BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was awarded in absentia by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik on Sunday, during a ceremony marking the Bosnian autonomous Serb Republic’s national holiday.
Putin was awarded the medal for the “particular patriotic care and love towards Republika Srpska” and merits in developing and strengthening cooperation and political relations between “friendly states of Republika Srpska and the Russian Federation”, moderators said.
The Serb Republic is a region that makes up Bosnia along with the autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation.
Dodik, the region’s separatist president who has long favoured ties with Russia over those with the West, praised Putin for being a reliable support to the Serb Republic and said he would present the medal to him at their next meeting.
“Thanks to the position of Vladimir Putin and the strength of the Russian Federation, the voice and position of Republika Srpska has been heard and respected,” he said.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Dodik had tried to block efforts of the tripartite presidency for Bosnia to join European Union sanctions against Russia.
At the same time, Russian envoys have supported Dodik in his secessionist moves aimed at weakening the central government.
Last month, Russia denounced the EU for granting Bosnia a candidate status to join the bloc. It has earlier warned that it would consider Bosnia’s moves towards joining NATO to be a “hostile act”.