International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Coronavirus UPDATE: 25 deaths, 2,007 newly infected in Serbia

April 29, 2021

Over the last 24 hours, 25 patients died from COVID-19-related complications and out of 14,004 tested people, 2,007 were infected with the coronavirus, Serbia's Health Ministry said on Thursday.

To date, COVID-19 claimed a total of 6,337 lives with a mortality rate of 0.92 percent.

On Thursday, a total of 4,711 patients were in hospitals, of whom 171 on ventilators.

Since the epidemic outbreak in March 2020, 3,828,544 people have been tested,  and 687,944 samples have returned positive for the new virus.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-25-deaths-2007-newly-infected-in-serbia/

Bosnia registers 488 new coronavirus infections, 48 COVID-19 fatalities

April 29, 2021

A total of 488 people tested positive for the coronavirus and 48 COVID-19 patients passed away in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past 24 hours, while 481 people recovered, healthcare authorities reported on Thursday.

In Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity, 279 of the 2,389 people tested were positive for the virus and 35 died from the disease.

In the other semi-autonomous entity, Republika Srpska (RS), 182 of 654 people tested since Wednesday were positive for the virus and 12 COVID-19 died.

Bosnia’s Brcko District registered 27 new infections and one fatality related to the disease.

A total of 197,866 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of the pandemic and 158,641 of them have recovered so far.

The COVID-19 death toll is 8,512.

There are currently 30,713 active coronavirus cases in the country.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-registers-488-new-coronavirus-infections-48-covid-19-fatalities/

Coronavirus on April 29: Montenegro

April 29, 2021

Over the last 24 hours, seven patients died from COVID-19-related complications, and out of 1,336 tested people, 177 were infected with the coronavirus in Montenegro, according to Public Health Institute report on Thursday.

The death toll stood at 1,492.

Since the epidemic outbreak, 97,257 people tested positive for the virus.

Currently, there are 2,400 active cases of infection.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-29-2021/

Coronavirus on April 29: Kosovo

April 29, 2021

In the last 24 hours, nine people died from COVID-19-related complications, and out of 3,262 tested people, 269 were infected with the coronavirus in Kosovo, its Public Health Institute said on Thursday.

The death toll stood at 2,162, while 93,528 patients have recovered since the epidemic outbreak.

At the same time, 530,954 people have been tested and 104,986 of them have been positive for the virus.

Currently, there are 9,296 active cases of infection.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-29-2021/


Coronavirus on April 29: North Macedonia

April 29, 2021

Over the last 24 hours, 46 patients died from COVID-19-related complications, and out of 2,453 tested people, 433 were infected with the coronavirus in Norths Macedonia, its Health Ministry said on Thursday.

The death toll stood at 4,818, while 132,171 patients have recovered since the epidemic outbreak.

At the same time, a total of 152,002 people tested positive for the virus.

Currently, there are 15,013 active cases of infection.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-april-29-2021/

Foreign Minister: First shipment of EU vaccines coming to Bosnia on Tuesday

April 29, 2021

Bosnia's Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic tweeted Thursday that she got the confirmation that the first EU's coronavirus vaccine shipment, paid for from the IPA funds, will arrive on Tuesday, and that all future shipments will be made on time.

Bosnian citizens are grateful to the EU and its member states, especially the Austrian Foreign Ministry who contributed to the fight against Covid-19,“ Turkovic tweeted.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/foreign-minister-first-shipment-of-eu-vaccines-coming-to-bosnia-on-tuesday/

Chinese donation of 50,000 Sinopharm vaccines arrives in Bosnia

April 29, 2021

A total of 50,000 coronavirus vaccines, donated by the People's Republic of China, arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday.

The Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, Yi Ping, presented the donation to the Minister of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ankica Gudeljevic, in Rajlovac.

China has donated 50,000 Sinopharm vaccines to BiH.

“At a time when every dose of vaccine is eagerly awaited not only in BiH but all over the world, China's friendly gesture is even more precious and significant for the people of our country,” said Minister Gudeljevic in her introductory address.

“Bosnia is facing the problem of slow delivery of vaccines, the impatience of the residents is more pronounced every day, and medical workers are making every effort to cope with this pandemic. We are all facing a great challenge, so today's donation is more than just a donation,” she noted.

According to her, this donation is a gesture that instills hope that we are not alone and that BiH will continue the vaccination of its citizens.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/chinese-donation-of-50000-sinopharm-vaccines-arrives-in-bonsia/

FBiH PM: Entity likely to buy Sputnik V, CovShield or Sinopharm vaccines

April 29, 2021

Bosnia's Federation (FBiH) entity is conducting negotiations with three Covid vaccine producers – from Russia, India and China and negotiations are nearing their end, the FBiH Prime Minister Fadil Novalic said Thursday, speaking to the FBiH House of Peoples.

