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Ethnic Serbs Celebrate Republika Srpska Day Despite Ban By Bosnia Court

Members of the Russian "Night Wolves" motorcycle club march as part of a Republika Srpska "national day" commemoration in Banja Luka, January 9.
Members of the Russian "Night Wolves" motorcycle club march as part of a Republika Srpska "national day" commemoration in Banja Luka, January 9.

Ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina's Serb-dominated entity celebrated what they call their “national day” holiday, which the country’s top court has twice declared unconstitutional.

Hundreds gathered on January 9 in Banja Luka -- the administrative center of Bosnia’s predominantly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska – for a parade involving members of the entity's police force, emergency workers, representatives of public institutions, sports organizations, and other associations.

Some 2,700 people participated in the parade, which lasted just under an hour. Helicopters from the Republika Srpska Interior Ministry flew overhead.

Bosnia consists of the Serbian entity, a Muslim-Croat entity, and a central government that ties both together in a fragile state.

The arrangement came out of the Dayton Accords, which put an end to the bloody 1992-95 Bosnian civil war.

The peace agreement ended the conflict in which Bosnia's main ethnic factions -- Muslims, Croats, and Serbs -- fought for control after the break-up of Yugoslavia and established the two autonomous regions, along with the deployment of a NATO-led peacekeeping mission.

Zeljko Cvijanovic, head of the Serb entity, told those attending the event in Banja Luka that "we have always gathered for this great holiday to show our commitment to live in peace. You are the best witnesses that it was never easy."

Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s three-person multiethnic presidency, told the crowd that “our freedom is not at the expense of others; our freedom is our right. Our goal is peace, and defense of our freedom, building a life worthy of a man.”

He that "he was not chosen to do what the Americans want, but what these people want."

In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department first imposed sanctions against Dodik -- saying he was actively obstructing efforts to implement the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

The sanctions were expanded on January 5 to include a television station linked to Dodik.

Dodik has advocated for the separation of the Bosnian Serb entity from the rest of the country and making it part of neighboring Serbia.

Washington and most Western nations support a unified Bosnia-Herzegovina and reject moves for changes to the border.

The January 9 holiday, which is called Republika Srpska Day, 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.

Bosnia’s top court in 2015 banned the holiday, ruling that it discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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