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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Early helicopter delivery gesture from Russia, Vucic says

December 3, 2019

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he views the early delivery of Russian combat helicopters as Moscow’s extended hand prior to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Serbian military took delivery of four Mi-35Ma multi-role combat helicopters which were flown in to Batajnica air base on an An-124 transport aircraft on Monday.

Vucic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi that the “extremely powerful machines” with “fantastic” weapons systems would be presented to the public in the next few days.

“Serbia is increasingly stronger. We had three or four Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters and a few Gazelles and today we have a helicopter fleet four or five times bigger than a few years ago. Besides the helicopters from Russia, two Airbus helicopters came from Europe recently. We are doing this to deter any attempt to endanger Serbia,” the president said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549370/Early-helicopter-delivery-gesture-from-Russia-Vucic-says.html

Serbian flight controllers warn of safety problems

December 3, 2019

The Serbian flight controllers union warned on Tuesday of violations of their rights, adding that they could launch a strike.

The union said in a statement that the Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services (SMATSA) is violating employee rights and endangering the safety of flights in the airspace over Serbia and Montenegro. It added that international institutions and the European transport workers union had been informed of the problems.

The union said that standard operating procedures have not been followed for a long time increasing the stress experienced by air traffic controllers and added that working hours have been changed in violation of the law.

“The working hours are the same in full season and at other times and controllers are often overworked with no adequate space for rest,” it said.

The SMATSA management responded to the union warnings saying that air traffic in its area of operation was safe and condemned what it said was an “imprecise and ill-intentioned” attempt to alarm the public by part of the union just days prior to negotiations on a new contract.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a549240/Serbian-flight-controllers-warn-of-safety-problems.html

Serbia’s secret service charges two men of espionage

November 29, 2019

Serbia’s Security-Information Agency (BIA) said on Friday it filed criminal charges for espionage against two men, N1 reported

BIA filed charges against Nikola Kajkic and Drazen Letic before the Higher Prosecutors’ Office in the northern town of Sremska Mitrovica.

The Agency said it collected data which showed that Letic, Serbia’s former police officer, was gathering intelligence information in Serbia and passing them on foreign intelligence officers.

He, BIA said, did that under orders from Croatia’s security and political structures and secret agents of the Croatian Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) and was paid for those activities.

“Letic is a part of a network of several Serbia’s nationals, formed and used by Nikola Kajkic, Croatian national, an inspector for terrorism and extreme violence at the Vukovar – Srijem Police Department, and the head of the Croatian National Police Union, to collect intelligence data, to recruit persons from this area for cooperation with the Croatian judiciary as well as to obtain information that can be abused in foreign policy to discredit Serbia, “ BIA said.

Kajkic, BIA said, was especially active in gathering information related to investigations on crimes against Croatians in the 1991-1995 war, especially those already dealt with by the Special Department for War Crimes at the Belgrade District Court.

The Agency said Kajkic’s work was illegal, outside the existing channels between the two countries, “and under orders of some rightist political structures in Croatia and its intelligence service to challenge the capability of Serbia’s judiciary before the international institutions.”

BIA said Letic was arrested on July 13, 2019, in an international police raid by Serbia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Switzerland, as a member of an organized crime group led by an American national Michael Dokovic (real name Ilmija Frluckic) during an attempt to smuggle 600 kilogrammes of cocaine worth 18 million Euros, from Uruguay to Switzerland.

Kajkic is not within reach of Serbia’s investigators and is outside the country, BIA says.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a548112/Serbia-s-secret-service-accuses-two-men-of-espionage.html

Serbia issues 329 arms and military equipment export permits this year

November 25, 2019

Serbia’s Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunication said on Monday it issued 329 licences for exporting arms and military equipment since the beginning of 2019, while last year, it allowed 329 companies to trade arms and equipment, adding that 13 requests were denied due to incomplete companies’ date, the Beta news agency reported.

 In 2019, the Ministry said, it refused to issue a licence to only one company, “because the exporters are well aware of the procedures and conditions for permits.”

In its answer to Marinika Tepic, an opposition MP, the Ministry said that for the export of arms and military equipment, a company needed the consent of four institutions.

Tepic accused Serbia’s Government and its institutions of the way of approving permits in that business. i.e., for receiving money for its service.

