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Pro-Russian Serb leader wins seat in Bosnia's presidency

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BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia's three-member presidency Sunday, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago.

Preliminary official results from the election gave Dodik 56 percent of the vote and his main opponent, Mladen Ivanic, 42 percent. The projections were made with 44 percent of ballots counted.

"The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want," Dodik said, adding that voters "punished" his opponent for his "servile policies toward the West."

Ivanic conceded defeat. Complete official returns were expected Monday.

Dodik advocates the eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia. His election to the three-person presidency, which also has a Muslim member and a Croat member, deals a blow to efforts to strengthen unity in the country, where ethnic divisions fueled the 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

"The number one priority for my job in the future will be the position of the Serb people and Republic of Srpska," Dodik said, referring to the Serb-run mini-state he has led since 2010 and which resulted from a 1995 peace settlement. The general election was seen as an indicator of Bosnia's future direction: moving toward integration in the European Union and NATO or driven by entrenched rivalries and friction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had endorsed the openly anti-West Dodik. The United States has imposed sanctions on Dodik for actively obstructing efforts to implement the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war.

International on 10/08/2018

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