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NATO concerned about Russian separatist and divisive rhetoric in Western Balkans

NATO concerned about Russian separatist and divisive rhetoric in Western Balkans Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

Russia is attempting subversive actions aimed at fueling separatist sentiments to undermine and destabilize the situation in the Balkan countries, according to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The head of the defense bloc commenced his four-day visit to the Western Balkans (November 19-22) with visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Your security matters for the Western Balkans region and it matters for Europe," he said at a joint press conference with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Borjana Kristo.

Stoltenberg also emphasized that the allies " strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

The NATO Secretary General expressed concern about separatist and divisive rhetoric, as well as harmful foreign interference, including from Russia, which threatens to undermine stability and complicate reforms.

Stoltenberg called on "all political leaders to preserve unity, build national institutions, and achieve reconciliation."

He also spoke about deepening political and practical cooperation between NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina, including through the Alliance's headquarters in Sarajevo.

Stoltenberg's Balkan trip

After Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO's Secretary General is scheduled to visit Kosovo on November 20, where he will hold a series of meetings with government representatives.

Later on Tuesday, Stoltenberg will meet in Serbia with President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. He will then head to the Republic of North Macedonia to meet with President Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski.

The Secretary General will participate in a meeting with the leaders of NATO countries, including Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Slovenia.

In September, the President of Kosovo stated that the Serbian authorities were trying to destabilize the situation in the Western Balkans and replicate a plan similar to the Russian one used against Ukraine in 2014.

Earlier, the President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, expressed the opinion that Russia might attempt to ignite a war in the Balkans to divert attention from Ukraine.