As announced, the supporters of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik gathered on Friday afternoon along the inter-entity boundary line, an administrative line separating Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) and Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH) entities, to show support to the RS President after he was indicted by the State Prosecutor's Office. Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency Zeljka Cvijanovic said at one of the locations of the protest that this was "only a final rehearsal."
According to N1's teams, which reported live from four locations, crowds gathered carrying banners with messages of support, flags and large-sized photos of Milorad Dodik. Some demonstrators were also seen carrying photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and flags of Russia.
One of the most popular banners among the demonstrators was the one saying ‘The border does exist’.
Strong police forces were present in Istocno Sarajevo. The area was also secured by rooftop snipers.
Several hundred people led by senior members of Dodik's SNSD walked from a central square to the inter-entity boundary line.
Radovan Viskovic, the RS entity prime minister, harshly criticised the international community's High Representative Christian Schmidt, reiterating the position of the RS entity leadership that the international envoy was illegally appointed.
“We know the best how we need to live here and I think that 30 years after the unhappy war that happened here legally elected officials of this country should take care of it. We need to thank to the foreigners, let them go to their homes, let them arrange what they have in their own countries,” said Viskovic.
The protest comes as a response to the indictment against Dodik and acting director of RS Official Gazette Milos Lukic over their refusal to implement decisions of the High Representative in BiH on the RS entity territory.
The organisers, the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Serbs in the FBiH, initially planned the gathering in front of the State Court and the Prosecutor's Office, but Sarajevo police banned it.
Djordje Radanovic, the Committee Chairman, said “we gathered to say that we are for the peace and that the Serbs are always for the peace, but not for the torture of our people at the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
In response to this gathering, a Sarajevo-based activist called for an anti-rally and a peaceful walk towards the inter-entity boundary line in the Sarajevo area, but the Sarajevo Canton Interior Ministry halted the activities.
Senior SNSD officials were also present at the rally in Doboj, northern Bosnian town, including Zeljka Cvijanovic, the Serb member of BiH tripartite Presidency, Srdjan Amidzic, the BiH Finance Minister and SNSD spokesperson Radovan Kovacevic.
‘This is where Dodik has final say’, said one of the banners seen in the crowd.
Kovacevic said he was happy to see a peaceful protest in Republika Srpska, while a group of 30 Serbs did not get approval to gather in Sarajevo to express their opinion.
Cvijanovic assessed that this was only a “final rehearsal for what might come if they continue to torture us, and they torture us whenever they do not allow the Assembly or president to do their job.”
A crowd also gathered in Bisine, in the southern region of Herzegovina, with hundreds of residents of Nevesinje, Trebinje, Bileca, Berkovici and Gacko.
Buses brought demonstrators to Lopare in the northeast, the fourth location of the protest, expressing support to Dodik.
“This is our message to the FBiH (entity) that the RS (entity) is defending its status,” one of them said.
High Representative Christian Schmidt commented on the announced protest earlier on Friday, calling it a “cheap manipulation.”