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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Military plane crash kills two airmen, defence minister Krsticevic resigns

May 7, 2020

Croatian Air Force trainer plane carrying an instructor and a trainee crashed near the southern city of Zadar on Thursday, killing both servicemen. In a news conference held only hours later, Defence Minister, Damir Krsticevic, expressed his condolences to families of the men killed, and announced his resignation.

The aircraft, a small Czech-made Zlin-242 twin-seater, crashed near the 93rd Air Force Base in Zemunik, just east of the coastal city of Zadar. Military investigators said that the cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

"Today around 4 pm a Zlin trainer aircraft crashed during a regular training flight, near the village of Donje Biljane. Immediately after the accident, search and rescue teams were dispatched and after arriving at the crash site they confirmed that both airmen, First Lieutenant Marko Novkovic, and Lieutenant Luka Jagetic, had been killed. The cause of the crash is unknown at this moment," Chief of Staff of Croatia's Armed Forces, Vice Admiral Robert Hranj, told reporters in a news conference.

Hranj added that the plane has been in use with no problems since 2007, when Croatia had purchased five Zlin-242 trainers. The nearby Zemunik air base is the main base used by Croatian Air Force (HRZ) for training pilots.

First Lieutenant Marko Novkovic was an experienced pilot, and a member of the HRZ aerobatic display team Wings of Storm, and his trainee, Lieutenant Jagetic, had already performed solo flights prior to the fatal crash.

At the same news conference, Defence Minister, Damir Krsticevic, expressed condolences to families of the airmen killed, and made a suprising announcement announcing his resignation.

"Our job is to be with families (of the killed) now, and we will extend all the help and support that we can to them. I would like to express my condolences to all members of the Croatian Air Force and Croatian Army... As of today, I am resigning my post as deputy prime minister and defence minister," Krsticevic said.

This is the second crash of a military aircraft in little over three months. In late January, an American-made OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed into the Adriatic near the island of Zlarin, killing two airmen on board.

Croatian Air Force had grounded the remaining 15 Kiowa helicopters for three weeks following the crash, and the investigation - which experts said could take as long as a year - has not yet released a report on the cause of the crash.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a431964/Military-plane-crash-kills-two-airmen-defence-minister-Krsticevic-resigns.html

Serbian Defense Minister says soldiers fired warning shots at migrant camps

April 30, 2020

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin confirmed on Thursday that soldiers fired warning shots to prevent migrants from leaving the camps where they are being quarantined.

Vulin told Belgrade daily Politika that soldiers guarding migrants camps fired warning shots on two occassions. The Serbian military was deployed around the camps where migrants have been quarantined since the state of emergency was declared as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  

Pandemic Crisis Staff member, Dr Darija Kisic Tepavcevic said that residents at an old age center in Nis were infected with the coronavirus before soldiers were deployed to guard the facility. “COVID-19 appeared at the facility after unauthorized visits and before the Army of Serbia was deployed,” she said.

Vulin said that soldiers “used minimal force” to secure 20 camps housing more than 8,000 people who do not want to be in them”. “We are protecting the migrants and our population. If that wasn’t the case, 8,000 people would be wandering around Serbia during the pandemic and curfew,” the minister said, adding that all the people responsible for attempts to leave the camps and assaults on soldiers have been held accountable.  

He said that he was in the camp in the Belgrade suburb of Krnjaca when migrants tried to get out. “I told our troops that no one can take their rifles from them and no one can injure our soldier,” Vulin said and added that the soldiers showed “humanity but not weakness”.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a594483/Serbian-Defense-Minister-says-soldiers-fired-warning-shots-at-migrant-camps.html

Security Minister: Entities can not make decisions on Bosnia's border regime

April 29, 2020

Bosnia’s Security Minister ordered the Border Police to not implement the latest decision by authorities in the Serb-majority semi-autonomous region which allows farmers who own agricultural land near the Drina river to cross the border with Serbia in order to work in their fields.