According to him the negotiations with two US producers, Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson were aborted because the two only negotiate with states, adding that their response was sent to him, personally.

As for the Sputnik V vaccine, he said that they “teamed up with the Sarajevo Canton in the procurement of this vaccine.”

“The Sarajevo Canton is the project manager, and we only help them with the necessary papers. The Russians do not want to negotiate with the cantons, but we have explained through embassies and [diplomatic] channels that we are not a state, but a state entity. These are pre-contractual operations and we need to procure 500,000 vaccines, and they are a likely source,” said Novalic.

They also communicated with AstraZeneca and managed to get permission from the Government of England and permission from the Prime Minister of India. They still have to determine the wholesaler. The competition was announced last Thursday and it will be closed on Friday. They planned to purchase around 500,000 doses of Covidshield.

“The fourth channel is towards Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company that goes through interstate communications. They sent us six steps to complete, we are on the fifth. A negotiating commission should now be formed. We picked out the wholesaler because the state of BiH chose Hercegovinainalijek during the procurement of 200,000 of the same vaccine, so we just copied that. The next step is to sign the contract where the details of the price will be stated and when it will arrive,” said Novalic.

He pointed out that the prices differ from different circles they are in contact with, so for example the prices in the primary cycle were around $10, in the secondary circle they were $20, and in the tertiary, he cited the example of Israel which paid $37.

“We have to be prepared for price variations. We intend to submit the contract to the Parliament,” said Novalic.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/fbih-in-negotiations-with-russia-india-and-china-over-vaccines/

Slovenia accelerating inoculation, army included

April 29, 2021

Slovenia's government said on Thursday that with regard to the COVID vaccine quantities arriving, it would accelerate the rate of inoculating its population and the army would be involved in ramping up the rollout plan until the improvement of the situation in the country's hospitals.

After 3,937 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, 918 new cases of the coronavirus infection were identified or 23.3% which is worse than seven days ago when the rate of positive cases was 17.5%. In the past 24 hours, six people died as a consequence of the infection.

There are currently 636 hospitalized COVID patients or 15 more than on Wednesday when 80 new patients were admitted for hospital treatment. Currently, there are 157 patients in intensive care.

The death toll in Slovenia has increased to 4,243 while the seven-day incidence rate is still high at 210.5 per 100,000 population.

According to official data, to date, 413,033 people have been vaccinated with the first dose of a vaccine while 180,084 people have received both shots.

The Janez Janša government aims to vaccinate the majority of the population by the end of June.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/slovenia-accelerating-inoculation-army-included/

Russian Embassy responds to Palmer's interview to N1: They blame us for everything

April 29, 2021

Russian Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina said on Thursday it closely followed the statements by US ambassador Eric Nelson and special envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer who, according to the embassy, blamed Russia for all the troubles that Bosnia and Herzegovina has.

The statement comes a day after Palmer's interview to N1, in which he spoke about the situation in the Western Balkans, commenting among other things the alleged non-paper on redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans and Russia's influence in the region.

Palmer said Russia works to undermine the stability of not only Bosnia and Herzegovina but the whole region, which sparked the reaction of this country's embassy in Sarajevo.

“According to Palmer – and obviously not only him – Russia is to blame for all the troubles that Bosnia and Herzegovina has. We can only comment on such conclusions using one saying by (Russia's Foreign Minister) Sergey Lavrov: ‘It's good that they don't blame us for the murder of Franz Ferdinand’,” the embassy said.

The embassy assessed as “very interesting” Palmer's statement that the US supports the creation of “greater Bosnia and Herzegovina,” commenting that such attributes usually mean redrawing of borders. “We have noticed an omission in the speech but the omissions in the Balkan conditions are usually not observed. When one speaks about something ‘greater’, they refer exactly to the redrawing of borders.”

Speaking to N1's Pressing, Palmer said the US does not support greater Serbia, greater Croatia, or greater Albania, but that it does support the greater Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, he explained this was not a geographic term.

“The country that presents a good administration. Transparency. Responsibility. Prosperity. The government that delivers to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina what it needs. That's the vision of greater Bosnia and Herzegovina that has the strong support of the US,” he said.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/russian-embassy-responds-to-palmers-intvw-to-n1-they-blame-us-for-everything/

Stoltenberg: Speculations about border changes in W. Balkans add to uncertainty

April 29, 2021

Constructive dialogue and continued respect for the internationally recognised borders is the best way forward for the stability and security in the region, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, adding that speculations about border changes will only add to the uncertainty.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting with President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski in Brussels, Stoltenberg briefly commented on the recent media reports about alleged non-paper containing ideas of the change of borders in the Western Balkans.

