Western Balkans Overview Dec 11, 2023 – CWBS

Western Balkans Overview Dec 11, 2023 – CWBS
  • Milan Radoičić declared wanted by Interpol

Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Milan Radoičić due to the events in Banjska, Kosovo Government Minister Nenad Rasic has confirmed. He added that the warrant was posted based on a request from the Ministry of Interior of Kosovo through UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo), as Kosovo is not a member of Interpol. Radoičić took responsibility for the Sep 24 attack in Banjska, where a police officer was killed. After that, three Serbian attackers, who were part of the paramilitary group, were killed in a shootout with the Kosovo police.

After claiming responsibility, Radoičić resigned as vice-chairman of the Serbian List, the largest Serb party in Kosovo, which is backed by Belgrade. Through his lawyer, he stated that he “personally” organized the attack and all logistics, claiming he never informed anyone about his plans. However, the Kosovo authorities claim that the government of Serbia also stands behind the attack in Banjska, which Belgrade denies. Radoičić was detained by the Serbian police on October 3 in Belgrade on charges of “conspiracy for the purpose of committing criminal acts, illegal production, possession, carrying and trade of firearms and explosives, and serious crimes against public security”. However, a day later, he was released on the condition that he not leave Serbia and was forbidden to cross into Kosovo. Kosovo police discovered a large arsenal of weapons a few days after the attack in Banjska. The international community strongly condemned the attack, demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice. The Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo, Xhelal Sveçla, stated even earlier that the Ministry would demand that Serbia extradite Radoičić, as well as “all those who were involved in planning and executing the act of terror” in Banjska. Sveçla also said the investigation showed that “more than 80 terrorists” participated in the attack. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said at the time that the terrorist attack in Banjska was part of a wider plan to annex northern Kosovo.

It should be understood that, in addition to Radoičić, 19 other individuals involved in the events in Banjska have been declared wanted by Interpol. UNMIK helped issue 44 red warrants and 12 extradition requests to Kosovo by members of Interpol. Until now, Kosovo has not had direct contact with Interpol. Communication is carried out by the UN Mission in Kosovo based on cooperation established by the Memorandum of Understanding between INTERPOL and UNMIK of 2002, for the purpose of exchanging information, warrants, international investigations, and criminal cases.

It is clear that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will protect Milan Radoičić from extradition to Kosovo on an Interpol warrant, as long as his authority is not in any way threatened by international discredit. After that, it is possible that Radoičić will still be arrested in Serbia due to increased international pressure. But it is possible that Radoičić will be warned in advance about the potential arrest and be able to escape somewhere, for example to Russia by direct flight, from where it will be very problematic to get him. If Moscow takes such a step, it will become clear that Russia stood directly behind the attack in Banjska, “playing its own game” with the tacit consent of Belgrade, because at that time the Security Intelligence Agency was headed by a completely pro-Russian chief, Aleksandar Vulyn.

Meanwhile, Interpol issued an arrest warrant not only for the former vice-chairman of the Serbian List but also for 19 other individuals: Danilo Vasić, Lazar Smigić, Marjan Radojević, Milorad Kerstović, Milorad Jevtić, Momčilo Vukotić, Saša Perić, Nemanja Stanković, Stefan Radojković, Stefan Jovanović, Trajko Vasić, Uglješa Jaredić, Uroš Milić, Veljko Đorđević, Vladimir Radivojević , Vladimir Vukotić, Vladimir Andrić, Vukašin Jaredić, Aleksandar Milosavljević. It will be rather problematic to hide them all on the territory of Russia, so it is possible that the Republic of Serbia, Belarus, and maybe even China will also be included in the scheme.

  • Representation of the Another Ukraine organization, created by Viktor Medvedchuk, traitor to the Ukrainian nation, launched in Belgrade

Viktor Medvedchuk, formerly the most infamous and top-ranking pro-Russian politician in Ukraine, whom the Russians intended to put in power in Kyiv in the event of the success of Putin’s “blitzkrieg” against Ukraine, registered a representative office of his organization, Another Ukraine, in Serbia without much PR. It should be noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter Daria. Independent Serbian mass media found out about the creation of a pro-Russian association that supports Russian aggression against Ukraine almost three months after it was registered in Serbia, that is, only after the Russian portal Octagon posted the relevant report.

