News 04 Apr 17

Bosnian Serbs to Honour Russian Volunteer Fighters

A monument in the shape of a cross will be unveiled near the town of Visegrad to honour the Russian volunteers who fought in the Bosnian Serb Army during the 1992-95 war, causing anger among victims’ groups.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
The bridge across the Drina river in Visegrad. Photo: Wikimedia/Julian Nitszche.

Bosnian Serb war veterans are to install a 5.5-metre-high cross on Grad hill near the eastern town of Visegrad on Thursday dedicated to the Russian volunteers who fought in the ranks of the Bosnian Serb Army during the 1992-95 war.

“The official ceremony to unveil the cross is scheduled for the 12th of April, which has previously been declared the Day of Russian Veterans by the authorities in Republika Srpska [Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity],” Milisav Vasic, the president of the Visegrad chapter of the Bosnian Serb Army war veterans’ organisation, told BIRN.

April 12 was chosen because, on that day in 1993, in fighting near Visegrad, three Russian volunteers were killed.

“We will put powerful lights around the cross, and build paths and benches,” Vasic said.

He said that the monument was a donation from the Serbian 12th of April Veterans Association from Mitrovica in Kosovo.

The date chosen for the unveiling of the cross is controversial because it is the day on which the Bosnian war started in 1992.

The Women - Victims of War association, which represents Bosniak victims of the conflict, condemned the raising of the cross for the pro-Serb Russian volunteers as a “continuation of the aggression and genocide” against Bosniaks.

“We ask all the relevant state institutions, as well as the international community, to stop these kinds of psychological attack on the victims that remind us of the darkest period in our country during which we were exposed to the worst forms of abuse, torture, persecution and murder,” the association said in a statement published by Bosnian media.

The exact number of Russian volunteers who fought in the ranks of the Bosnian Serb Army during wartime is not known, but media have speculated that there were between 500 to 600 Russian fighters.

According to Bosnian Serb Army data, 37 Russian volunteers were killed during the war.

A memorial plaque dedicated to the Russian volunteers was installed in Visegrad in November 2011, with all the names of those who died engraved on it.

Last month, the families of Russian volunteers who were killed or wounded during the Bosnian war received pensions and disability allowances, local media reported.

Of a total of 43 cases, decisions were made to grant benefits to 19 Russian families.

According to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, around 3,000 Bosniaks, including 600 women and 119 children, were killed in wartime crimes committed in and around Visegrad.

One ICTY ruling said Bosnian Serb forces subjected Visegrad to “one of the most comprehensive and ruthless campaigns of ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

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