The Russian state-financed Aleksandr Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, which was sanctioned by the West for its ties to the Kremlin, will hold a conference in Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The European Union sanctioned the Gorchakov Fund in 2022, saying it was “responsible for actively supporting and benefitting from the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine.”
According to the EU, the Russian Foreign Ministry funds the work of the Gorchakov Fund, which in turn grants funding to think tanks and nongovernmental organizations.
Now the Gorchakov Fund will hold its annual Balkan Dialogue forum in Banja Luka in October. The event is hosted by the University of Banja Luka’s Faculty of Security Science.
Its dean, Predrag Ceranic, told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service that he was not aware that the Gorchakov Fund was under EU sanctions. He said that he did not see “any obstacle” in that, adding that Bosnia-Herzegovina “is not at war with Russia, it is not even a member of the EU […] and, in general, it has no hostile relationship with Russia.”
The topics of the conference include the “Russian view” of the Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995, following the breakup of Yugoslavia, RFE/RL’s Balkan Service reported.
The Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who is sanctioned by the United States for alleged corruption and threatening the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia, will meet participants at the event.
The president of the Gorchakov Fund, Leonid Drachevsky, a former diplomat and deputy-minister, will attend the event in Banja Luka. Russian Ambassador to Bosnia Igor Kalabuhov will also attend.
Edina Becirevic, associate professor at the Faculty of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Security Studies at the University of Sarajevo, said the conference is a continuation of Russian support for Dodik’s secessionist policy, but also of Russia’s malignant political influence in the Western Balkans.
“There is no doubt that since 1992 Russia has supported those political forces committed to the destruction of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” she told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
The Aleksandr Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund was established in 2010 by the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is chairman of its board of trustees.
Among the members of the fund’s board is the U.S. sanctioned oligarch Alisher Usmanov, as well as Yevgeny Primakov, the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, the agency that oversees cultural exchange programs and promotes Russia’s political and economic interests abroad.
The Fund says it supports the “creation of a public, political and business climate abroad, favorable for Russia”. It was named after Aleksandr Gorchakov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1856 to 1882.
According to the EU, “projects organized by the Gorchakov Fund have been important elements of Russia’s foreign policy discourse.”
In 2015, Ukraine closed the office of the Gorchakov Fund in Kyiv because of antistate propaganda.
With reporting by Milorad Milojevic and Meliha Kesmer from RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.