The decision was adopted at a session of the Republika Srpska (RS) Headquarters for Emergency Situations on Wednesday.  

“The issue of the border is exclusively under the competency of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Minister Fahrudin Radoncic said, referring to the county’s government.  

He also criticised Serbia’s Government, saying it was “unacceptable” that the neighbouring country did not inform Bosnia’s security and foreign affairs ministries about its intention to open some border crossings, but directly dealt with the Centre in the town of Trebinje about it.  

“If this request from Republika Srpska is officially submitted to Bosnia’s Security Ministry, it will be considered and, if the opinion is positive, it will be sent to Bosnia’s Council of Ministers to decide,” he said.

“The Government of the Republic of Serbia must also first send a note regarding its intention to Bosnia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which will forward it to the Security Ministry for further procedure,” he added.

Radoncic stressed that there can be no compromise regarding border issues and that all must be done according to law and in a spirit of good neighborly relations, with complete respect for Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a429661/Security-Minister-Entities-can-not-make-decisions-on-Bosnia-s-border-regime.html

SIPRI: Serbian military spending rises 43 percent in 2019

April 27, 2020

Serbia recorded the biggest expenditure for its military among the countries of the Western Balkans in 2019, Radio Free Europe reported on Monday quoting a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Serbia’s military spending in 2019 stood at 1.14 billion Dollars or 43 percent higher than a year earlier, SIPRI said specifying that the increase amounted to 326 million Dollars.

SIPRI ranked Serbia 5th on the list of 15 countries with the biggest annual increase in spending on the military. RFE recaled that Serbia has been arming itself intensely over the past few years, relying heavily on Russia for its purchases, with a lack of transparency in financing those purchases.

RFE said that it sent the Serbian Defense Ministry a number of questions about the details of weapons procurement from Russia but received no reply. According to RFE, the Serbian authorities have increased the military budget by 199 million Euro in 2019, bringing that budget to 796 million Euro. It added that the way the money was being spent could not be determined from the data published by the Defense Ministry.

The report said that all the countries of the Western Balkans increased their military expenditures with Serbia and Croatia (1.009 billion Dollars) leading the field. The SIPRI report said that Albania’s military spending stood at 189 million Dollars in 2019, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 183, North Macedonia 151 Million, Montenegro 89.3 million and Kosovo 65.7 million Dollars.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a593348/SIPRI-Serbian-military-spending-rises-43-percent-in-2019.html

Serbian DefMin says army won’t stop training

March 25, 2020

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Wednesday that the military will not stop training during the state of emergency which includes its engagement to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

A ministry press release quoted Vulin as saying that the Army of Serbia (VS) must not loose its capabilities because of the new mission it got under the state of emergency. “The new mission includes security at 17 migrant centers and almost all the most important medical facilities, control of quarantines for people infected with the coronavirus and helping the Internal Affairs Ministry to establish control over border crossings,” he said after touring the Nikinci Arms and Military Equipment Testing Center.

Vulin was on a visit to Special Brigade troops doing live fire training with remote controlled weapons platforms. “All VS troops are under obligation to be ready to use new weapons,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a581879/Serbian-DefMin-says-army-won-t-stop-training.html

Chinese experts in Serbia: 29 days needed to calm down COVID-19

March 23, 2020

Serbia's Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on Monday the Chinese experts who came to Belgrade to help in fighting coronavirus pandemic, were expected to present a set of measures later in the day, the FoNet news agency reported.

"Till the end of the day, we will have more suggestions for the measures necessary to keep the situation under control, "Loncar told the pro-government Happy TV.

The Chinese experts who came to Belgrade on Saturday, also said people should respect the measures the country's Government prescribed, and that if they did, it would take 29 days to stabilise the situation.

Late on Sunday, speaking to the state RTS, Loncar said the experts estimated the time based on comparing Serbia to the areas in their country with similar population size and on their experience in fighting against COVID-19.

