Thousands of Serbs protest international movements in Bosnia

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands of Bosnian Serbs gathered on Wednesday to protest recent decisions by the top international official in the ethnically divided Balkan country.

Serbs are angry that Christian Schmidt, the UN’s high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, suspended a law declaring ownership of public property to the country’s Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

The law was seen as part of an attempt by the Bosnian Serbs to secede from the rest of Bosnia. Schmidt said only Bosnian central institutions can regulate property issues.

The rally in Banja Luka, the main town in the Serb-ruled Republika Srpska, was organized by an organization of veterans. Participants carried Serbian flags and the rally ended peacefully.

“It’s a clear message,” Milorad Dodik, the country’s top Bosnian Serb politician, told reporters.

Dodik rejected Schmidt’s decision to suspend Bosnian Serb law.

Bosnia went through a devastating war from 1992 to 1995 in which more than 100,000 people died before a US-brokered peace deal ended the conflict. The Office of the High Representative was created to oversee post-war reconciliation efforts.

The peace accord, also known as the Dayton Accords, created Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities linked by common Bosnian institutions and a tripartite presidency.

The war in Ukraine raised fears that the unrest could spread to the volatile Balkans, where Russia maintained strong influence among other Slavic Serbs.

Dodik, seen as pro-Russian, faced US and British sanctions for undermining the unity of Bosnia.

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