US-Sanctioned TV Incorrectly Identifies the “Real Culprit” Behind Sanctions

Freepik

Original article (in Bosnian) was published on 13/5/2024; Author: Nerma Šehović

Alternative Television in Banja Luka has accused an opposition politician of “dictating” who should be included on the American blacklist.

On April 20, 2024, the web portal of Alternative television published an article featuring the following title:

Who is behind the sanctions and pressure on Republika Srpska?

Citing an anonymous source, the article states that the leader of the opposition political party List for Justice and Order, Nebojsa Vukanovic, is responsible for the US sanctions imposed on some officials and legal entities from Republika Srpska.

According to ATV, individuals from the opposition are behind the pressure on Republika Srpska, as well as sanctions on individuals and business entities. One of them, according to our sources, is the Leader of the List for Justice and Order.

At one of the party meetings, Nebojsa Vukanovic allegedly boasted that he is the one who dictates who will be put on the American “black list”.

Unofficial information from ATV reveals that he said that he dictates the list to foreigners. According to our sources, information about the “black list” is known to the members of the List for Justice and Order.

The text titled “47 persons and companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina under US sanctions, among them are some people from Zvornik” appeared on the web portal “Zvono media” the day after the meeting in Trebinje. The web portal was founded by Mirjana Micic, allegedly a member of the List for Justice and Order.

After the intervention of Nebojsa Vukanovic, the text was deleted. We called him for comment several times, but he did not answer.

The article was also shared by Faktor magazine on the same day.

Understanding the US Blacklist: Who’s On It and What It Means?

The US blacklist is a colloquial name for a list of persons and legal entities against whom the US government has imposed sanctions. There are several such lists, but in our region, the term “American blacklist” most often refers to the list of sanctioned foreigners (Specially Designated Nationals – SDN) of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which operates under the US Treasury Department.

Raskrinkavanje’s analysis, published on December 19, 2023, explains it as follows:

Inclusion on this list is carried out through one of the sanctions programs. The name of the program for people from the Western Balkans (former SFRY and the Republic of Albania) is “Balkans-Related Sanctions”. The program is defined in such a way that it represents the implementation of several legal authorities, such as executive orders of the President of the USA, laws adopted by Congress and related regulations. Sanctions include freezing assets in the US and prohibiting doing business with sanctioned persons and organizations.

(…)

In addition to the Ministry of Finance, the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, i.e. the State Department, imposes sanctions on foreign citizens (…)

Since March of this year, a significant number of public officials from Republika Srpska, including the entity’s president Milorad Dodik and Zeljka Cvijanovic, a member of the BiH Presidency from the ruling SNSD party, have been on the US sanctions list. Alternative Television, which accused Nebojsa Vukanovic of being the ‘culprit’ behind the sanctions, is also sanctioned by the US. Additionally, the Agape company, owned by Gorica Dodik, Milorad Dodik’s daughter, and the opposition Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), a coalition partner of Vukanovic’s List for Justice and Order, are under sanctions.

At the end of March this year, banks started closing the accounts of individuals, organizations, and companies listed on the American sanctions list. This action followed a warning from American representatives that these institutions would also face sanctions if they continued to cooperate with the listed parties.

In April, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska passed amendments to the Labor Law, allowing for the payment of wages in cash to individuals under sanctions.

In the article published by Alternative television, sanctions against individuals or companies are presented as “pressure on Republika Srpska”, and the problems of individual officials are presented as problems of the entire community. In this context, accusing individuals from the opposition of “imposing” sanctions on politicians from the ruling coalition implies that they are persons acting against the welfare of the community.

Is Nebojsa Vukanovic Responsible for American Sanctions?

The accusations made by Alternative television against Vukanovic are based on the alleged statements of an anonymous source and no evidence is presented.

The article titled “47 persons and companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina are under US sanctions, among them there are also some people from Zvornik” was published, and then removed from the web portal Zvono media on April 2, 2024.

The list of 47 persons and legal entities from Bosnia and Herzegovina that are under US sanctions was also published in other media a few days earlier (1, 2). Moreover, anyone can see which individuals and organizations are under US sanctions, as the list is available on the website of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, where it can be downloaded in several different formats.

Therefore, it is unclear how the fact that the web portal Zvono media published publicly available data, probably taken from articles of other media, or the fact that the members of the List for Justice and Order are familiar with this available data is proof that Nebojsa Vukanovic “dictates” who will be blacklisted.

It is also unclear how Vukanovic could dictate such a thing to the American OFAC or why he would do it, given that his political partners are also on the list of sanctions.

Raskrinkavanje contacted Nebojsa Vukanovic with a request to address the claims from the aforementioned article. Vukanovic said that, contrary to the allegations in the article, he was not contacted by Alternative television for a comment, and he rejected claims that he has an influence on the sanctioning of individuals and organizations from the RS.

Of course, I have no influence on the compilation of any lists and I have no contact with the American or any other embassy.

We also contacted the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a request to look into the claims made in the article. The Embassy stated the following:

The claims about Mr. Vukanovic’s role in the US sanctions process are absurd. No one from Bosnia and Herzegovina has any influence on decisions on US sanctions. When the United States imposes sanctions, it is because facts have shown that a person or legal entity is involved in corrupt, anti-democratic or anti-Dayton activities. It is a very rigorous decision-making process governed by US laws and regulations, and involves several departments and agencies of the US Government. The process is not subject to external influence. The United States will continue to use its sanctions powers to hold individuals and legal entities accountable for this destabilizing behavior.

Given all the facts, we evaluate the claim that opposition politicians from RS, specifically Nebojsa Vukanovic, are “behind” American sanctions against officials of the ruling party, that is, that they can decide who will be on the American list of sanctions, as a conspiracy theory. We evaluate the article published by Alternative television as spin, considering that it tries to divert the public’s attention from the real problem, that is, the reason for which members of the ruling party, as well as organizations and media connected to them, were sanctioned.