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Apr 25, 2022
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Was a mercenary in Ukraine? Welcome to jail!

Was a mercenary in Ukraine?  Welcome to jail!

Photo: AP/TASS

Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who left for Ukraine as mercenaries for the Armed Forces of Ukraine should be held criminally liable upon return to the country, believes Serbian member of the Presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, former President of the Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik. According to him, such people should be punished in accordance with Bosnian law.

“Obviously, this was done in secret, past the institutions of power, and everyone who returns should be punished according to the laws in force,” he stressed.

Will the BiH authorities take appropriate measures? And will this apply to everyone or only those who became mercenaries on a certain side? What other countries will decide to rein in their citizens?

“First of all, this statement should be considered in the context of long-term tensions inside Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. Leading Analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neizhmakov.

– In addition, it is also objectively beneficial for Moscow that high-ranking politicians from such states oppose the involvement of citizens of third countries in the Ukrainian units. At the same time, the situation around Ukraine has already been raised publicly in the course of contacts between Russian officials and Milorad Dodik – for example, during his telephone conversation with Sergey Lavrov 28th of February.

“SP”: – On which side do the citizens of BiH participate in the conflict in Ukraine? And in other ex-Yugoslav republics?

– Shortly before the start of the Russian military special operation, Sergey Lavrov at a press conference after a meeting with his Greek colleague Nikos Dendias mentioned that the recruitment of “mercenaries from the self-proclaimed Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia” to be sent to the Donbass to support the armed forces of Ukraine. The Ukrainian and Croatian press repeatedly mentioned the participation of Croatian citizens in the hostilities on the side of Kyiv, later there were reports that there were such in the Ukrainian units blocked at Azovstal.

– Milorad Dodik’s statement is quite timely and reasonable, – believes coordinator of the unregistered party “The Other Russia E. V. Limonova” * Andrey Dmitriev.

— Firstly, Dodik is a patriotic politician. Unlike the “multi-vector” President of Serbia Alexander Vucicstriving to please either the West or Russia, he takes a consistent position. He tries to defend and expand the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska, blocks the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to NATO and anti-Russian sanctions, fights with the international bureaucracy in the person of the “high representative” for BiH (in fact, the viceroy of the collective West) Christian Schmidt etc. It is logical that he opposes pumping the Armed Forces of Ukraine with weapons and human resources.

Secondly, according to the local Ministry of Defense, a total of 167 people left to fight on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 17 returned back, 24 people died. It seems to be not much, but the country is also small, and if you count the “soldiers of fortune” from all over the world, the figure will be impressive. Therefore, now it is extremely important to explain to the Europeans that nothing good awaits them there. You can easily go to Flag or get captured. In this sense, Mariupol is already acting soberingly on the West, for example, take the case of the same British prisoners. London began to deny them, they say, “we did not send you there,” although Boris Johnson and asked to be treated well. If there are also prospects for criminal prosecution, then many will think about whether the game is worth the candle.

BiH has a very complex configuration of power between the three communities – Serbian, Croatian and Muslim – so it is not certain that Dodik’s proposal will be put into practice. But the very fact that it is voiced looks positive.

“In BiH, there really is a danger of a growing split between its Serbian part, on the one hand, and Muslims and Croats, on the other, because of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” notes political commentator Dmitry Galkin.

– It is clear that among the Bosnian Serbs there may be a large number of those who will be ready to fight on the side of Russia, if they get such an opportunity. At the same time, among the Croats and Muslims, there are probably many who are ready to support Ukraine. If the citizens of BiH begin to die fighting for the Russian and Ukrainian sides, then the contradictions between the various confessional communities of BiH may flare up with renewed vigor. Dodik relatively recently managed to establish relations with Croatian politicians, which helped him strengthen his own position. Most likely, Dodik fears that all his recent achievements will be under attack if the Croats and Serbs start shooting at each other again, even if they are fighting on Ukrainian territory. In addition, he probably wants to demonstrate that he takes a neutral position, and is not an unconditional supporter of Russia.

“SP”: – Will they accept his proposal? If so, who will be punished? Everyone? Or just one side?

— Dodik is an experienced politician. Therefore, it is unlikely that he would have made a proposal that could somewhat undermine his popularity with the Bosnian Serbs if there was no chance of its acceptance. I think that the Croats are also interested in the citizens of BiH not taking part in the conflict. Therefore, they are also likely to support the idea of ​​punishing anyone who goes as a mercenary to Ukraine, regardless of which side of the conflict this person decides to support.

“SP”: – What are the international norms or rules on this subject, including in Russia?

– Russian law prohibits participation in international conflicts only if the forces supported by a Russian citizen pose a threat to Russian interests or are recognized as extremist in Russia itself. Therefore, those Russian citizens who fought in Syria not on the side of ISIS** or the opposition seem to be in no danger. In general, it is legally very difficult to prohibit your citizen from taking part in armed conflicts in other countries if he acts in accordance with his convictions and does not receive payment for this. But mercenarism is prohibited by law in many countries.

“SP”: – How serious punishments are used in world practice? Does it stop anyone?

— Apart from punishment for committing crimes against humanity, foreign volunteers are relatively rarely prosecuted in their own countries. As you know, several participants in the Donbass conflict were convicted in the EU countries, but this, as far as I understand, was done on the basis of data provided by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies. In general, it seems to me that it is difficult, with the help of the threat of punishment, to deter a person who has decided to take up arms in accordance with his convictions. As you know, dozens of citizens of the United States, Great Britain and EU countries who fought on the side of Islamic fundamentalists were detained in Afghanistan and Syria. But those who are engaged in professional mercenary work, as far as I understand, try to take into account the foreign policy interests of their countries when choosing a place of work, so as not to run into trouble after returning.

“SP”: – What other countries can rein in their active citizens? How impartial are they in this, ie. punish everyone?

– It seems to me that any of the countries in which part of the society sympathizes with Russia, and part of it actively condemns it can do it. In addition to BiH, this number includes Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as some countries in Central America and the Middle East. I think that similar resolutions may be adopted in some of them. Completely impartial countries, of course, do not exist and cannot exist. But in those countries where there is a danger of a social split over the conflict in Ukraine, they will most likely punish all their citizens who take part in the hostilities.

Meanwhile, those countries in which anti-Russian sentiment is strong will allow their citizens to mercenary on the side of Ukraine and even encourage such aspirations. I don’t think there are any British or German citizens who would like to take part in the conflict on the Russian side. But I think that if such people really showed up, serious troubles would await them at home.


* The organization is not registered by the Ministry of Justice of Russia

** “Islamic State” – a terrorist organization operating in Iraq and Syria (abbreviated as IS or ISIS) was banned in Russia by the decision of the Supreme Court on December 29, 2014. “Islamic State” – a terrorist organization operating in Iraq and Syria (abbreviated as ISIS) or ISIS) was banned in Russia by the decision of the Supreme Court on December 29, 2014.

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