SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik paid tribute Monday to a late Russian ambassador who vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned as genocide a massacre committed in the town of Srebrenica in the final days of Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Dodik laid flowers at a Bosnian Serb monument to Vitaly Churkin, Russia's longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations, at a ceremony marking the anniversary of Churkin's 2017 death from a heart attack.
Several hundred people, including the Russian ambassador to Bosnia and Serb members of the Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves attended the ceremony in the Serb-run part of Bosnia.
Addressing the gathering, Dodik said Churkin's veto on the Srebrenica resolution two years ago was in keeping with Russia's efforts to "protect the international law."
Bosnian Serbs deny that the July 1995 massacre of over 8,000 Srebrenica Muslims by their troops was genocide despite rulings by two U.N. courts that it was.
"It is thanks to Russia that the world powers must act in agreement rather than sowing chaos by unilateral intervention," Dodik said.
Dodik has repeatedly stated that the Serbs' long-term goal is secession from the rest of Bosnia. He often boasts of Russia's support for his efforts to keep Bosnia from establishing closer ties with the West.
Srebrenica massacre survivors and Bosniak Muslim political leaders reacted with dismay to what transpired at the anniversary memorial event.
"Instead of denying and relativizing genocide that was committed, (Dodik) needs to accept established historic facts and lead the Serb people to catharsis," top Bosniak leader Ramiz Salkic said.
Kada Hotic, who lost her son, husband and two brothers in the Srebrenica massacre, said she thinks Russian support was pushing Serbs "into an abyss."
"They are just tripping themselves by insisting on false narratives," Hotic said.
Dodik has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at least five times in recent years. Many fear Russia's support of him could have devastating impacts on the conflict-prone Balkans region.