Loncar warned the population on Monday that the so far taken measures were the best possible at the moment, but that "the health system's capacity has its limits," which would be jeopradised if people did not honour those measures.

"Health care cannot withstand irresponsibility," he added.

As of Monday, Serbia's Health Ministry will update on the number of new coronavirus cases once a day, at 3 pm.

By 6 pm on Sunday, 222 positive cases of coronavirus COVID-19 were confirmed in Serbia.

Until March 22, the National Torlak Institute laboratory tested 761 people who fulfilled the criteria for testing (staying in the area of intensive transmission of virus and presence of symptoms of infection of the respiratory tract), the Health Ministry covid-19.rs website said.

Since the last report on March 22, at 8 am, 61 persons were tested, and 34 of them were positive.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a418639/Chinese-experts-in-Serbia-29-days-needed-to-calm-down-COVID-19.html

Bosnia's Federation entity declares state of emergency over coronavirus

March 13, 2020

Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity government decided to declare a state of emergency in that entity, during Monday's session.

 FBiH Prime Minister Fadil Novalic said this decision allows the government to take all the necessary steps.

“The government decided today to preserve retail prices of certain goods at the same level as on March 5. we initiated a change of Article 10 of the Public Procurement Law at the Council of Ministers (Bosnian parliament) to secure an exemption for the procurement of medical and protective equipment for the purpose of combating the coronavirus," Novalic said.

"The Banking Agency needs to adopt acts to keep the banking system in balance," he added.

The FBiH Prime Minister noted that the government will form the Guarantee Fund to ensure the economic liquidity, tax breaks and initiate state-level activities to provide for access to international financial institutions since this is a global issue.

Also, he confirmed that the government recommended that one parent be allowed to be absent from work if they have a 10-year-old child or younger.

The session was convened by the FBiH Prime Minister Fadil Novalic and in addition to government members, he invited the prime ministers of all 10 cantons and officials from the FBiH Employers Affociation, Association of Unions, FBiH Trade Chamber, FBiH Tax Administration, FBiH Police Administration, FBiH Civil Protection Agency, FBiH Inspection Administration, FBiH Development Programming institute, FBiH Commodity Reserve Directorate, FBiH Red Cross and the FBiH Health ministry's Crisis Staff.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a416649/FBiH-entity-declares-state-of-emergency-over-coronavirus.html

Bosnia's region restricts movement of migrants to contain COVID-19 spread

March 16, 2020

Responding to the coronavirus spread in the country, the authorities of Bosnia's westernmost region, the Una-Sana Canton (USK), passed conclusions on Monday, restricting the movement of migrants on its territory and imposing a ban on their further influx to the canton.

USK Health Ministry's crisis management group, which is closely following the developments concerning the coronavirus outbreak, has passed four conclusions that have an immediate effect.

They asked the competent authorities of the Federation (FBiH), Bosnia's semi-autonomous region that the USK is a part of, to hold an urgent session and review the situation in the USK, considering a large number of its citizens who work abroad, the fact that the USK is practically the country's gate to the European Union, a large number of migrants that are accommodated in several camps across the canton and poorly equipped health care centres and hospitals.

“We ask the FBiH Health Ministry's crisis management group to task the FBiH authorities in an urgent session to provide financial and other assistance to the USK institutions, to implement prevention measures and early discovery of potential disease cases caused by the novel coronavirus among the locals and migrants,” said the USK's crisis management group.

The body also fully restricted the movement of migrants who are staying out of the temporary camps on the canton's territory and their immediate relocation as well as further transportation of the migrants to the canton's territory.

Locals are not allowed to rent their private rooms or other facilities to migrants unless they possess valid documentation proving their identity.

A document signed by USK Health Minister Nermina Cemalovic demand from the USK Prime Minister to act urgently and task competent bodies to immediately implement the adopted conclusions.

