To honour some 700 Russians who fought alongside the Army of Republika Srpska, local authorities in Visegrad organised on Monday the controversial ‘Day of Russian Volunteers’, which Bosniak victims of the atrocities that took place in the eastern town say represents an insult to them.
The Minister of Labor, War Veterans and Disabled Persons’ Protection of Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Dusko Milunovic, attended the gathering and wreaths were laid at the central memorial at the Megdan Military Cemetery.
About 700 Russian volunteers fought alongside the Army of Republika Srpska during the war and 38 of them were killed.
The ‘Association of Women Victims of War’ asked the BiH Prosecutor’s Office to ban the celebration, and the institution said it formed a case regarding it.
The Association said that the celebration represents an insult to them because the Russian volunteers were involved in the atrocities that were committed against Bosniaks in Visegrad.
Milunovic said that he does not see a reason for banning the celebration and that if there is proof that any of those Russian nationals committed any war crime, their name would be removed from a monument erected to honour them.
According to the head of the Serb-Russian Community ‘Zavet’, Savo Cvijetinovic, “these are the names of honest and fair people, among whom were students, workers, even a monk who came as a volunteer.”
“Russian volunteers among Serbs are not new, it is a tradition that has lasted for more than 200 years. There is no war in which Serbs participated without Russian volunteers,” he said.
However, Bakira Hasecic, the head of the Women Victims of War Association, argued that nobody is asking the question “whether these are volunteer or fighters on a foreign battlefield and terrorists.”
She stressed that those Russian fighters should be identified and prosecuted.
“This offends the victims, family members of those killed, displaced persons and returnees. That is really unacceptable. This sends a message that they have never given up on their project of creating a greater Serbia,” she said.
She expressed hope that the BiH Prosecutor’s Office will determine what exactly the role of those Russian fighters was.
“This is very difficult for me today because these Russians waving the Russian flag were in my Visegrad from the very beginning to the end of the war under the command of Luka Dragicevic, who is being tried today in the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina alongside nine others,” Hasecic said.