International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Vucic calls urgent late night meeting

January 27, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called an urgent meeting of top security officials on Monday night over what the Serbian State TV (RTS) said was an unspecified deterioration of the situation in the region.

“A meeting is underway which President Vucic called urgently because of the deteriorated situation in the region,” the RTS said.

It added the meeting was being attended by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and the country’s top civilian intelligence and security agency (BIA) Director Bratislav Gasic.

No press release was issued after the meeting.

The RTS said in its early morning news on Tuesday that the meeting was called over the beating of a young man in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica during a mass gathering for the return of the national waterpolo team which won the bronze at the European championships. The RTS quoted other media outlets which alleged that the young man had been beaten after he showed the Serb three finger salute.

The RTS said that the BIA would ask its Montenegrin counterpart for more information.              

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a564396/Vucic-calls-urgent-late-night-meeting.html

Border Police lack staff, equipment to stop new wave of illegal migrants

January 23, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina could face another wave of migrants this spring, the State Border Police Chief warned on Wednesday, noting that this agency lacks material-technical instruments to cover all locations where illegal crossovers are possible.

Zoran Galic said the data provided by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) and Europol indicate that illegal migrations will intensify on the Western Balkan route following the winter season, which puts Bosnia in danger of facing yet another pressure of illegal migrations while this agency is struggling with a serious lack of staff to cover the border.

Bosnia's Border Police have a total of 2,228 employees, 2,028 of which are police officers.

“1,677 police officers are engaged in the border control, of which 1,300 are police officers, 188 senior police officers, 108 sergeants and 81 senior sergeants,” said Galic, stressing that 281 posts are currently vacant.

According to the Border Police, to cover all possible illegal border crossovers spots the agency lacks 100 official vehicles, 132 binoculars, 66 IC devices, 66 thermal imaging devices, 86 scoutguard cameras and 1,250 LED lamps.

“Procurement of new specialized equipment to respond to all modern-era challenges of illegal migrations as well as the border protection is a necessity,” said the Border Police Director.

He recalled that 13,251 persons were prevented from illegally crossing the border from Bosnia's neighboring countries.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405456/Border-Police-lack-staff-equipment-to-stop-new-wave-of-illegal-migrants.html

Former Bosnian member of Al-Nusra Front is now "completely deradicalised"

January 23, 2020

According to experts, Munib Ahmetspahic, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for joining paramilitary organisations in the area of Syria and Iraq, is now “completely deradicalised.”

Ahmetspahic was sentenced in April 2019 after he admitted to joining paramilitary organisations and participating in battles and terrorist activities between 2013 and 2018.

He told the court he was manipulated into doing so.

“How naive it was from us to make such a decision,” he said at the time.

“I would advise the youth to not fall for these things. Whoever wants to fight for justice should do so through legal means,” he added.

The decision Ahmetspahic made in May 2013 cost him a lot. He lost his brother who left for Syria together with him, his leg, the years he spent on the battlefield and in pre-trial detention and the three years he was sentenced to.

According to experts, the process of deradicalisation is complex and that the same method will likely not work for everybody, as the processes of radicalisation and deradicalisation are individual and differ from one person to another.

The State Court has until now handed down rulings against 26 persons in 17 similar trials, yet Ahmetspahic’s case is unique.

Prosecutors had asked neuropsychiatrist Abdulah Kucukalic for an assessment.

"Based on our examination, we got the impression that he had no inclination toward simulating, his statement was authentic. He could have tried to soften what he felt and told us, but he chose not to,” Kucukalic told Bosnia’s Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

Ahmetspahic was previously cleared of charges that he destroyed evidence in the case against Mevlid Jasarevic, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting at the building of the US Embassy in Sarajevo in 2011.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405724/Former-Bosnian-member-of-Al-Nusra-Front-is-now-completely-deradicalised.html

NATO looking forward to continuing the cooperation with Bosnia's authorities

January 24, 2020

NATO is looking forward to providing the support to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its authorities in the implementation of reforms contained in the Defence Programme and Review from 2016, the NATO HQ Sarajevo told N1.

