Russian authorities are comparing the invasion of Ukraine to the Srebrenica genocide during the Yugoslav wars as a means of spreading misinformation throughout Bosnia and Hergozovina.
In official statements, Russian authorities never use the term “genocide” to describe how the conflict in Srebrenica unfolded, in direct contradiction of the official classification of the massacre by the United Nations and the Hague.
At the same time, Russia reportedly supports and funds efforts to deny the genocide ever took place, likely as a means of exploiting divisions in the country and increase Moscow’s influence among Bosnia’s Serb population.
Last month, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry slammed the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica as staged, while genocide researcher Hikmet Karcic says Moscow has waged an active misinformation campaign in Bosnia from the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2014.
“The Russian state has never recognized the genocide in Srebrenica. They use Srebrenica as a manipulation tool, to justify what they already did in Donbas in 2014,” Karcic told reporters, referring to Russia’s efforts to annex separatist areas in eastern Ukraine.
For Vojislav Savic, a political scientist from a Serb-majority part of Bosnia, Russia is justified in making the comparison.
“It is an attempt by the Russian side to communicate with the Western audience, with the Western public,” Savic explained, “we know that Srebrenica has a context in which it is mentioned in the Western media…so they only want to somehow explain their positions through what Srebrenica stands for in the West.”
Either way, Srebrenica serves as a practical instrument for Moscow as a means of reaching an international audience, as are claims of Russia’s moral goals of “de-nazification” in Ukraine.
“What they want is to confuse people and obfuscate the truth,” says Tanya Domi, professor at the Columbia University in New York,
A case in point is coverage of the Russian withdrawal from Bucha, Ukraine, earlier this year. Extensive footage of dead civilians- some with bound hands, some with bullet wounds in the head- caused anger across the globe, as did testimonials from international journalists. Russian authorities, however, denied allegations of war crimes.
In a Telegram post, Russia’s Ministry of Defense suggested the bodies had been placed on the streets following Russia’s complete withdrawal from the area, with Moscow describing the footage as “another hoax.”
Bosnia’s vulnerability as a country recovering from war itself adds to its attractiveness as a target of Russian misinformation.
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