“The permission is issued to any company which submit the request with original ‘End User’ certificate, original purchase contract and the proof that the country where the arms were heading was not under the UN, EU and OSCE sanctions. The rest are more or less the technical criteria,” the Ministry said.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Monday his country had never exported weapons to Ukraine, nor had it issued permits for arms trade with countries from the so-called blacklist.

 To Tepic’s question if the Ministry received 120,000 Euros per permit, it answered there was no reason for giving any money “when it’s known that the Ministry issues permission 24 hours after receiving the last consent from a respective institution.”

The Ministry called on Tepic to say “who gave and who took not 12.000 Euros but 120 Dinars for any favour in this process.”

“Serbia has been among five most transparent countries in the world in arms trade according to ‘Small Arms Survey’ international organisation in the last five years,” the Ministry said.

It added that it had answered to any individual request from MPs, investigative reporters at home and from abroad or foreign countries and that it was open for any information since, it said, it had nothing to hide.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a546834/Serbia-s-Trade-Ministry-says-country-exports-arms-legally.html

Serbia's secret service confirms man on video is Russian spy

November 20, 2019

Serbia's civilian secret service, Security-Information Agency BIA, confirmed the authenticity of a video showing Russian military main intelligence directorate (GRU) officer Colonel Georgy Viktorovich Kleban passing on money to a man allegedly Serbia's agent, media reported on Wednesday.

BIA's chief of analytics Relja Zeljski told the state RTS TV it was "undoubtedly established that the Russian intelligence officer is seen in the video."

Asked if the other man was a BIA agent or an officer of other intelligence agency or an official of any state institution, Zeljski avoided a direct answer, saying that right now he "wouldn't expand the story."

"Our agencies, both civilian and military, are working on all circumstances in this case and Serbia's President (Aleksandar Vucic) will give further details about the issue after the National Security Council's session due on Thursday," he said.

He added it was "crucial to say that the subversive intelligence operations in Serbia which are going on shouldn't be linked exclusively to the Russian Federation. On the contrary, other great powers, like the US, Great Britain and France, but also the regional players, to mention only Croatia and Albania, are very active in achieving their interests. That is always expected in international relations and politics," Zeljski told RTS.

He added that BIA and Military Security and Counter-Intelligence Agency, VBA, were working hard in this case and that they were professional, responsible and on time.

Zeljski said Vucic would talk about the details of the measures the state would take on the political level.

On November 18, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported that the video was published on the YouTube channel a day before and that it showed a meeting of two men at a parking lot. A man, described as "Russian agent," gave a plastic bag to "Serbia's agent" with an envelope with money in it.

RSE said Kleban was an assistant to the defence envoy at the Russian embassy in Belgrade until June 2019.      

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a545589/Serbi-s-secert-service-confirmed-Russian-spy-image-on-video.html

Serbia conducts three times more military exercises with NATO than with Russia

November 17, 2019

Although the recent military exercise with Russia during which the modern PVO S-400 rocket system was brought to Belgrade has attracted much attention in the domestic and international public, figures indicate that Serbia's army performs three times more joint exercises with NATO and its partner countries than with Russia.

According to the Balkan Security Network (www.balkansec.net), Serbia conducted 17 military exercises together with other countries - four with Russia and 13 with NATO partners.

"Serbia has developed cooperation with NATO in the field of military reform, prevention of corruption in the defence system, military education, destruction and recycling of obsolete ammunition as well as the civilian Science for Peace programme ... For several years, the military has been participating in the Operational Capabilities Concept and has units that are equipped and trained in accordance with NATO standards. Also, Serbian Armed Forces officers participate in the work of the NATO command in Naples under this concept,” it said.

Serbia's military delegation in Brussels maintains daily communication with NATO representatives, particularly from those states that have not recognised Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence.

According to the NATO headquarters, Serbia’s military participated together with NATO experts in training Iraqi military medical personnel.

Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services (SMATSA) cooperates with one of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOC) because it is in charge of Montenegro’s airspace and the country is a NATO member, the Balkan Security Network said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544601/Serbia-conducts-three-times-more-military-exercises-with-NATO-than-with-Russia.html

Vulin: Serbia only regional state without territorial claims against neighbors

November 16, 2019

Serbia “may be the only country in the region that has no territorial claims against its neighbours,” Serbia’s Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Saturday.