“Any speculations about changing borders will only add to the uncertainty and create instability in the region. So I think any speculation about that is not helpful,” he said.

“What matters for NATO is the stability and security in Western Balkans; it is, of course, important for the region but also important for peace and stability in Europe,” he added.

Stoltenberg noted that the alliance will continue to work with its members and partners for peace and stability in the region.

“NATO strongly supports stability in the region in different ways, working closely with partners in the region but also through our open-door policy. We have to remember that there are many NATO allies in the region and over the last few years NATO had the privilege of welcoming two more countries in the region as full members of the alliance, first Montenegro and last year North Macedonia. So we will continue to work for the peace and stability with our partners and members in the region,” he added.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/stoltenberg-speculations-about-border-changes-in-w-balkans-add-to-uncertainty/

Testimony of a businessman who reported a Bosnian judge for bribery

April 29, 2021

Senad Hoermann, a businessman from BiH and the founder of Sevoi Financial Consulting doo, explained, in an exclusive interview for N1, how he was a victim of corruption, how he was asked to pay a bribe in the amount of €1,000 which led to the arrest of the Banja Luka Court Judge Nebojsa Pejovic on April 21, in an operation codenamed "Barka".

In 2019, Senad Hoermann registered a company in Banja Luka called Sevoi Financial Consulting d.o.o. However, after only a year, the Sevoi Group from Belgrade initiated proceedings asking Hoermann to change the name of his company. The Banja Luka Court then decided that Hoermann must change the name of his company, however, Hoermann claims he did not receive the Court decision at that time.

“The judge brought a decision against my company that I must change the name of my company within the prescribed time limit, otherwise, the request for the company registration would be rejected. This is nonsense because the company has been operating for two years and now they're classifying it as if it was never even registered. I never got that decision physically, and then Judge Pejovic appeared on behalf of some of his colleagues,” Hoermann told N1, expressing suspicions that such a conclusion was reached through corruption, noting that his company is also engaged in the implementation of corruption management systems.

“Precisely because the company deals with this (corruption), we are professionals in the field, it is easy for us to notice if something happens in that way. I also mentioned this to Judge Pejovic,” Hoermann said, adding that he agreed to a meeting with the Judge, who contacted him and suggested that they see each other.

“Judge Pejovic said that he and his team wanted to help me. The conversation with Pejovic came down to this: You will give us €1,000, to begin with, that is your entrance, to show goodwill, and we, in turn, because we have the information that there will be additional lawsuits, will start protecting you,” said Hoermann, pointing out that after this conversation, he turned to Bosnia's special police called State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA).

“I received help immediately. I congratulate them (SIPA) in terms of their speed, professionalism, knowledge and desire to help citizens,” he said.

In cooperation with SIPA, Hoermann organized a new meeting with Judge Nebojsa Pejovic, at which he was supposed to give him the requested €1,000. That is when Pejovic was arrested.

“I deeply believe in the system, I believe in the goodwill of all citizens, honest people in the public sector. There are many of them,” Hoermann said adding that from what he could gather regarding his case, “this is a negotiated justice, which they have organized for themselves. That each judge from the group has five or six lawyers, where they agree, who will win, who will lose. Then they come in from the other side, to extort money.”

The fight against corruption is done on the ground

The fight against corruption is done on the ground, we mustn’t watch everything in a lump sum,” said Hoermann. “If one judge is corrupt, not all of them are. If one is corrupt – we will single him out and help the people.”

Because of all this, he said he receives threats, threatening messages, which is why many would give up. He has not given up, nor will he, he claims. He also explained why.

“I didn't know that Viber (a messaging app) and other messengers had disappearing messages. I received messages like – ‘we know where you are’, ‘we know who you are’. This doesn't scare me,” he pointed out.

Hoermann suspected eight persons

Hoermann said that it is those who threaten him that are most afraid. Now, his goal is to expose and reveal other members of the group with whom Judge Nebojsa Pejovic allegedly cooperated.

“It’s about eight people, according to our information, they are connected to the Ministry of Justice of the Republika Srpska entity. We can't talk about names because of the investigation. When the prosecution comes out – I will come out with their names,” he said.

Banja Luka Judge Nebojsa Pejovic under the suspicion of having committed the crime of trading in influence. He was arrested after the video of the handover of money was made.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/testimony-of-a-businessman-who-reported-a-bosnian-judge-for-bribery/

Nova.rs editor: Serbia’s PM free-market story ridiculous

April 29, 2021

Veselin Simonovic, the Nova.rs website editor-in-chief, said on Thursday he was surprised by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic's statement that "Serbia is a free country and that she doesn't control printing companies and doesn't know what she can do" to make them print the United Media new Nova daily.