The office was opened in August 2023, and its head is Serbian entrepreneur and pro-Russian politician Dragan Stanojevic, who is not known to the general Serbian public. He openly supported Russian aggression against Ukraine, and in the upcoming parliamentary elections he is on the list of the pro-government and pro-Russian party “We are the Voice of the People” of the scandalous epidemiologist Branimir Nestorovic, who became famous for referring to the coronavirus pandemic as fake by “Facebook”. Stanojevic also boasts of his friendship with Putin’s main ideologue Alexander Dugin, a Russian pro-Nazi philosopher, and also posts photos with Alexander Vucic on his social media profiles. Stanoevic, who worked in Ukraine, where he owned a number of companies, was closely connected with the pro-Russian elite there, as he told the Serbian editorial office of Russia Today. He believes that some in Serbia are worried about Another Ukraine, but they have nothing against “Another Serbia”, and that Ukrainians who do not support the current government can themselves decide who to root for. According to the official register, the representation of Another Ukraine claims it operates toward “the establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation between the peoples of Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine.”

At one time, Vladimir Putin exchanged Viktor Medvedchuk, who was arrested by Ukrainian authorities for openly supporting aggression, for a number of POWs from the Azov Regiment who defended Mariupol, which shows how important Medvedchuk is to the Russian president. Now Medvedchuk lives in Moscow, from where he tries to spread his “ideas” of restructuring Ukraine and still hopes to ride Russian tanks onto Kyiv and become a “Ukrainian Lukashenko.” However, it is certainly interesting that he is establishing a representation of a Russian political organization in Serbia, which should deal with “the integration into Serbian society of Ukrainians with an opinion different from that of official Kyiv.” In other words, the representation should monitor, control, and lure Ukrainians living in Serbia to the “Russian side”.

Thus, the idea of the established representation, according to Stanojevic, is to activate Ukrainians in Serbia and to check whether they need assistance. Stanojevic rejected suspicions that behind Another Ukraine stands Moscow’s intention to influence public opinion in Serbia through “soft power”, despite the fact that the head of the organization is an openly pro-Kremlin political figure. Currently, there are five branches of Another Ukraine: in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Belgorod, and Simferopol, and now also in Belgrade. The representation promises free gifts for the New Year  for the children of all Ukrainians who apply. One can suspect that in this way someone is trying to draw a certain census of all Ukrainians living in Serbia, as well as across the region.

For example, former Serbian diplomat Srečko Džukić says “the influence of the Russian factor in Serbia remains in place from all directions and along all lines.” It is about the influence on Serbian society, political, economic, security, and other structures. And it is clear that this suits Moscow, as it opposes isolation, sanctions, and other restrictions, but because of this, the territory of Serbia objectively becomes a field for potential conflict. “These are very strong structures, they impose attitudes, control the flow of events, and it is not difficult to assume a situation where things can get out of hand,” believes Džukić.

Another Ukraine is not the only pro-Russian organization in Serbia as the country is also home to the paramilitary group Evil Eagles of the openly right-wing radical Andrej Lisov, the neo-Nazi movement of Denis Garijev, the Russian Imperial Legion, and the representative office of Wagner Group, which was engaged in recruiting mercenaries in Serbia. Moscow turned Belgrade into a site for the implementation of its policy in the Balkans and the whole of South-Eastern Europe. From here, it conducts its propaganda work, trying to influence the worldview of the population across the region, misleading people about its aggression against Ukraine and plans to attack neighboring countries with the aim of occupying them, enslaving them, or installing regimes loyal to the Kremlin.

  • Ethnic Albanian to become North Macedonia’s head of government, in first

Talat Xhaferi will become the first Albanian prime minister of North Macedonia. Xhaferi’s appointment means that he will leave his leadership position in parliament, where he will be replaced by someone from the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDSM). The Speaker of the Parliament of North Macedonia, Talat Xhaferi, will become the Prime Minister of the technical government, which will be formed 100 days before the elections, the Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is part of the ruling coalition, decided. The DUI leadership has proposed that Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi will be the Prime Minister of North Macedonia starting on January 28, 2024. On December 4, parliamentary factions reached an agreement on holding the first round of presidential elections on April 24, 2024, and the second round of the presidential and parliamentary votes on May 8.

The appointment of the Albanian as technical prime minister 100 days before the election was part of a coalition agreement between former SDSM chairman Zoran Zaev and DUI leader Ali Ahmeti after the 2020 elections. North Macedonia Prime Minister and SDSM leader Dimitar Kovačevski has confirmed that he will respect the agreements reached by his predecessor regarding the DUI representative, “the first Albanian prime minister in North Macedonia”. The largest Macedonian opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, has demanded that the concept of a technical government be abandoned in the runup to the elections, while its leader Hristijan Mickoski has openly stated that the party seels to prevent the election of an Albanian as technical prime minister of North Macedonia.

