SARAJEVO - Russia criticised the European Union for granting Bosnia a candidate status, saying on Friday it was part of a Western push to impose its policies on the Western Balkan countries.

Last week, EU leaders agreed to make Bosnia and Herzegovina a formal candidate to become a member of the 27-nation bloc.

"In the context of the current situation in the world and the West's expansionist line, it is obvious that this decision was primarily prompted by a task of the total geopolitical conquering of the region," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to a statement issued by the Russian embassy in Bosnia.

Bosnia will be joining Albania, Moldova, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine, which have already launched a long-term process that involves complex negotiations on adjusting local laws to those of the EU.

EU officials have said the decision to grant it the candidate status was prompted mainly because of a fear that instability created by the war in Ukraine may spread to the volatile Western Balkans region.

The West is concerned about Russian influence in the Balkans, especially in Serbia and Bosnia's Serb Republic which oppose sanctions against Moscow.

Zaharova said the EU has used the accession talks to force the Balkan countries to "automatically" adopt the bloc's foreign policy and decisions on sanctions, according to the statement.

Russia has also lobbied for the office of international peace overseer in Bosnia to be closed down, encouraging separatist Bosnian Serbs to disobey the envoy's decisions.

"We intend to continue working with a goal to free sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina of the external protectorate's outdated regime," the statement said.

While Russia has warned it would regard steps Bosnia might take to join NATO as a "hostile act" it has so far not criticised its EU ambitions.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)