Serbia’s president has spoken out against an attack that targeted his prime minister at the weekend during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, saying it recalled similar incidents prior to the 1990s Bosnia war.
Tomislav Nikolić said the attack resembled a “lynching attempt” and warned adversaries against drawing Serbia into “new quarrels” 20 years after the end of the civil war.
“No one should remain indifferent towards the savagery of that incident, which recalls those of 1992,” and the start of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war, Nikolić said in a statement.
An angry crowd hurled stones and plastic bottles, and chased Serbia’s prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, from Saturday’s commemoration of the July 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, which occurred after Bosnian Serb forces overran the town of Srebrenica.
Vučić, whose country supported the Bosnian Serbs during and after the war, was among numerous dignitaries, including the former US president Bill Clinton, and tens of thousands of people attending the commemoration in the eastern Bosnian town. He had earlier condemned the “monstrous crime” in Srebrenica.
In Belgrade later, the premier said he had not been hurt by a stone that hit him in the mouth and that only his glasses had been broken in the attack.
Nikolić said the incident “clearly shows the opinion of certain Muslim politicians and religious leaders of Serbs”. Vučić was attacked because he came “with his hand extended in a sign of reconciliation,” he said.
Though international courts have recognised the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide, this is still denied by Serbia and Bosnian Serbs.
Underlining Serbia’s “friendly stance towards other countries and nations”, Nikolić said “others should reflect on what they are doing and what they have done in dragging us into new quarrels 20 years after the civil war” in Bosnia.
Bosnia’s presidency strongly condemned the attack and apologised to “all foreign delegations” over it. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the incident “went against the spirit of this day of remembrance”.
The Balkans were torn apart by the series of wars that accompanied the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. The bloodiest conflict was in Bosnia between ethnic Croats, Muslims and Serbs, which claimed about 100,000 lives.
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