Two opposite protests are taking place in downtown Banja Luka on Thursday evening - one organized by the opposition which blames the regional government of pushing the Bosnian Serbs toward NATO membership, the other supporting the government and accusing the opposition of trying to topple it.
The protests came after a discussion in the parliament of the semi-autonomous region of Republika Srpska (RS) two days ago about a reform plan Bosnia sent to NATO turned violent. Interior Minister Dragan Lukac, a member of the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), hit opposition leader Drasko Stanivukovic, from the Party for Democratic Progress (PDP), in the face.
Stanivukovic accused the SNSD and its leader Milorad Dodik of betraying the Serbs by agreeing to send the ‘Reform Programme’ to NATO, which is unpopular among Bosnian Serbs. The RS leadership presented the document to the entity parliament, but opposition MPs argued that it was not the original text that was sent to Brussels and that the real one actually represents a step toward membership in the alliance.
After the incident, Stanivukovic told N1 the next day that he would press charges against Lukac and announced a protest demanding his dismissal. He also said that he will present the differences between the document that RS leadership presented to lawmakers and the one that was sent to NATO.
However, a pro-government group in the RS - ‘Cast Otadzbine’ (Honour of the Homeland) - also requested a permit to hold a protest at the same park, Mladen Stojanovic, on the same day. The ‘Night Wolves’, a pro-Russian biker gang, also joined the counterprotest.
As the 18 o’clock protests were about the begin, Stanivukovic told media that the counterprotest was organised by the SNSD, adding that two protests being permitted to take place at the same location is a precedent.
“Our message is - stop to fake documents, falsifications, violence and stop to their power and their torture,” Stanivukovic said.