News 12 Apr 17

Bosnian Serbs Unveil Monument to Russian War Volunteers

Bosnian Serbs in Visegrad, which was majority-Bosniak before the war, inaugurated a monument in the shape of an Orthodox Christian cross dedicated to Russian volunteers who fought on the Serb side, angering war victims’ groups.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Official invitation to the Day of Russian Volunteers on Wednesday in Visegrad.

The 5.5-metre-high Orthodox Christian cross was unveiled on Grad hill above the town of Visegrad on Wednesday to coincide with the annual Day of Russian Volunteers in the country's Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska.

April 12 was chosen because, on that day in 1993, in the battles near Visegrad, three Russian volunteer fighters were killed.

The monument was unveiled by former Russian volunteers and members of the Serbian 12th of April Veterans Association from Mitrovica in Kosovo, who donated the 400kg cross.

The installation was organised by the Republika Srpska government Committee for Fostering the Traditions of Liberation Wars, the Republika Srpska Veterans' Organisation and the municipality of Visegrad.

Republika Srpska's Assistant Minister of Labour and Veterans Affairs Dusko Milunovic, said at the ceremony that the history of Serbi-Russian relations was centuries long.

“The most important thing was the moral and military support that the Russian people offered the Serbs at all their critical moments,” said Milunovic.

This is the second monument to the Russian volunteers in Visegrad, after a memorial plaque was installed in November 2011, with the names of the 37 Russians who died during the Bosnian war engraved on it.

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.

The unveiling of the monument caused an angry reaction from two Bosniak war victims’ groups, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Association and the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide, who claimed that it “rewarded the crimes” committed during the war.

“Republika Srpska and Russia are proving that peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not their goal, and that they will continue to carry out destructive actions that will insult innocent victims,” said a statement signed by Munira Subasic, president of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Association, and Murat Tahirovic, president of the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide.

Bilal Memisevic, chairman of the Majlis of the Islamic Community of Visegrad, which represents local Muslims, said that the installing of the cross was provocative.

“This act escalates the problems that we thought were behind us,” Memisevic told for Bosnian media.

According to the Bosnian newspaper Dnevni Avaz, the Association of Families of Bosniak War Victims announced, in response to the unveiling of the cross, they will build a monument in the shape of lilies on the left bank of the Drina River in Visegrad, in memory of nearly 3,000 victims of war crimes in the area.

Visegrad has a Bosniak majority before the war, during which it was subjected to “one of the most comprehensive and ruthless campaigns of ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, according to a ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

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