Home Politics EU troops confront potential rioters in exercise echoing Bosnia’s political crisis

EU troops confront potential rioters in exercise echoing Bosnia’s political crisis

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SARAJEVO, Sept 15 (Reuters) – As a group of would-be protesters grows, shouting and whistling against the camp of European forces in Sarajevo, a military plane flies low and helicopters take off, all as part of A EUFOR exercise echoing the current political crisis in Bosnia.

Protesters hold signs and shout “We don’t want Bosnia”, reminiscent of chants heard during recent protests by Bosnian Serbs against the indictment of their separatist leader Milorad Dodik, when they also waved flags at effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During EUFOR’s regular annual exercise dubbed “Rapid Response 2023”, the number of troops was temporarily increased from around 1,100 to 1,300 to test the force’s ability to rapidly activate and integrate troops from reserves stationed in its 22 member countries.

“This is of particular importance at present due to the unpredictability of changing scenarios which require the ability to adapt our forces… especially in these unstable times,” said EUFOR Commander Helmut Habermayer.

Habermayer warned, however, that “military force is always the last resort.”

Ethnic tensions are still high in the Balkan country, 28 years after the end of the 1992-1995 war, in which around 100,000 people died and millions were displaced from their homes. Dodik, a pro-Russian nationalist, has long sought to separate the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia from the rest of it.

EUFOR replaced NATO troops in Bosnia in 2004 with a mandate to stabilize the ethnically divided country.

Last year, days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU decided to almost double the size of its peacekeeping force from 600 troops, sending reserves to ward off any potential instability.

Senior NATO and EU officials have warned that instability caused by the war in Ukraine could spread to the Western Balkans.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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