The Sarajevo HQ recalled that the Alliance received the Reform Programme that Bosnia's authorities sent in December 2019, which was accepted as a good basis for further cooperation between the NATO and Bosnia.

“NATO HQ Sarajevo is at disposal to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in providing further support to the reform of defence and security sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO highly appreciates the political dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Allies will be glad to welcome the officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the NATO HQ for the talks on cooperation between the NATO and Bosnia and on regional cooperation,” said the Sarajevo HQ.

The State Presidency adopted in June 2019 a conclusion on officially applying for the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the Alliance positively responded from the Tallinn Summit the following year.

In December 2018, NATO state member foreign ministers gave a green light to Bosnia and invited the country to submit the first Annual National Programme (ANP), a comprehensive document that refers to the planned reforms in various fields, including political, security, legal and defence sectors.

Sending of the document has been on hold for months due to the political disagreements, and political parties eventually agreed the country would send to Brussels a document called the Reform Programme, which the NATO accepted.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405856/NATO-looking-forward-to-continuing-the-cooperation-with-Bosnia-s-authorities.html

Serbian military in first bilateral exercises with Chinese, Belarus forces

January 23, 2020

The Serbian military is planning to organize its first bilateral exercises with the armed forces of Belarus and China, Belgrade daily Politika said on Thursday.

The daily said that the Army of Serbia (VS) will hold a joint exercise named Joint Strike 2020 with Belarus forces in Serbia in September. Soldiers from the two armies have taken part in joint exercises with Russian forces but have never organized war games on their own.  

It added that the first Serbian-Chinese exercise will be organized this year for special forces from the two countries. The Serbian Defense Ministry said in October last year that Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Chinese Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman General Jang Youxi announced the bilateral exercise during their meeting in Beijing.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a563060/Serbian-military-in-first-bilateral-exercises-with-Chinese-Belarus-forces.html

NATO tells U.S. Congressman that Serbia can buy arms from whoever it wants

January 22, 2020

After Eliot Engel, a Democrat and U.S. Representative for New York's 16th congressional district, sharply criticised NATO for its, as he said, soft and easeful attitude toward Serbia for buying Russian weapons, James Mackey, the Alliance's Director of Security Policy and Partnerships, said the country was an independent state and had own choices, N1 reported on Wednesday.

Engel warned a US Admiral James Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, that when he spoke about the successful cooperation with Serbia, he did not represent the US stands.

Serbia's purchase of Russian arms raised questions in Davos, during the Western Balkans panel. Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said he told those asking the question that his country "bought only defensive weaponry... we want to be ready to protect our country." Due to the Chatham House rules, he could not go into the details discussed at the panel.

"Serbia must calculate all the expenses and benefits from every cooperation and every relationship, but it is an independent state and NATO cannot tell it who it should have relations with," Mackey said.

He later told N1 that NATO was satisfied with the individual partnership Serbia signed with the Alliance and that based on those agreements some joint exercises, and joint pans in emergencies.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a562860/NATO-says-Serbia-has-right-to-have-relations-with-Russia-as-well.html

Belgrade police seize 80 kg of marijuana

January 16, 2020

Belgrade police confiscated 80 kilogrammes of marijuana in a house and inside a car in the city’s Zvezdara municipality on Thursday, N1 reported.

The police arrested a Montenegrin national, 53, under suspicion of illegally producing and selling drugs and placed him under 48-hour detention before taking him to the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a561092/Police-seize-80-kg-of-marijuana-in-Belgrade.html

Dodik: Foreigners formed centers to prevent Russian influence across the Balkans

January 15, 2020

Western powers have formed at least three centres for the prevention of Russian influence in the Balkans and there are likely more, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told Serbia’s public broadcaster during a visit to Belgrade on Wednesday.

“The British Government said that it will provide six million pounds toward organised activities to prevent Russian influence in the Balkans, the US Government provided more than 20 million USD for that through various organisations, which they presented publicly,” said Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency.

He said that an intelligence centre for preventing Russian influence was formed in Sarajevo by foreigners and people from Bosnia’s intelligence agency, who he argued should rather be protecting Bosnia and Herzegovina and its sovereignty.