„The story about market freedom in Serbia is ridiculous because a small circle of people decides about all deals, public calls, purchasing of media… So, the story about a free market is senseless, making the one about the rule of law even more pointless coming from those people,“ Simonovic said.

Simonovic has recently warned that no print shop in Serbia accepted to print the new daily, claiming overbooking or lack of technical possibilities.

„I don’t know what I can say about t. You have so many printing companies, make a deal with them; believe me, I don’t know what’s the problem,“ Brnabic said.

She added it might have been the case of „a price which Nova rs. didn’t want to pay, or three hundred other things.“

„This is a free country and free market, not a state-run economy in which a prime minister can order anything to anyone,“ Brnabic said.

United Media listed six print shops which „stating different reasons, refused the job. The excuses varied from no answer to lack of capacity or currently broken machines, while only a few openly said they were afraid of the authorities’ reaction.“

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/nova-rs-editor-serbias-pm-free-market-story-rediculous/

Accused drug producer planned marijuana legalization in Serbia

April 29, 2021

Serbia's Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar has recently said the country could take cannabis off the list of narcotics, according to the UN ruling, prompting speculations the move would retroactively help Predrag Koluvija, the owner of Jovanjica, the largest marijuana plant in Europe, officially presented as organic food and industrial cannabis farm.

Koluvija and his allies are pending trial after two indictments against them have been confirmed.

In an article for the Belgrade NIN weekly, N1’s reporter Jelena Zoric wrote about where that guesswork came from, recalling that the anti-drug police officers found a project on legalization of cannabis in Koluvija’s desk which he wrote and addressed to the Health Ministry ahead of the arrest, but didn’t send it before ending in jail.

If they cannot challenge evidence and win in the courtroom, will they change the law? Could the announced change save Koluvija from years in prison?

Those speculations flooded the public in Serbia and were boosted by one of Koluvija’s defense team members who said that if cannabis were legalized, the Jovanjica plant owner and his criminal organization could get milder penalties or even be acquitted.

The lawyer who demanded anonymity said that Koluvija’s organization was charged with the production of marijuana, not its distribution, and if it were legalized, its cultivation would not be a crime.

Besides, in case of changes, defendants could ask to be tried under more favorable law.

However, since Koluvija and his allies illegally produced marijuana, they could not escape punishment but could receive a milder one.

Zoric recalled that Koluvija publically presented himself as a pious, successful businessman – a producer of organic food and Indian hemp.

Monks from the Serbian Orthodox Church Hilandar monastery at Mount Athos even consecrated his plant.

He was often a member of the delegations with President Aleksandar Vucic at business forums.

Former Minister of Labor, then Defence Minister, and now the Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, picked lettuce and tomatoes on Koluvija’s property.

A senior official of Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Zoran Babic, promoted Jovanjica’s products.

Many politicians and officials, including the Anti-Corruption Agency Direktor Dragan Sikimic also visited the farm near Stara Pazova in northern Serbia.

Dragomir Petronijevic, a member of the SNS Main and Executive boards, was often present at the organic food seminars along with Koluvija.

They also held business seminars and courses on agriculture for police officers.

Koluvija had the license for producing industrial hemp, but the investigation after his arrest showed his products had much higher Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, which defined them as narcotics.

The indictment says that Koluvija and his allies have been in drug trade across the region and some European Union member states for the last ten years.

Koluvija, 41, was born in Germany, where he was convicted for multiple frauds before coming to Serbia in 2000. In Italy, he was charged with possessing illegal arms.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/accused-drug-producer-planned-marijuana-legalisation-in-serbia/

Serbia’s Def Min denies involvement in case of police returning car to criminal

April 29, 2021

Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia's former Interior and current Defence Minister, denied before the Belgrade Higher Prosecutors' office accusations that he ordered a police officer to return an armored car to a criminal.

Last week, the Office’s Special Department for Curbing Corruption approved a request by Branislav Tapuskovic, a defense lawyer for Goran Papic, former deputy head of the Anti-organised Crime Department of the Interior Ministry (MUP), to question Stefanovic about Papic’s claim that Stefanovic ordered him to return the car to a member of Veljko Belivuk’s notorious criminal organization.

Stefanovic was questioned as a witness and described Tapuskovic’s statements as „fabrications,“ adding the police had never linked him to the case. He was then the Interior Minister.

Later on Thursday, the Belgrade Higher Court released Papic pending trial, his lawyer Tapuskovic told Nova.rs website.

He said he fully supported all relevant institutions to finalize every case and discover all links, including the police officers’, to organized crime.

Stefanovic, considered one of the closest ally of President Aleksandar Vucic, has recently been in the spotlight  for alleged wiretapping of the President happened when he was Interior Minister

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-def-min-denies-involvement-in-case-of-police-returning-car-to-criminal/

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