Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has announced an investment package targeting education and job creation in Mrkonjic Grad, a town in neighbouring Bosnia.

Vucic was visiting the town in the eastern Republika Srpska region, which borders Serbia, on Wednesday, and pledged 300,000 euros ($330,370) for computers and advanced machining tools for the local engineering school.

He also said the Serbian government had allocated 925,000 euros ($1m) to invest in water-supply infrastructure in the western Republika Srpska region. 

“We will not go anywhere else, but as a people we have gone through so many tragedies that we will never allow anyone to banish us from their hearts,” said Vucic.

“There are no more ‘Storms’,” he added – referring to Operation Storm, the last major battle of the Croatian War of Independence – “but jobs, schools, restored health centres, kindergartens full of children…

“We have nothing to say against anyone, only that we love and respect you and want everything together with everyone else, just let us be on our own and keep our name, but also our faith.”

The Serbian president’s trip was planned long before a scandal erupted on Monday over a group of schoolboys in Srebrenica – a town in eastern Republika Srpska that saw a 1995 massacre of 8,000 men and boys during the Bosnian war – making ultra-nationalist posts on social media.

The boys had taken photos with the insignia of the Chetniks, an Islamophobic anti-Croat militia during World War II that had a resurgence under Serbia’s former President Slobodan Milosevic.

“We are not ashamed of being Serbs and being Chetniks,” they had posted alonside pictures of their demonstration at the mixed Bosniak-Serb elementary school. “We are sorry if you think we should be.”

Their boasting of affiliation with the movement, which promoted the ethnic cleansing of Croatians, Albanians and Jewish people, sparked concerned protests outside the school on Wednesday.

More than 200 Bosniak parents and students demanded sanctions and accountability for the incident, which they said incited ethnic and religious hatred.

“We have signed a list of our requests and will submit them to the school protocol. No one has ever received us, they have never received us. Principal Dragi Jovanovic just walked past us this morning and put his head down. We will look for his replacement,” said parent Ahmed Hrustanovic.

The parents also want to know how the incident could have occurred at the school, and are demanding lessons be introduced to promote post-war inclusivity.

“We request the ministry, and the Educational Pedagogical Institute of the Republika Srpska, to rule upon the demands of the parents… to modify and edit the curriculum on the territory of the [former Yugoslavia], to provide the conditions for the national group of subjects to proceed in the full sense of the word, and also that classes from a national group of subjects are taught and taught by competent teaching staff.”

The Republika Srpska’s Ministry of Education and Culture said the children were reprimanded after the incident.

“The school’s management and professional service interviewed the students who posted the controversial photo and decided on adequate measures handed to students for inappropriate behaviour,” the ministry said on Wednesday.

“The school’s expert team is tasked with holding meetings with the parents of these students and making them aware that they are responsible for their children’s behaviour, among other things, on social networks.”


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