“Those centres for preventing so-called Russian influence were formed in Sarajevo, Podgorica and Tirana. Those are the three centres in the Balkans. It's likely that another hidden one which can not be revealed yet operates here in Belgrade as well, but we know about it,” Dodik said.

He alleged that there are also various similar organisations in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region of Republika Srpska (RS), adding that certain ambassadors meet with opposition politicians and NGO representatives but not with government representatives.

He also said that it was unfortunate that Republika Srpska does not have its own intelligence agency, a competency which he argued was “stolen and moved” to the state level through “illegal decisions” by the international administrators in Bosnia and that now the state agency “works against Republika Srpska and Serbia.”

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a404035/Dodik-Foreigners-formed-centres-to-prevent-Russian-influence-across-the-Balkans.html

Defense Minister observes combat vehicle test

January 14, 2020

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Tuesday that the Serbian military is working on a number of upgrades of its equipment and introducing new technology and new capabilities to be able to respond to the most complex combat operations.

A Defense Ministry press release said that Vulin attended test of the upgraded infantry combat vehicle BVP M-80A and target practice at night at the Nikinci weapons test range.  

“We saw that a soldier equipped with thermal vision and image enhancer and a combat vehicle equipped with thermal vision cameras and new cannon is the combat vehicle of the future and equipment which the soldier of the future will carry. This has to become the everyday equipment for our soldiers, these sights, equipment, protection and combat vehicles, because that is the only way we can face the challenges of the 21st century,” the minister is quoted as saying.  

The combat vehicle test was attended by Chief of Staff General Milan Mojsilovic, assistant Minister for Defense Policy Milan Rankovic, Defense Technology Department chief Major General Mladen Vuruna, 2nd Brigade Ground Forces commander Brigadier Zeljko Kuzmanovic, General Staff Planning and Development Department chief Brigadier Milan Popovic, Technical Test Center Director Colonel Slobodan Ilic and Military Technical Institute Director Colonel Bojan Pavkovic, the press release said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560587/Defense-Minister-observes-combat-vehicle-test.html

Serbia faces problems with combatants returning from Middle East

January 14, 2020

Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told students at the School of National Defense that the return home of Serbian nationals fighting in foreign wars is one of the greatest threats the country faces.

There are 28 Serbian nationals in Syria and Iraq, most of them from Kosovo, the minister said. “Serbia has introduced a law to sanction involvement by our citizens in foreign conflicts which has drastically reduced the number of people going to foreign wars,” he said.  

Stefanovic said that the fight against organized crime and money laundering are important parts of the fight against terrorism. He warned that part of the money earned from drug trafficking and other things is used to finance terrorism across the world. He said that Serbia recognized that challenge and implemented measures recommended by international organizations and has amended laws covering online gambling and the use of crypto currencies.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560513/Serbia-faces-problems-with-combatants-returning-from-Middle-East.html

Kosovo's police detain two Russian nationals for illegal border crossing

January 14, 2020

Two Russians were arrested in northern Kosovo for, as the authorities said, illegally crossing from Serbia into Kosovo, the FoNet news agency reported on Tuesday.

Slobodan Bakic, from the Basic Prosecutor's Office in the Serb part of the divided Mitrovica town, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the Russians tried to enter Kosovo at the Jarinje crossing, but did not have the visa.

Then, they attempted to cross illegally at an alternative crossing.

"The police discovered, detained and processed them," Bakic said.

He identified the two as Igor Krasikov and Marina Vladimirovna Krasikov. The two were ordered 24-hour detention and their car, rented in Montenegro, was confiscated.

The arrest happened on January 13, when two Albanians were also apprehended and detained at the same crossing.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560409/Two-Russians-detained-in-Kosovo.html

Croatia's police to get a €376,000 facial recognition system

January 13, 2020

Croatia's interior ministry is getting a 2.8 million kuna (€376,000) digital facial recognition system, the Jutarnji List daily said on Monday, enabling local police to dramatically speed up the cross-referencing of image and video data and identifying suspects.

Jutarnji List quoted the ministry saying that the tender had been launched in October, without giving any more details as the project is officially classified as secret. Although the local media had previously speculated that the ministry is getting sophisticated camera systems, the daily learned off the record that the latest tender involves facial recognition software.

