Thousands of Serbs protest international moves in Bosnia
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied Wednesday to protest recent decisions of the top international official in the ethnically divided Balkan country.
The Serbs are angry that Christian Schmidt, the U.N.’s high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, suspended a law that declared the ownership of public property by the country’s Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.
The law was seen as part of a Bosnian Serb bid to secede from the rest of Bosnia. Schmidt said that only central Bosnian institutions can regulate property issues.
The rally in Banja Luka, the main city in Serb-run Republika Srpska, was organized by a veteran’s organization. Participants carried Serb flags, and the gathering ended peacefully.
“This is a clear message,” Milorad Dodik, the country’s top Bosnian Serb politician, told reporters.
Dodik rejected Schmidt’s decision to suspend the Bosnian Serb law.
Bosnia went through a devastating 1992-95 war in which over 100,000 people died before a U.S.-brokered peace deal ended the conflict. The Office of the High Representative was created to oversee post-war reconciliation efforts.
The peace deal, also known as the Dayton Accords, created Bosnian Serb and Bosniak-Croat entities tied together by joint Bosnian institutions and a triparate presidency.
The war in Ukraine has aroused fears that the turmoil could spill over to the volatile Balkans, where Russia has maintained strong influence among fellow-Slavic Serbs.
Dodik, who is viewed as pro-Russia, has faced U.S. and British sanctions for undermining Bosnia’s unity.