BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Bosnian Serbs have celebrated Republika Srpska Day, a controversial holiday that has drawn strong opposition from other ethnic groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who view it as discriminatory.
The January 9 holiday marks the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared their own state in Bosnia, triggering a devastating four-year war that killed over 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
Although Bosnia's Constitutional Court declared the holiday unconstitutional on November 26, 2015, celebrations have taken place every year on January 9.
In Banja Luka, the administrative center of the country's predominantly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, a ceremonial parade attended by more than 2,400 police officers was held in the city's central Krajina Square.
During the celebrations, both the anthems of Serbia and of Republika Srpska were played. However, the anthem of Bosnia was not played.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin also attended the celebrations.
The parade was preceded by an awards ceremony during which Vulin received a medal "for his work and merit in international cooperation and consolidation of peace."
The minister called the award "an award for Serbia, which does not hesitate to help [the Republika Srpska] always and everywhere."
Serbia "respects" Bosnia and "guarantees" the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict, but Serbia "above all loves Republika Srpska," Vulin said.
In a statement issued in Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said his country would "always love and support Srpska, respecting the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Bosnia's Muslims and Croats have insisted that the celebration is not representative for all ethnic groups who live in Republika Srpska.