It should be noted that the idea of appointing an ethnic Albanian as the country’s prime minister didn’t sit well with the opposition Democratic Union party either. They warned about the violation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and Amendment 6 to the Constitution of North Macedonia, that by forming a technical government, the provisions and principles of adequate and fair representation of all ethnic communities in power structures are suspended and violated. The dominance of the DUI, which has only 13 MPs out of 120 people’s elected representatives, shows and confirms SDSM’s determination to be in power at any cost, disregarding national and state interests, as well as the interests of the Macedonian majority, the report said. “We want to warn that such a policy does not enjoy the support of the majority of citizens, so manipulations claiming that this is a European front won’t work.” The Democratic Union believes that this precedent, created by the current prime minister and head of the SDSM Kovačevski, “has a strong impact on inter-ethnic relations, as well as on the further dualization and criminalization of the state, the irresponsibility and impunity of the political mafia that rules Macedonia,” the Democratic Union added. The Democratic Union advocates a civic concept and functions for the most capable politicians, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or party affiliation. This should apply to all ethnic communities. These rules cannot be abused just for the benefit of DUI. The Democratic Union does not support the formation of a technical government, and even more so with a prime minister from the DUI ranks.

Thus, the country’s political opposition stood categorically against the idea of appointing a technical government on the eve of the elections, even headed by an ethnic Albanian. Meanwhile, the objections of the opposition will obviously not be taken into account, and DUI could in the long run get the votes of the majority of the Albanian electorate of North Macedonia, which offers good chances to form a majority in parliament together with the SDSM and put their man or woman in the post of the head of state. Criticism of the opposition is only partially constructive. This criticism is supported by traditional voters of VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Union. But the big question is whether the electorate, which does not have stable political preferences, will support such rhetoric. Its political choice will determine who will ultimately take the lead in the next election.

  • A statement of a pro-Russian political force in Serbia

The Russian party, which participates in parliamentary and local elections in Serbia and officially represents the interests of Russians as a national minority in the country, called for the opening of a Russian military base in Serbia.

The Russian Party of Serbia advocates the launch of a Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in the north of the country, in Vojvodina, with the existing Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center located in the south in Niš being turned into a Russian military base. The pro-Moscow party believes that given the fact that Serbia is surrounded by NATO member states and there is a danger of aggression against Serbia, the core of the country’s security policy should be maximum integration and a military alliance with the Russian Federation. Kornet anti-tank missile systems, Pantsir air defense systems, MiG-29 fighters, modernized T-72 tanks, and Mi-35 combat helicopters are only a part of Russia’s military assistance provided to the armed forces of Serbia. In view of this, the leadership of the pro-Kremlin political force appealed to Serbian citizens to express their trust in them in order to establish even stronger relations between Serbia and the Russian Federation in the future. The party called to circle number 16 in the Republican list and number 4 in the regional list of political parties of Vojvodina, as they claim Serbs and Russians are “brothers forever”.

Thus, the pro-Kremlin political lobby became more proactive in early parliamentary and local elections in Serbia. Russia seeks to ensure that its outspoken supporters become part of the top authorities in the country, in order to make Belgrade even more dependent on Moscow’s decisions through these proxies. The opening of a Russian military base on the territory of Serbia would completely subordinate the activities of the Serbian government to the Kremlin’s actions. And it must be borne in mind that Moscow is determined to incite a major war in the Western Balkans, exploiting the desire of radical forces to implement the project of a Greater Serbia. In order to start the war in Kosovo, the intention to create a Russian military base near the border with Kosovo in Niš is rather visible. From there, the Russians plan to provide logistical support in the event that Belgrade unleashes a war against Pristina. These are rather dangerous plans that show Moscow’s beastly grin, but by no means an act of friendship between the two peoples. Putin plans to send the Serbs into a major war, and then act as a mediator in settlement talks with NATO. This is a vile and insidious position traditionally pursued by Moscow. For centuries, the Kremlin has told a fairy tale about the historical friendship of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, and when Kyiv decided to move toward European integration, the Russian army attacked Ukraine with all its might, aiming to annihilate the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian statehood. The only question is whether Serbian voters will recognize the Kremlin’s provocative policy before it’s too late?