By Michelle Nichols
Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that would have condemned the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide to mark the 20th anniversary of the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
China, Nigeria, Angola and Venezuela abstained and the remaining 10 council members voted in favor. The vote was delayed a day as Britain and the United States tried to persuade Russia not to veto the text, which would have also condemned denial of the 1995 massacre as a genocide.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had appealed for the council not to vote on the resolution, which he described as “not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated.”
“The blame for the past is placed basically on one people,” Churkin said, but he added: “Our vote against … will not however mean that we are deaf to the sufferings of the victims of Srebrenica and other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Russia had proposed the council instead condemn “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.”
The U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has ruled the massacre, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two, was genocide.
Britain said it was outraged by the Russian veto. “Genocide occurred at Srebrenica. This is a legal fact, not a political judgment. On this there is no compromise,” Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson told the council after the vote.
On July 11, 1995, toward the end of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Bosnian Serb forces swept into the eastern Srebrenica enclave, a U.N.-designated “safe haven.” They executed 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the days that followed, dumping their bodies into pits.
“Russia’s veto is heartbreaking for those families and it is a further stain on this council’s record,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who was a 24-year-old journalist in Bosnia when the massacre took place.
Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, who lost husband and son in the massacre, said Russia should be ashamed by its veto. “After 20 years, Russia showed that it backed the crime instead of justice,” she said.
Serbia acknowledges that a “grave crime” took place and adopted a declaration condemning the massacre in 2010 as it sought closer ties with the West, but stopped short of describing it as genocide.
The draft resolution angered Bosnian Serbs and Serbia, who branded it as “anti-Serb” and sent a letter of protest to the United Nations. Serbia warned on Tuesday that the resolution would only widen ethnic divides in neighboring Bosnia.
Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic said in a statement on Wednesday that Russia had “prevented an attempt of smearing the entire Serbian nation as genocidal” and proven itself as a true and honest friend.