There is no doubt that Russia has a relatively strong financial footprint throughout the Western Balkans. Its investments in the region are concentrated in a few sectors, and they are delivered almost exclusively through Kremlin-approved pseudo-private conglomerates which effectively operate as tools of informal political influence.

Russian companies have so far lost more than $400 million in Bosnia’s energy sector, but despite this subpar economic performance, the Kremlin continues to provide political and financial support to Bosnia’s two poster boys of Putinism – Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and his Bosnian Croat counterpart, Dragan Čović.

In Croatia, VTB and Sberbank will likely end up controlling the failed agricultural and retail giant Agrokor, but may sustain considerable losses in the process. Agrokor is inextricably linked with Croatia’s ruling HDZ, and Moscow has been quietly supporting the populist party that is umbilically connected with its Bosnian clone that harbours hopes of creating an ethnically clean Croat statelet. In Serbia, Gazprom’s 2008 acquisition of the oil and gas monopoly brought the Kremlin to the heart of relevant ministries, and it established a foothold for wider political influence.

Strategic acquisitions in the energy and mining sectors have opened up space for a more serious Russian presence in the region. Some companies are used as tools of direct political influence, while others are quietly financing Moscow’s efforts to disrupt the EU accession process in the region.