UK minister: Russian meddling ‘must be stopped’ in Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss visited Bosnia’s capital Thursday to reaffirm the U.K.’s commitment to the ethnically divided Balkan country amid growing fears of what she described as malign influence from Russia.

Truss was meeting with top officials in Sarajevo to announce a deepened security and economic partnership between Bosnia and the U.K. She unveiled a U.K.-backed Western Balkans investment package aimed at providing $100 million for infrastructure and energy projects in the region by 2025.

Truss said the signs of “Russian meddling here today” threatened to take the Balkans back “those darks days” of the 1990s when interethnic conflicts following the breakup of Yugoslavia killed thousands of people.

“This must be stopped,” Truss said after meeting Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic.

“The way we go about this is not by offering compromise and appeasement to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. As Russia meddles here, Putin’s troops are committing atrocities just 700 miles away in Ukraine,” she added. “This country’s tragic history is a reminder of what happens when we fail to stand up to aggression.”

Bosnia has been divided along ethnic lines since a 1992-95 war between its Bosniak, Croat and Serb ethnic communities. The war started when Bosnian Serbs, with the help of the Yugoslav army, tried to create ethnically pure territories with the aim of joining neighboring Serbia.

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Bosnian Serb militias conquered 60% of Bosnia’s territory in less than two months, committing horrendous atrocities against their Bosniak and Croat compatriots. More than 100,000 people were killed and 2 million — more than a half of the country’s population — were left homeless from the war.

In 1995, the U.S.-brokered Dayton peace agreement put an end to the bloodshed in Bosnia by dividing the country into two semi-autonomous parts — one run by the Serbs and the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats. The two are linked by weak multiethnic institutions.

The postwar power-sharing system perpetuates a polarized and venomous political climate, and entrenched nationalist leaders continuously stoke ethnic animosities for political gain.

Fears of destabilization have mounted in recent months as the staunchly pro-Russia Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, increased his divisive rhetoric. Dodik has threatened to dismantle the multiethnic institutions, block Bosnia’s long-stated goal of joining NATO and to advocate for the secession of majority Serb areas.

Bosnia condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations but failed to agree on imposing sanctions because of opposition from Dodik and other Serb officials.

Russia’s ambassador has repeatedly praised to Dodik’s anti-Western stance, stating in March that if Bosnia succeeded in gaining NATO membership, Moscow “will have to react to this hostile act.”

Turkovic, Bosnia’s foreign minister, said that with the broader risks posed by the Ukraine war she hoped her country’s Western partners realize that supporting its EU and NATO membership aspirations was “of vital importance not just for us, but for many of them as well.”

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Corporate buzzwords. Technical jargon. Bold but vague pronouncements about climate change and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of CEOs and government leaders this week in Davos, the town in the Swiss Alps, may seem full of important but impersonal announcements.

So what do Davos-goers really think? Here are some voices from the meeting that ends Thursday:


NAME: Allen Blue

TITLE: Co-founder of LinkedIn

Living in Los Angeles, Blue said his family has gotten into the habit of conserving water, as much of California and the Western United States has been in a megadrought for years. They recycle, mostly eat vegetarian, and drive an electric car.

“One of the things that has slowed the world’s response to climate change is that there was a story out there that it was the behaviors of consumers that made the difference,” he said. “It’s not.”

Rather, he said consumers’ choices are limited when businesses only provide solutions or products that aren’t environmentally friendly.

NAME: Francis Suarez

TITLE: Mayor of Miami

Suarez says his family has a Tesla and is putting solar panels on the roof of their house.

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“As a public official, I feel it’s my responsibility to do what I can.”

NAME: Antonia Gawel

TITLE: The World Economic Forum’s Geneva-based head of climate change policy

Gawel’s day job is spent on environmental protection and fighting climate change. Outside of work, Gawel commutes by bike, uses public transportation and educates her two kids about the environment.

“My children are kind of the biggest advocates for these types of issues now. And the thing that I have to say that I love seeing is the schools are actually teaching them about this. My daughter, who is 8 years old, is being taught about wind power, about solar, about the challenges of fossil energy.”

Gawel says such issues were “completely not something that was on our curriculum, at least when I was growing up.”


NAME: Hassan El Houry

TITLE: CEO of Kuwait-based National Aviation Services

“The Russia-Ukraine crisis, I think, sends a strong message to the world that the world will no longer accept aggression and war to solve problems,” El Houry said.

He added that “world also has to accept that there are many aggressors around the world that have been doing what they’re doing for years and decades and have gone unpunished. And we can’t have a double standard where we only single out Russia.”

“There’s things happening in the Middle East everyday, things happening in East Asia every day in South America every day. And we need to shed the light on those as well and say ‘that needs to stop.’ I’m not picking sides. I’m just saying that we need to solve those problems as well.”

NAME: Francis Suarez

TITLE: Mayor of Miami

Suarez said the war has exposed how interconnected the world is, from the workforce to energy shocks to a looming food crisis because of dropped agricultural production from Ukraine.

“As leaders, we have the responsibility to make those connections for people, explain why what happens in one place can affect another and why we should care.”