatives in Russia, and the 10,000-strong Union of Donbass Volunteers, which says it works to promote the image of volunteer fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Their overlapping interests, activities and representatives offer a glimpse of the depth the Bosnian Serb-Russian relationship, one that is likely to frustrate for the foreseeable future any hope Bosnia and Herzegovina might have of integrating with the European Union and NATO.
Zaplatin did not respond to requests for comment, while Kravchenko told BIRN:
"Since you are from a Muslim media - I personally have nothing against you or the Muslims - but you are publishing unverified, anti-Serb, anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox stories. I can see no way that I could talk to you."
Zaplatin, "Zavet" secretary Slobodan Trifkovic and Sosonny with Union of Donbass volunteers flag in Visegrad cemetary. Photo: BIRN
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