Bosnian Serb police drill seen as separatist 'provocation'

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An airplane of the European Union Force, deployed in Bosnia to maintain peace in the ethnically divided country, flies over the area where police forces of Bosnia's Serb-run part is holding exercises on the Jahorina Mountain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. The exercises on Jahorina Mountain, outside Sarajevo, and in the northern town of Mrkonjic Grad, were staged just days after Bosnian Serb top leader, Milorad Dodik, announced that the country's Serb-run part will quit the key multi-ethnic state institutions. (AP Photo)

SARAJEVO – Bosnia’s Serb police on Friday held an “anti-terrorist” drill just outside the capital Sarajevo, in a move seen by many as another provocation by the Serb separatist leadership.

The exercise was held in the ski resort at Mt. Jahorina, the general area from where the Bosnian Serb military relentlessly shelled and sniped at Sarajevo throughout Bosnia’s 1991-95 war. Thousands of Sarajevo citizens were killed or injured in these attacks.

The drill involved armored vehicles, helicopters, and special police force personnel in camouflage uniforms armed with assault rifles.

The European Union Force, deployed in Bosnia to maintain peace in the ethnically divided nation, dispatched an aircraft to monitor the exercise.

The Bosnian Serb interior minister, Dragan Lukac, said the EURFOR flyover “was unnecessary" and prevented a second helicopter from taking off “to avoid a collision."

Bosniak and Bosnian Croat leaders denounced the Serb drills “a clear provocation,” while Bosnian Serb officials said they were planned a long time ago and had nothing to do with Bosnia’s deep political crisis.

Bosnia’s civil war pitted Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslims, Serbs and Croats against each other and ended with a U.S.-sponsored peace agreement in 1995 that created two regions, the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation.

The two regions were given wide autonomy, but kept some joint institutions, including the army, top judiciary and tax administration. Bosnia also has a rotating three-member presidency comprising Bosniak, Serb and Croat members.

The Bosnian Serb presidency member, Milorad Dodik, has for years been advocating the separation of the Bosnian Serb mini-state and having it join neighboring Serbia — something that would unlikely win approval from the U.S. and much of the West.

Dodik, who has tacit support from Russia and his allies in Serbia, recently upped his drive, pledging that the Bosnian Serb parliament will by the end of November declare the creation of its own army and judiciary.

The Bosnian Serb assembly earlier this week adopted a law establishing its own medicine procurement agency, the first of Dodik’s pledges to separate joint institutions from those at the state level.

The U.S. has already imposed a travel ban against Dodik and earlier this week warned of sanctions against his allies if his separatist moves continue.