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The US, committed to the integration of the Western Balkans, as a counterweight to Russian influence
The US State Department says that Russia's war against Ukraine underlines the urgency and importance of the work of the United States "to help the countries of the Western Balkans achieve their aspirations for European integration and membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions".
The comment is part of a response that a State Department spokesman gave to VOA in response to a question about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's statement last week "that there is information that Russia may be trying to instigate a conflict in Western Balkans".
"We are committed to working with the countries of the Western Balkans, our European partners and the international community to advance governance, rule of law, electoral and anti-corruption reforms that would reduce the chances of malign Russian influence and would bring lasting peace, stability and well-being to the region," says the State Department spokesperson.
He added that the sanctions announced by the State and Treasury Departments last week were aimed at precisely this problem, the intersection between malign Russian influence and corruption.
The spokesman refers to the US government's designation of Serbian politicians as persona non grata and the imposition of sanctions on 12 entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia whose activities are linked to malign Russian influence in the region and corruption.
"Both hinder the region's efforts to progress towards EU membership and a more prosperous future. For the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as for all countries in Europe, the result of Russia's war against Ukraine, which threatens the foundations of international order and security, is important. That is why it is critical that we continue to stand together in the face of Russia's aggression," he said.
After President Zelenskyy's comment, EU spokesman Peter Stano said that the malicious Russian influence on the territory of the Western Balkans is not a new concern.
"Russia is doing everything it can to sow discontent, political instability, it is interfering from outside, it is misinforming. And that is why we are actually increasing our cooperation and assistance to our partners in the Western Balkans when it comes to strengthening their capacities and capabilities to deal with this form of threats and interference from outside," Mr. Stano said. .