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Putin grants citizenship to Bosnian Serb accused of war crimes

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 9, 2024 9:04 PM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Peterhof Palace outside Saint Petersburg on Dec. 26, 2023. (Alexey Danichev / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting citizenship to a former Bosnian Serb soldier accused of committing war crimes and other foreign nationals, the Russian government announced on Jan. 9.

Ratko Samac, the Bosnian Serb former soldier, is accused of participating in atrocities during the mass expulsion of civilians from the western Bosnian town of Kljuc during the war in the 1990s, in which at at least 150 Bosniak civilians were killed.

Samac has also been suspected by Bosnia's justice ministry of murdering three Bosniak civilians in 1993.

Samac has been living in Russia since 1999. Bosnia and Herzegovina have requested his extradition, which Russia has refused.

The Jan. 9 decree also granted citizenship to U.S. professional boxer Kevin Johnson, who faced off current Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight title in 2009 and ultimately lost.

Johnson moved to Russia in 2023 and was reportedly so enamored with Putin that he decided to change his middle name to Vladimirovich.

Also on the list was Peter Lavelle, a U.S.-born journalist who has worked with the state-run media outlet Russia Today since the 1990s, the Canadian hockey player Brendan Leipsic, and Andrei Kalageorgi, an American who appears on Russian TV and claims he is the direct descendant of Catherine the Great.

Days before, Putin signed a decree granting the ability of foreigners who join Russia's military to apply for citizenship.

The new decree stipulates that while the invasion of Ukraine is ongoing, foreigners who join the Russian army will be able to obtain Russian citizenship. Their relatives, including the children of foreign fighters, will also have the right to obtain Russian citizenship, according to the decree.

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