In an interview with pro-government Pink TV, Vulin dismissed criticism from some countries in the region regarding Serbia’s acquisition of the ‘Pancir’ air defence system and a joint exercise between Serbia’s Armed Forces and the Russian Air Force, which brought the S-400 to Serbia for that occasion.

The criticism came after N1 TV’s Programme Director spoke to an employee of the Krusic arms factory, Aleksandar Obradovic.

“Who are we threatening? The ‘Pancir’ system is exclusively a defence system,” Vulin said.

Vulin also commented on the invitation for the Serbian Army to participate in next year's Victory Parade in Moscow, saying, "who else would be at the Red Square if not the descendants of the winners".

"The times when (former Croatian President) Stjepan Mesic would go to Moscow and introduce himself as an anti-fascist are gone. Our ancestors marked us among the better part of humanity, and we will not remove ourselves from there," Vulin said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544377/Vulin-Serbia-only-regional-state-without-territorial-claims-against-neighbours.html

Serbia's Def Min to military counterintelligence: Better they fear you

November 15, 2019

Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's Defence Minister, told the members of the Military Security Agency (VBA), that the "fatherland expects you to unconditionally listen and implement the Commander-in-Chief and state leadership's orders, while the state and the army expect you to trust your country and people," the Beta news agency reported on Friday.

Speaking at the ceremony marking the military counterintelligence agency VBA Day and 180th anniversary of the organised security protection of the army in Serbia, Vulin said that "it's better they fear you because you can defend your country than to laugh at you because you are not able to."

Vulin added that "the centuries thought us that in the most difficult situations we were always left alone and could rely only on ourselves, and the VBA mission is to prepare the army and country for such a moment which we hope will never come, and what the state leadership does everything to avoid."

The VBA Day, November 12, is marked in memory of the same date in 1839 when the then Principality of Serbia passed the Military Law, the first legal act which systematically and in its wholeness defined the forms of endangering the army and its security protection.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544191/Better-they-fear-you-Serbia-s-Def-Min-tells-military-counterintelligence.html

NIN: GIM and two other arms dealers owe Krusik factory seven million Euros

November 13, 2019

Three privileged companies which were buying mines 20 percent cheaper than the state Jugoimport SDPR firm were the largest debtors to the Krusik ammunition factory with some seven million Euros at the end of 2018, the Belgrade NIN weekly reported on Wednesday.

One of those three is the GIM company which a whistleblower from Krusik linked to the father of Serbia's Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic. The other is 'Partizan tek,' owned by Slobodan Tesic, one of the biggest arms dealers in the Balkans who financially helps President Aleksandar Vucic's ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), NIN wrote in its latest edition.

The largest debtor is the 'International Golden Group' from Abu Dhabi, whose representative in Serbia is Rade Gromovic, former CEO of the "Zastava oruzje" (Zastava Weapons). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Government is the main shareholder in the Group, the weekly said.

NIN further details data from Krusik's 2018 financial report, which says that at the end of that year, Tesic's debt was 428.5 million Dinars (1€ = 118 dinars), GIM 194.9 million Dinars, and the International Golden Group 200.5 million Dinars.

The weekly adds that due to such high debts, Krusik's account has been blocked for three years, since November 2016.

NIN also quotes the Trade Ministry data, according to which, before the 'International Golden Group' employed Gromovic in 2015, the UAE hasn't been among ten most significant importers of weapons and military equipment made in Serbia, while after that it started climbing to the top with orders worth 99.7 million Dollars.

Next year, in 2016, the UAE became the largest importer, with orders worth 181.6 million Dollars.

In the meantime, after collecting documents for five years, as he said, Aleksandar Obradovic, the Krusik whistleblower, linked the dubious arms trade deals also to other highest political leaders in Serbia, including President Aleksandar Vucic.

Obradovic was arrested on September 18 this year at the workplace at Krusik, kept in house arrest, transferred to a jail, and then return to the house arrest after NIN published his story, and the public demanded his release from prison.

Before the NIN story, his captivity had been kept a secret from the media and, therefore, from the public.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543547/Belgrade-weekly-discloses-debts-private-arms-traders-owe-to-state-ammunition-producer.html

Dacic: Serbia-NATO cooperation important

November 13, 2019

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Wednesday that cooperation with NATO is important but that the country’s military neutrality is not in doubt.

“Cooperation with NATO is based on clear premises and on respect for Serbia’s policy of military neutrality without the condition of our country becoming a member of the Alliance,” he told a conference during the 7th Belgrade NATO week.

