Biden administration sanctions Bosnian Serb leader, citing corruption

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The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, citing his “destabilizing corrupt activities” in the Western Balkans.

The Treasury Department accused Dodik of undermining a 1995 peace accord and engaging in corruption and bribery. It also announced sanctions targeting Alternativna Televizija, a media platform the administration said is under the leader’s control.

“Milorad Dodik’s destabilizing corrupt activities and attempts to dismantle the Dayton Peace Accords, motivated by his own self-interest, threaten the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region,” Brian Nelson, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“The United States will not hesitate to act against those who pursue corruption, destabilization, and division at the expense of their own people, as well as against those who enable and facilitate this behavior,” Nelson said.

The decision is a significant step for the Biden administration to punish Dodik, whose actions experts and international leaders have warned could lead to conflict in the Balkan nation. 

Dodik, a member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, has advocated for separating the Bosnian Serb entity from the rest of the country. He has threatened to withdraw from Bosnia’s army and form his own Serb army. Such actions would be a violation of the 1995 U.S.-backed peace agreement between the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia that ended the war in Bosnia.

The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Dodik in January 2017, accusing him of “actively obstructing” the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. Officials said that the new action would build on the previous sanctions.

In the new announcement, Treasury alleged that Alternativna Televizija is owned by a company linked to Dodik’s family but that Dodik exerts control over the media outlet behind the scenes, including by requiring approval for politically sensitive stories and using it to advance his image and tarnish other political figures. 

Treasury also said that Dodik has funneled money to the media company for corrupt purposes and awarded contracts to members of his family.

Also on Wednesday, the State Department publicly designated Milan Tegeltija, the former head of Bosnia’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and an adviser to Dodik, and Mirsad Kukic, a lawmaker and leader of the conservative political party Movement for Democratic Action, because of their involvement in “significant corruption.”

The action means that the two individuals will be barred from entry in the United States. 

Updated at 11:29 a.m.

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