Bosnian Serb nationalist firebrand Milorad Dodik says he respects Vladimir Putin and backs so-called "referendums" in occupied Ukraine on joining Russia.
Dodik, who currently serves as the Bosnian Serb member of the three-way presidency, was speaking ahead of the general election in Bosnia on Sunday.
A vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dodik suggested the "referendums" in Ukraine -- which the West have slammed as being forced, illegal and rigged -- could be used in Bosnia.
Dodik openly advocates tearing away Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, the Republika Srpska (RS), and joining it with neighbouring Serbia.
The division of the country into two main administrative units or entities -- the RS and the Bosniak-Croat majority Federation of BiH or FBiH -- is the result of the US and West-mediated Dayton Peace Accords, the peace deal that ended Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, which saw an estimated 100,000 people killed.
"As for our political relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Russian position is well known. It is exclusively related to supporting the text of the Dayton Agreement,” Dodik told Euronews Serbia.
“The West has tried to dismantle the Dayton Agreement to the point that it remains on the sidelines."
“On the other hand, Russia remained committed to the agreement. And that is why Russia is an undoubted ally that I respect, and I respect President (Vladimir) Putin."
The 1995 peace agreement, a part of which serves as the country's constitution, created a complicated maze of jurisdictions that enable the country’s three main ethnic groups to dominate domestic politics and exert control over key decision-making processes.
Dodik believes that over the past three decades, significant power has been transferred from the entities to the state-level government -- something that he vowed to undo in 2021, threatening to pull the RS out of key state institutions such as the tax authority and the country's small professional army.
This created the biggest political crisis the country has found itself in since the end of the war in 1995, with Dodik's actions labelled as an attempt at secession.
He has been the subject of several US sanctions packages and was recently put on a UK sanctions list for his disruptive domestic actions.
"It suits me to legalise the referendum as a way of deciding the status of the Republika Srpska, and I have been saying this for years,” said Dodik, who is running to become the entity president of the RS.
“But that does not change our relations with Serbia. We have excellent relations on all other matters,” referring to Belgrade stating it will not recognise the so-called ‘sham’ referendums.
Bosnia will head to the polls on Sunday for the country’s presidential and parliamentary election, a vote that could trigger its worst political crisis since its civil war three decades ago.