The Foreign Minister said that Serbia is open to promoting the political dialogue and specific cooperation with NATO in all areas of mutual interest. “The policy of military neutrality, as the basis for our policy not just towards NATO but also towards every other military alliance, is not in doubt,” Dacic said.

He said relations with NATO remain delicate because of the 1999 bombing campaign. “I regret to remind you that NATO intervened in 1999 without UN Security Council authorization which for us was an act of aggression on a sovereign country… We can’t forget those events and we will always remember the people who died,” he said and added that all those involved in the events of 1999 have an obligation to cooperate to keep the peace in the region, despite different views.

Dacic said that Serbia understands its neighbors’ decision to join NATO and expects understanding for its contacts with non-NATO countries. Dacic said the situation in Kosovo is an important part of cooperation with NATO since Kosovo is the biggest political and security challenge facing Serbia. “We expect the Alliance to show understanding and support for our priorities, especially in regard to Kosovo. We believe that a compromise solution reached through the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue with international community support is the only way to secure a lasting peace and stability. There is no reason why something agreed by both sides should not be acceptable for any third party,” the foreign minister said.

He said that Serbia expects KFOR to prevent any further deployment of the Kosovo Security Forces in the north of Kosovo.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543473/Dacic-Serbia-NATO-cooperation-important.html

Vucic denies new arms deal accusations, says doesn't know what GIM is

November 12, 2019

In the latest part of the arms trade saga in Serbia involving the father of the Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Marinika Tepic, an opposition MP, showed reporters a photo which she said was taken at a meeting of Serbia's and Libya's delegations, adding President Aleksandar Vucic mediated an arms deal in his then capacity of Defence Minster, N1 reported.

Tepic presented a photo which showed Slobodan Tesic, an arms dealer who, as she said, was on the UN blacklist for arms trading.

She accused Vucic of mediating the arms trade between Tesic and the Libyans in 2013. Tepic added that following the deal, two members of Serbia's embassy in Tripoli were killed in 2015, and the ambassador in 2017.

"This hasn't started with Branko Stefanovic (the Minister's father). It started when Aleksandar Vucic took posts that enabled him to access military arsenal and industry," Tepic told reporters.

“As the Defence Minister, Vucic insisted that Tesic takes part in the state delegation, “ Tepic said.
She added the witnesses confirmed that Vucic was present at the dinner in the Guard House in Belgrade.
“… among others he (Vucic) talked to one of the Al-Qaeda leaders who was a part of the Libyan delegation,” Tepic said.

She said that Vucic had a 15-minute meeting with the Manager of the GIM private firm trading in arms, which Aleksandar Obradovic, a whistle-blower from Serbia's ammunition Krusik factory linked to Branko Stefanovic, his son and Vucic, alleging their dubious businesses damaged Krusik.

Commenting on Tepic’s allegations, Dragan Sormaz, a ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MP said that “the arms trade and arms export from Serbia is a legal and legitimate business done in line with all international rules and that the buyers are known.” He added the country had never cooperated with the terrorists. “Where some ammunition or weapons end up should not be of our interest, nor can we affect what a buyer will do with that.”

Later on Tuesday, Nebojsa Stefanovic said he was gathering information and would address the public in a few days, adding he was ready to take a polygraph test, even abroad if needed.

Obradovic was arrested and is still in house arrest suspected of revealing business secrets.

Vucic and other officials said he could not get a whistle-blower status since he did not inform the authorities about his findings but foreign journalists instead.

 Asked to comment on Tepic's statement that he met the GIM director Goran Todorovic, Vucic, who is on an official visit to France,  said he had never heard about the man, nor had he seen him. "With the director? GIM? What is GIM? The company accused regarding Krusik? I don't even know his name. I never talked to that man, I have one phone and will give it to be checked who did I talk to. Look, what pathetic liars they are," Vucic said, referring to Tepic and others who spoke about the arms deals.

A week ago, Vucic said Minister's father was "just an employ" in the GIM company, adding: "What that means? A baker cannot be a member of the Agriculture Minister's family because he uses grain from our fields," Vucic asked.

He denied being in the arms trade ever.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543309/Opposition-MP-says-Vucic-mediated-arms-trade-when-was-Defence-Minister.html

Serbian police arrest ammunition plant staff

November 11, 2019

Three employees of the Prvi Partizan ammunition factory were arrested for selling project documents for weapons and ammuntion from that military industry plant, the Higher Public Prosecution in Belgrade said on Monday.

