Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 225

Russia’s Defense and Foreign Ministries have protested last week’s arrest of Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic by NATO-led Stabilization Forces (SFOR) in Bosnia. Krstic, seized without incident on December 2 by U.S. troops serving under SFOR, was brought to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He is the highest-ranking Serb military officer arrested to date on charges of war crimes. Krstic was indicted in October by the war crimes tribunal, but the decision was kept secret so as to ensure that he would not flee (Reuters, AP, December 2).

Russian military sources protested the arrest the day after it occurred. They claimed that Krstic had been seized in an area overseen by a Russian contingent of SFOR troops without the consent of the Russian commander. The action, they complained, undermined the authority of the Russian troops involved. The commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent has reportedly filed an official complaint with the SFOR command (Russian agencies, December 3).

That action was followed on December 4 by a Russian Foreign Ministry statement which, while reportedly not mentioning Krstic directly, nevertheless condemned the system of secret lists used by the war crimes tribunal as the basis for his arrest. “The legitimacy of references to so-called ‘secret’ lists of indictees gives rise to the most serious doubts,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. It called on all parties to the international settlement in Bosnia to act cautiously so as not to aggravate tensions in the region. It also said that problems related to war crimes should be handled directly by The Hague Tribunal and the Bosnian parties involved, suggesting that NATO troops should not be involved in the process (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, December 4).

Moscow has long been sympathetic to the Bosnian Serbs. Russian officials have also made clear their opposition to the use of SFOR troops for the purpose of detaining accused war criminals. There are approximately 1,400 Russian troops serving under SFOR in Bosnia. On July 17 of this year the Russian parliament consented to extend the mandate of the Russian contingent in Bosnia until June of next year. Less than two weeks later the Russian Foreign Ministry protested the arrest by British SFOR troops of two Bosnian Serbs on war crimes charges. The Foreign Ministry said that such actions exceeded the mandate of SFOR troops in Bosnia (Russian agencies, July 17, 28).