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Friday, August 01, 2008

Russia, Faithful Guardian of War Criminals

Radio Free Europe reports:

After the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes, Russia called for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to cease its activities. The head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for Balkan, Caucasus, and Central Asian Studies, Artyem Ulunyan, spoke with RFE/RL's Andrei Shary about Moscow's motivation in seeking an end to the tribunal's work.

RFE/RL: What's the reasoning behind Russia calling for the ICTY to cease its activities?

Artyem Ulunyan: Russia doesn't want it to be possible for former high officials to be tried in foreign or international courts that are not under Russian control.

RFE/RL: But isn't the ICTY only concerned with crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia?

Ulunyan: What we seem to be talking about here is a precedent for the tribunal to be used by organizations not under its control. Russia most likely sees this as dangerous.

RFE/RL: What will Russia's position be regarding the trial of Radovan Karadzic?

Ulunyan: I think this will be multifaceted. On the official level, there won't be any actions or announcements. But at the semiofficial level, Russia's dissatisfaction will be made clear. Pro-Kremlin youth organizations will be mobilized. Sections of the public will be fed propaganda arguing that Karadzic himself was not right, but his ideas were.

RFE/RL: Anybody can see the accusations against Karadzic. All the documents are publicly available. More than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed at Srebrenica, Sarajevo was blockaded for 44 months by Serbian forces, 14,000 people were killed, and so on. Many who participated in these events have been convicted, and Karadzic was in the political leadership. It is difficult to argue with this. But Russia continues to hold its position.

Ulunyan: This is a question of prestige for Russia. Russia cannot attract attention to its own advantage on the Balkans. It cannot play the role of a mediator. This needs to be said honestly. It cannot propose any serious solutions. We must not forget that for the Balkans, moving closer to Europe is becoming more and more important. Russian in this case is simply demonstrating its will and waving its flag.

RFE/RL: The Russian authorities are in a difficult situation. Russia has signed an agreement with President Boris Tadic on the privatization of Serbia's gas industry, and Tadic was one of the leading forces behind Karadzic's arrest. How can Moscow play this?

Ulunyan: Tadic's position is also complicated. There are no open disagreements between Russia and Tadic. But there is suspicion between Tadic and the Kremlin, mostly related to foreign affairs. Karadzic is an element of the past history of Russian-Serbian relations, of Balkan history itself and Russia's participation in it.

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