The police also arrested the owner of the Skoplje-based Ars Group who is a national of North Macedonia.

The four men were identified only by their initials. A prosecution press release said that they were engineers and skilled workmen from Prvi Partizan.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543023/Serbian-police-arrest-ammunition-plant-staff.html

Kosovo intelligence agency chief resigns

November 7, 2019

The head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (KIA) Shpend Maxhuni resigned from that post, the KoSSev news portal reported on Wednesday.

KoSSev said that the resignation was confirmed by outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in a Facebook post. “I accepted the resignation of KIA Director Shpend Maxhuni,” Haradinaj wrote, recalling that he decorated the former intelligence chief for loyalty to his homeland. He added that Maxhinu played a special role in the efforts of his government to reinforce the rule of law. “The KIA is now one of the most professional and most reliable institutions in the country,” Haradinaj wrote.  

Maxhuni was Director of the Kosovo Police for several years before being appointed to head the KIA in March 2018.  

The Vetevendosje movement (which won the recent parliamentary elections) demanded Maxhuni’s resignation after illegal weapons and a small amount of a suspected narcotic were found in his son’s car. Vetevendosje and its leader Albin Kurti also blamed him for the illegal deportation of six Turkish opponents of President Recep Tayip Erdogan and claimed he was under the control of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541597/Kosovo-intelligence-agency-chief-resigns.html

Police whistleblower says classified data easily accessible

November 5, 2019

The Insajder investigative portal said on Tuesday that it had learned from a police officer has been warning for some time that unauthorized persons had access to classified information.

The unnamed police whistleblower said that no one reacted to his warnings and he decided to contact Insajder and hand over documents which confirm that he warned officials at the Internal Affairs Ministry. The officer said that top ministry officials had no idea if police officers who had access to classified information were empowered to do so.

The police officer was dismissed from a task force investigating the murders of journalists and was not given an explanation for the dismissal. The dismissal document was classified and the officer was warned not to say anything to anyone. The officer said he was taken off the task force because he reported illegal activities in the ministry and police. He checked whether the officials who handed him the dismissal document had clearance for classified information and it turned out that they did not.

Insajder recalled that the Director of Police issued an order in February 2018 for data on who had clearance for classified documents. The Office of the Ombudsman conducted its own investigation. Acting Ombudsman Milos Jankovic said that the ministry told his office that they do not have any kind of records of the police officers and ministry official with clearance for classified documents.

Under Serbian law, access to classified information is allowed for persons with a security certificate issued by the Office of the Council for National Security. The only people allowed access without a certificate are the president, prime minister and parliament speaker.

The documents handed to Insajder by the police whistleblower show that the ministry did not abide by regulations on classified information.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541272/Police-whistleblower-says-classified-data-easily-accessible.html

Serbia's Army: Ex chief-of-staff trying to question VS' reinforcement

November 5, 2019

The Army of Serbia (VS) General Staff said that its former chief-of-staff General Zdravko Ponos tried to put in question the Army's reinforcement "without arguments," describing his words as "irresponsible and those of a layman," the FoNet news agency reported.

 Ponos told FoNet last week that the current "political leadership is playing with the defence system and security," while "not having either professional or moral competence."

The General  said that "playing with the defence was best shown with the display of the (Russian) S-400 rocket system" which, he said, "Serbia doesn't need militarily."

But, he added" "that was a political message" which "demonstrated the force and the friendship with Russia."

He compared the display of the S-400 to "the driving of a Rolls Royce across a dusty yard just to show the neighbours who we hosted."

Russia, on the other hand, Ponos said, sent a message to the West that Moscow "is putting a foot in Serbia's door, while (Serbia's President Aleksandar) Vucic needs that to divert the voters' attention, hiding what he intends to do with Kosovo."

The Army statement, however, said that thanks to Serbia's military neutrality, the country "is in a position to acquire equipment from around the world, including from Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, China and other countries.

It also said Serbia received substantial donations from the Russian Federation, the US, Belarus, which is something that not many countries can be proud of."

The statement added that VS participated in military exercises with both Western and Eastern countries, including those with NATO members.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541123/Army-of-Serboia-General-staff-criticises-former-boss.html

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