US F-16s fly over Bosnia ahead of Bosnian Serbs’ "secessionist" holiday

US F-16s fly over Bosnia ahead of Bosnian Serbs’
Two US F-16 Fighting Falcons flew over Republika Srpska the day before the banned Republic Day holiday celebrated by Bosnian Serbs. / United States Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina
By bne IntelliNews January 8, 2024

Two US F-16 Fighting Falcons flew over the territory of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska on January 8 in a warning against the entity’s “secessionist activity” ahead of the celebration of the banned Republic Day holiday.

On January 9, Republika Srpska will celebrate Republic Day, which was declared unconstitutional and banned by the state-level constitutional court years ago. This year it takes place after multiple moves by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik and his ruling SNSD party to adopt laws rejecting the authority of state-level institutions and of the international community’s high representative Christian Schmidt.

Republic Day marks the 1992 date when Bosnian Serbs declared their state in Bosnia, sparking a four-year war that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

The two jets carried out bilateral air-to-ground training conducted along with Bosnia’s national armed forces in areas not controlled by Republika Srpska.

Bosnia comprises two autonomous entities – the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. Each of them has its own institutions and there are also state-level bodies.

“This bilateral training is an example of advanced military-to-military cooperation that contributes to peace and security in the Western Balkans as well as demonstrates the United States’ commitment to ensuring the territorial integrity of BiH in the face of anti-Dayton and secessionist activity. The United States has underscored that the BiH Constitution provides no right of secession, and it will act if anyone tries to change this basic element of Dayton,” the US embassy said in the statement.

Republika Srpska’s public broadcaster RTRS reported the jets flew over the entity’s administrative centre Banja Luka in a move seen as a provocation by the Serb entity.

N1 reported that data from Flight Radar did not show the F-16s but detected Stratotanker that supplies the jets with fuel. That confirmed the US embassy’s statement that the mission would be supported by a KC-135 Stratotanker that would provide aerial refuelling for the F-16s over Republika Srpska’s territory.

Dodik’s ruling SNSD party recently adopted a law rejecting the authority of the constitutional court, and another law defying the authority of Schmidt, claiming he was not appointed properly. Dodik was charged last year for signing the two laws. The trial was supposed to start on December 20, but was postponed to January 20.

Despite this, Dodik has announced that the ruling majority will soon adopt an electoral law, rejecting the validity of the state-level act.

While most neighbouring states' politicians tend to avoid Dodik and do not support his secessionist efforts, a Montenegrin pro-Serbian and pro-Russian party, NSD, has sent a delegation to the Republic Day celebration. The party is part of the ostensibly pro-Western ruling coalition backing the government of Prime Minister Milojko Spajic. To accept the coalition with pro-Serbian and pro-Russian formations, Spajic demanded they sign a declaration that they will fully support the country's EU integration.