The separatist leader of the Bosnian Serb mini-state refused Monday to plead guilty to defying the top international envoy charged with overseeing peace in the Balkan country.
Milorad Dodik, the president of the Serbian entity that pushed for secession, called the court in the Bosnian capital illegitimate and showed contempt for the Bosnian state, which went through a bloody war in the 1990s. 1990 and is once again facing possible disintegration.
Dodik said he did not understand the charges against him, in part because they were not written in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, and refused to stand while they were read by a judge.
“It’s a political process, it’s a circus,” he said after the brief court hearing.
Dodik refused to recognize the legitimacy of envoy Christian Schmidt, head of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, who has the power to change laws and replace officials who undermine the peace. Dodik claims that Schmidt, a German politician who has held the position since 2021, was not legally installed.
Dodik had threatened earlier this year to arrest and deport Schmidt if he entered Serb-controlled areas of the Balkan state. Dodik’s supporters have organized protests in support of their leader.
Dodik, a pro-Russian politician, has sought to present the charges against him as an attack on the Bosnian Serb entity, called Republika Srpska and which includes about half the country of some 3.2 million people. The other half is ruled by Bosnian Bosniaks, mostly Muslims, and Croats.
Bosnia’s two mini-states were created under a 1995 U.S.-brokered peace deal that ended ethnic carnage in which more than 100,000 people died and millions were displaced. Since then, a fragile peace has persisted, but ethnic divisions remain deep and tensions have recently intensified.
Dodik has consistently called for the separation of the Serbian entity from the rest of Bosnia, undermining Western efforts for stability in the Balkans. He faced US and British sanctions for his policies, but enjoyed support from Russia.
The Bosnian war broke out in 1992 after Serbs rebelled against Bosnia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia and launched a land grab to form their own state which they planned to join with neighboring Serbia.