USK is the westernmost part of Bosnia that borders Croatia and is packed with migrants from various African and Asian countries who are hoping to continue the journey to their final destinations in western Europe and elsewhere. But as Croatia keeps its borders closed for illegal migrants, thousands are stranded on the canton's territory, mostly accommodated in temporary camps run by local and international authorities.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a416645/Bosnia-s-region-restricts-movement-of-migrants-to-contain-COVID-19-spread.html

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases rises to 65 in Serbia

March 16, 2020

The Serbian Health Care Ministry reported on Tuesday morning that 65 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the country by 8:00 am.

The ministry’s covid19.rs web site said that 19 people had been tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, eight of who had tested positive. Three of the people infected are in isolation at their homes and the other five were hospitalized in generally stable condition with no complications, it added.  

The main national laboratory at the Torlak Institute of Virology tested a total of 335 people by 8:00 am on March 17, the ministry said.  

The Serbian authorities have imposed a state of emergency to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, closing kindergartens, schools and universities, deploying the military around infectious disease clinics and elsewhere, banning the elderly from leaving their homes and freezing the prices of basic commodities.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578715/Number-of-confirmed-coronavirus-cases-rises-to-65-in-Serbia.html

Bosnia sees its 25th COVID-19 case

March 16, 2020

Another person tested positive for the coronavirus in Bosnia on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 25.

The news came just minutes after Bosnia's Presidency expressed support for an initiative to set up quarantines at border crossings and ordered the army to put their equipment at the disposal of health institutions.

The new patient is from the northern town of Tesanj.

Meanwhile, two patients have been released from hospital after being healed, which brings the number of COVID-19 patients in Bosnia to 23.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578679/In-BiH-25-people-infected-with-coronavirus.html

Serbian DefMin: Military to help control hospitals, border crossings

March 16, 2020

The Serbian military will be engaged during the state of emergency to control public facilities, hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and testing for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, as well as assisting at border crossings, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Troops will be deployed wherever large numbers of people converge or pass through such as bus and railway stations, airports, post offices and similar.  

It said that the Army of Serbia (VS) is taking all precautionary measures to protect its personnel from the coronavirus following recommendations by the relevant services and is prepared to do whatever it is ordered to do to protect the state and its citizens in the state of emergency.  

Orders on the engagement of the military in providing support to the civilian authorities to prevent combat the coronavirus pandemic were issued by Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Chief of Staff General Milan Mojsilovic, the statement said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578435/Serbian-DefMin-Military-to-help-control-hospitals-border-crossings.html

Vucic says no more buying of weapons, then announces new purchases

March 3, 2020

Although three months ago, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said his country would stop buying weapons, in an interview with an Israeli paper he announced a new purchase of "not a small quantity" of their arsenal, N1 reported on Tuesday.

The most money Serbia has spent for weapons recently went for the Russian helicopters, their anti-aircraft defence system, parts for the Russian-made MIG military planes… That raised some eyebrows in the West, and Belgrade was warned.

Matthew Palmer, the State Department special envoy for the Balkans, said that there was some concern over the Russian military equipment deployed in Serbia, which could lead to sanctions against Belgrade.

Following that statement and before meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vucic had a different comment about the reform of his army.

"That doesn't mean what people think, that we're buying arms. On the contrary, we will stop purchasing weapons," he said then.

And it stopped. Until Vucic went to Washington, where he talked to the Israeli 'Jerusalem Post' saying that Serbia wanted to buy arms from Israel and that wouldn't be "a small order."

In the meantime, before the trip to the US, Vucic had talks with a UK high-ranking army officer about the military cooperation between Britain and Serbia.

"The choice of arms producers is without doubt politically motivated and a way to affirm Serbia's international relations," Aleksandar Radic, a military analyst said.

