Russia-backed paramilitary camps detected in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, defence minister says

Russia-backed paramilitary camps detected in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, defence minister says
Defence Minister Zukan Helez sparked a political storm with claims Russia-backed training camps are operating in Republika Srpska. / Bosnian defence ministry
By bne IntelliNews November 24, 2023

Paramilitary camps backed by Russia have been detected in Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska, the state-level Defence Minister Zukan Helez has disclosed.

Helez’ claim, made initially when speaking to N1 television, follows earlier US reports suggesting that Russia is likely arming and training paramilitary groups in the pro-Russian Republika Srpska and could use them to ignite a new military conflict in the politically unstable Balkan state.

Helez said he has photos proving the existence of military camps for training of young Bosnian Serbs and some Russians in the villages around Rogatica in eastern Bosnia and in the area of the Maglic mountain. He also said that these camps exist under the protection of Republika Srpska’s interior ministry.

‘This is not at all secret, people can see this, the villages around Rogatica, people make photos that there are trainings during the day. I have photos, I shall show them on TV,” Helez said. He declined to disclose the source of this information.

Bosnia consists of two autonomous entities – the pro-Western Muslim-Croat Federation and the pro-Russian Republika Srpska. 

Helez’ statement angered Bosnia’s state-level Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Stasa Kosarac, of the main Serb SNSD party led by Republika Srpska’s President Milorad Dodik. Kosarac said that the defence minister has no proof and is spreading lies that aim to cause unrest and fear. He also accused Helez of increasing instability in the country with these statements.

State-level Security Minister Nenad Nesic, also a member of the SNSD, rejected the claims by Helez, saying he is spreading fear among people.

“This is a shameless spreading of fear among public and an undermining of the country’s stability,” Nesic said.

He called on state-level Prime Minister Borjana Kristo to announce the facts to the public and stop “these monstrous constructions”.

“There are no camps in Republika Srpska, nor are any trainings being conducted,” Nesic said.