International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Tepic says Serbian president caught up in legal wire-tapping operation

March 10, 2021

Serbian opposition leader Marinika Tepic said on Wednesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s phone calls were intercepted as part of an investigation into a right wing organization’s chief.

Tepic told a news conference that Serbian Right leader Misa Vacic was under investigation from 2017 to 2019 and added that President Vucic and his brother Andrej were recorded as part of the legal wire-tapping operation. She said that Vacic was under surveillance on suspicion of extremism and for possession of illegal firearms which, she added, was not seized because he has “friendly, almost family relations with Aleksandar Vucic”. The Vucic brothers were caught up in the operation because they communicated with extremists, criminals and people in trouble with the law, she said.

Tepic showed documents which she said were statements by the police officers in charge of the wire-tapping showing that they were acting under orders and court warrants.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/tepic-says-serbian-president-caught-up-in-legal-wire-tapping-operation/

Montenegro ramps up measures, asks EU and NATO for help

March 10, 2021

Montenegro's health system is about to collapse, Foreign Minister Đorđe Radulović said in a letter to EU and NATO officials, calling for urgent help in the fight against coronavirus, media in the capital Podgorica reported on Wednesday.

At the same time, the country's health authorities decided to tighten epidemiological restrictions.

In his letter Radulović calls for doctors and other medical staff to be urgently deployed to Montenegro, the Pobjeda daily reported.

Montenegro asked for help as part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in an attempt to try and put the epidemic under control, stressing that the deployment of doctors and medical staff was urgently needed.

Montenegro is currently one of the most affected countries in Europe, registering a high level of local transmission of coronavirus and a large number of hospitalised patients. Doctors and other medical staff are virtually at the end of their tether, warned Radulović, adding that the “situation is resulting in a large number of casualties.”

Health Minister Jelena Borovinić Bojović told the RTCG national broadcaster on Wednesday that the situation was difficult but that the “health system is not about to collapse,” as claimed by Radulović.

“The system is significantly burdened and the appeal was intended to seek help to maintain it. At the moment we don't have a shortage of doctors or other staff,” said Borovinić Bojović, underscoring that the employment service had arranged the employment of 230 nurses and five doctors.

Epidemiological measures ramped up

Health authorities decided on Wednesday to close all educational facilities and introduce online classes. All hospitality facilities are to close and a curfew will be in force from 9 pm to 5 am. There is a ban on leaving one's place of residence.

All shopping malls, betting shops and children's playgrounds are to be closed too.

Montenegro is currently one of the 10 countries with the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities per 100,000 population.

The country has for weeks been registering more than 500 new infections a day, which is almost 0.1% of the population. There are currently 9,000 active coronavirus cases in the country or 1.5% of the population and there have been 1,100 coronavirus-related deaths.

Vaccination started with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine after Serbia donated 2,000 doses. Another 10,000 doses of the Russian vaccine, procured by the country's government, have arrived since as have 30,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.

Montenegro is running late with inoculation, which is also due to a change of government. The new government has agreed the purchase of 50,000 doses of the Russian vaccine and negotiations are underway for another 200,000 doses.

The former government applied to buy the vaccine through the COVAX mechanism, however, it did not submit the necessary guarantees on time.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/montenegro-ramps-up-measures-asks-eu-and-nato-for-help/

Virus expert says lockdown necessary

March 10, 2021

Veterinarian and virus expert Milanko Sekler told N1 on Wednesday that a huge number of Serbian doctors working in COVID wards told him that a lockdown is needed because the current situation is untenable.

He said that the non-medical members of the government Crisis Team should take responsibility for the situation because they didn’t listen to what the doctors were saying. “It’s unbelievable that we managed to fill the hospitals whose capacities have been expanded and are just barely working… The resources are limited and those people are just barely hanging on,” he said. Sekler said that

He warned that that vaccination and the number of inoculated people can’t prevent a serious situation. Even if 40 percent of the population is inoculated, the people who did not get vaccinated would not be safe.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/virus-expert-says-lockdown-necessary/

Coronavirus: Croatia reports 962 new cases, 4 deaths

March 10, 2021

Over the last 24 Croatia confirmed 962 new coronavirus cases, or 12.8 percent out of 7,499 tests conducted, health authorities said on Wednesday.

Four more deaths were reported, bringing the total death toll do date to 5,625.

Currently, there are 3,981 active cases, including 807 patients in hospital care, 82 of whom are placed on ventilators.

Since the first case was registered on 25 February 2020, more than 1.4 million tests have been conducted with 248,061 coming back positive.

To date, 238,455 people have recovered from this infectious disease.

