The war in Ukraine and its knock-on effects have forced Bosnian Serb nationalists to delay plans to pull their region out of Bosnia's national institutions, Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the country's three-man inter-ethnic presidency, claimed on Monday.
Bosnia has been split into two autonomous regions since the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the bloody 1992-95 war between the country's Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.
The regions -- the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, or RS, and the Bosniak-Croat majority Federation of BiH -- are governed along largely ethnic lines and linked by a multi-ethnic central government, with the ethnic groups' leaders collaborating uneasily for decades.
The peace accords created one of the most complicated political systems in the world, with a dizzying maze of jurisdictions enabling the country’s three main ethnic groups to dominate domestic politics and exert control over key decision-making processes.
In December, RS' parliament voted to begin work on severing ties with Bosnia's armed forces, judiciary and tax system, in a non-binding motion meant to pave the way for secession.
The move sparked one of Bosnia's worst political crises since the end of the 1990s war and triggered sanctions against Dodik from both London and Washington, as well as warnings from the EU. Russia, however, supports the move.
Delayed by Ukraine war
The plan was supposed to have been implemented by a deadline that expired this week, but political conditions linked to the war in Ukraine had caused a delay, Dodik said.
The secessionist plan was not scrapped, just delayed, Dodik said during a parliament session he called to rally support against Bosnia imposing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation”.
"That is why we halted the realisation of our conclusions relating to the withdrawal (of Bosnian Serbs from)... state authorities," Dodik said.
In late May, Dodik told European Council President Charles Michel that Bosnia needed to maintain neutrality and not join EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, echoing the stance of Serbia, the only European country that has so far refused to impose sanctions on Russia.
This has put it at odds with most of the rest of the continent.
On Monday the United States also imposed sanctions on the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Bosniak-Croat federation and a top official of the Bosnian Serb entity, for acts Washington said threatened the stability of the region.
Marinko Cavara, a member of a nationalist Bosnian Croat party, and Alen Seranic, the Serb Republic health minister, have undermined the US-sponsored pact that ended a 1992-95 war and "democratic processes or institutions," a US Treasury statement said.