SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is visiting Sarajevo on Thursday to reaffirm the U.K.’s commitment to peace and stability in Bosnia amid growing fears of malign influence from Russia in the ethnically-divided Balkan country.
During her one-day trip, Truss will meet with top Bosnian officials and announce plans to deepen “security and economic partnership with (the country) in the face of secessionists and Russian attempts to influence and destabilize” it, the U.K. Foreign Office said in a statement.
Truss will also address Bosnia’s multi-ethnic armed forces to urge support for Ukraine with a message that “Russia’s aggression cannot be appeased. It must be met with strength,” it added.
Bosnia has been divided along ethnic lines since the 1992-95 war between its Bosniak, Croat and Serb ethnic communities that killed around 100,000 people.
The country condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, but failed to agree on imposing sanctions against the Kremlin because of opposition from Serb officials.
Fears of destabilization have mounted in Bosnia in recent months as staunchly pro-Russia Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik increased his divisive rhetoric, threatening to dismantle the country’s multi-ethnic institutions, block its long-stated strategic goal of joining NATO and advocating for the secession of majority Serb parts of its territory.
Dodik’s strong anti-Western stance has been repeatedly praised by Russia’s ambassador to Bosnia, who stated in March that if Bosnian achieves its goal of NATO membership, Moscow “will have to react to this hostile act.”