"In the context of creating foreign policy references, Israel is the next stop – it doesn't matter what will be bought, it's important to buy. So, we can expect some purchase from the US. It would be the cherry on the cake which will make clear that when we speak about arms buying, it's not that important for the modernisation of the military and choice of equipment, but more for what that means in the foreign policy ambience," Radic said.

The purchase of arms is always linked to foreign policy, Katarina Djokic from the Belgrade Center for Security Policy agrees.

"However, this kind of balancing can be dangerous since it's expensive. You have different kind of weapons which are far more expensive to maintain in the long run. You have to buy different parts, train people for different types of maintenance… And all of that could be more damaging than useful to the army," she warned.

People N1 interviewed on the issue said that sending a message to Moscow that their arsenal wouldn't be the only one Serbia would buy, bore a specific risk too. Namely, in the next decades, Serbia must purchase spare parts for the weapons it has already bought from Russia.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574648/Serbia-balances-in-choice-of-arms-and-equipment.html

Serbia preparing for new wave of migrants, ministers tell Szijjártó

March 2, 2020

Two Serbian ministers told Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó that Serbia is preparing intensively for a new wave of migrants, including stepped up border control.

Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic told joint press conference with Szijjártó that the Serbian authorities are preparing for a new wave of migrants, recalling that the country had a humane approach to the problem so far.  

The Hungarian Foreign Minister said that his country would not allow a single illegal migrant across its borders. He said Hungary would defend its borders and would help Serbia deal with the problem. He warned of a wave of hundreds of thousands of migrants following Turkey’s decision to open its borders.  

A press release from Szijjártó’s meeting with Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that communication between the two countries’ police forces is good and recalled that Hungarian police officers have been deployed on Serbia’s border with North Macedonia as part of a European Union project.  

Stefanovic said that the situation on the border is stable, adding that his ministry is monitoring the situation on the Greece-Turkey border.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574176/Serbia-preparing-for-new-wave-of-migrants-ministers-tell-Szijj%C3%A1rt%C3%B3.html

Dutch navy arrest eleven Montenegrins for smuggling five tons of cocaine

February 28, 2020

The Montenegrin state RTCG TV reported on Friday that eleven of the coastal republic’s citizens were arrested on board of the ‘Aressa’ ship in Aruba’s territorial waters with 5.4 tonnes of cocaine.


The Dutch Navy intercepted the ship after being informed that the cocaine was on board and conducted a thorough search and discovered 200 packages containing over 5,000 kilograms of the drug.

The drug is suspected to be originated from Columbia and should have been smuggled to a port in Western Europe.

The Spanish media reports that the ‘Aressa’ 10-strong crew was apprehended.

“There was a lot of metal waste on the ship in which a significant quantity of the drug was well hidden.

The whole operation was initiated by the Montenegrin police, which monitored the criminal group for months and cooperated with many other foreign police forces.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a573447/Montenegrin-nationals-arrested-with-five-tonnes-of-cocaine.html

Belgrade and London discuss military cooperation

February 27, 2020

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic told Admiral Timothy Fraser, Vice-Chief of the UK Defence Staff, whom he met in Belgrade to discuss the development of bilateral cooperation in defence and security, that "Serbia will always supported peaceful and stable Balkans," the Beta news agency reported on Thursday.

Vucic's cabinet said in a statement that during the Admiral's visit, a plan on bilateral military cooperation covering 33 joint activities would be signed.

Fraser said the British military was ready to offer help in educating and training the members of the Army of Serbia, including joint exercises of the two military forces.

Vucic and Fraser agreed that the strategic goals of the cooperation in defence in the next period would focus on strengthening the military educational and medical areas. 

Serbia's President said he hoped that the relations between Serbia and Britain would reach the level of real friendship and that the exchange of high-ranking officials' visits would contribute to two countries' stronger and richer relationship in all aspects.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a573021/Serbia-and-UK-to-sign-plan-on-bilateral-military-cooperation-covering-33-joint-activities.html

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