This is the first time that Croatian police is buying biometric systems capable of identifying persons by comparing and analysing images of their facial features such as the shape of their lips, eyes, or nose, Jutarnji List said.

The technology would enable police to snap a picture of suspects or potentially groups of people and send them via tablet or mobile phone back to the command centre, where the software could quickly cross-reference the images with pictures of wanted persons already in the database.

The software can also analyse and cross-reference video footage taken from surveillance cameras. Jutarnji List speculates that the system could greatly improve the surveillance of hooligans at sporting events, or identifying suspects after bank robberies.

According to manufacturers of this type of equipment, the software used for this purpose is up to 90 percent accurate.

At the moment, Jutarnji List said, police officers still rely on cross-referencing images and videos manually, and the new softeware is expected to speed up the process signifcantly. The police, as well as the civil and military intelligence agencies SOA and VSOA, legally have access to footage from any surveillance camera installed anywhere in the country.

These include nearly 500 fixed and mobile public surveillance cameras installed around capital Zagreb, although Jutarnji List reports that the law enforcement and security agencies are not yet equipped to monitor these systems in real time.

(€1 = 7.44 kuna)

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a403673/Croatia-s-police-to-get-a-376-000-facial-recognition-system.html

Minister Vulin decorates two ex-Yugoslav Army veterans

January 12, 2020

Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin has decorated two veterans of the former Yugoslav Army from Montenegro, Andrija Mandic and Danilo Lekovic, for their contribution to Serbia’s defence system, the ministry said on Sunday.

Mandic and Lakovic received Military Commemorative Medals during a ceremony at the Great Wartime Hall.

Minister Vulin said that all those who were defending the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 deserve equal attention and respect, regardless of whether they are citizens of Serbia or Montenegro.

Mandic, who is now one of the leaders of the opposition Democratic Front (DF) in Montenegro, said this was a great recognition for the unit he had commandeered and all reserve forces members “who were proud of responding the call of their homeland and of defending their homeland the same way as their glorious ancestors.”

“It’s been twenty years no and the many in Montenegro, the same ones who were calling for desertion back in 1999, who worked for the NATO in 1999, tried to make people ashamed of being the members of the Army of Yugoslavia,” he stressed.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a559917/Minister-Vulin-decorates-two-ex-Yugoslav-Army-veterans.html

Migrant-smuggling in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the rise

January 9, 2020

Over 60,000 illegal migrants have passed through Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of 2018 on their way to western Europe, increasing the number of human smuggling cases, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) reported on Thursday.

Referring to the data of the Bosnian Border Police, BIRN states that there were 80 cases of migrant smuggling in 2019 and 70 in 2018.

Last year criminal complaints were filed against 120 people because of that. Among them were 22 foreigners, nine of them Serbian citizens, states BIRN.

Based on those complaints, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina indicted 46 people, ten fewer than in 2018.

Forty-seven people accused in the last two years were found guilty.

Most of the defendants pleaded guilty so the sentences ranged from suspended sentences to three years in prison.

The longest sentence was pronounced against Pakistani national Usman-Ali Maqsood-Ahmed, the organizer of one smuggling group, who was also fined a little less than €4,000.

In 2018 this group smuggled at least 46 nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and India, which earned them at least 35 thousand euros.

Maqsood-Ahmed became a human smuggler by falsely introducing himself as a migrant and offering those ready to pay him to transfer them across Bosnia to the EU border.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a402803/Migrant-smuggling-in-Bosnia-and-Herzegovina-on-the-rise.html

Special forces to protect Austrian Justice Minister of Bosnian descent

January 8, 2020

Following a wave of hate speech directed at the newly appointed Austrian Justice Minister Alma Zadic online, Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism warned of a possible planned attack and immediately provided three agents from the Cobra special forces for her protection, Kronen Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

How long their assignment will last depends on further threat assessment.

However, the daily notes that the assignment is all the riskier because the Green party officials tend to go to work by bicycle, which complicates things even further.

The debate over who else, apart from Minister Zadic, will be granted Cobra protection is still ongoing.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a402572/Special-forces-to-protect-Austrian-Justice-Minister-of-Bosnian-descent.html

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