There are currently 14,537 people self-isolating.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-croatia-reports-962-new-cases-4-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 21 deaths, 4,590 new cases

March 10, 2021

The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Wednesday that 21 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 4,620.

It said that 16,929 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 4,590 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The total number of people tested to date stands at 3,089,025 with 498.696 confirmed cases.

The bulletin said that there are 4.311 hospitalized cases, including 212 patients on ventilators.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-21-deaths-4590-new-cases/

Bosnia logs another 1,100 coronavirus cases, 37 Covid-19 deaths

March 10, 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded 1,110 new coronavirus cases, the second daily figure in a row that exceeds 1,000, while 37 Covid-19 patients died, the healthcare authorities confirmed on Wednesday.

The new results came from 4,214 lab tests performed on those who reported infection symptoms.

With the new spike in coronavirus cases across the country, Bosnia and Herzegovina now has 14,934 active Covid-19 patients.

A total of 139,652 infections has been reported since the epidemic outbreak, with 119,336 those who have recovered to date – 201 in the last 24 hours.

The country’s Covid-19 death toll stands at 5,382.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnia-logs-another-1100-coronavirus-cases-37-covid-19-deaths/

Dodik slams FM Turkovic for acting abroad without previous agreement

March 10, 2021

Bosnian Foreign Minister cannot act alone or represent any stances without previous agreement on that, Serb member and current Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite Presidency Milorad Dodik said on Wednesday, a day after FM Bisera Turkovic's visit to Berlin and meeting with her German counterpart Heiko Maas.

“She is showing a capability of acting opposite to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the stances of the Presidency. The Presidency is the only place where the foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina is being created,” Dodik said addressing media on Wednesday, following a meeting with the Serbian delegation.

He accused FM of ignoring the Presidency's and her own rule and “destructing Bosnia and Herzegovina and its institutions in this way.”

Turkovic was in an official visit to Germany on Tuesday where she spoke about the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina including the pandemic, migrant crisis and presence of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), who oversees the peace process implementation in the country.

She said there were strong pressures to close this institution but that she personally thinks it should “stay and get even stronger and more active role.”

Dodik said he informed the Serbian delegation led by Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic about political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reminding that entity parliament of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-majority region, will discuss “attempts of violation of the Dayton Peace Agreement by introducing a new High Representative without the procedures foreseen by Annex 10.”

“We want the Dayton Agreement to be obeyed as well as its Annex 10 which says that the (UN) Security Council can confirm a new representative if the signatories ask so,” said Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, who is elected by voters in Republika Srpska (RS) entity.

He slammed the High Representative for his “unjust, criminal, mafia-type and arrogant behavior towards RS,” adding that so far “73 competencies have been seized” from this entity it initially was assigned with by the Dayton Peace Agreement.

“We offer a concept of BiH stipulated by Dayton, if there is a will, and if there is not we will think about initiating our right foreseen by the UN Charter on the right to self-determination,” Dodik underlined.

The Dayton Peace Agreement is the international deal that ended the Bosnian 1992-95 war, while Annex 10 contains the country's Constitution. The peace treaty initialed in November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio and signed a month later in Paris had introduced territorial changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dividing the country into two semi-autonomous regions – Serb-majority Republika Srpska and Bosniak-Croat shared Federation, with both entities and three major ethnic groups being represented in the central government at the state level.

To oversee the peace implementation in the country, the international community formed the Office of the High Representative, which remains present in the country to date.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/dodik-slams-fm-turkovic-for-acting-abroad-without-previous-agreement/

Bosnian MP asks foreign officials to prevent undermining of Dayton Agreement

March 10, 2021

Member of Bosnian Parliament's upper chamber Denis Becirovic addressed European Union ambassador Johann Sattler and international envoy overseeing the peace process implementation Valentin Inzko, asking them to “either prevent the undermining of the Dayton Peace Agreement and its Annex 10 or give us back the legal Constitution of internationally recognized Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina seized by aggression and genocide.”

“The time has come for you to answer to the local and international public why did you politically neutralize on BiH political stage all those BiH politicians demanding the annulment of Bosnia's RS entity (Serb-dominated semi-autonomous region) and, on the other hand, encouraged the separatists and extremes to publicly ask for destruction and demolition of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina? It is about time that the public learns your final goal,” Becirovic said in the note he sent to the foreign officials.

The Dayton Peace Agreement – the document Becirovic refers to is the international deal that ended the Bosnian 1992-95 war, while Annex 10 contains the country's Constitution. The peace treaty initialed in November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio and signed a month later in Paris had introduced territorial changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dividing the country into two semi-autonomous regions – Serb-majority Republika Srpska and Bosniak-Croat shared Federation, with both entities and three major ethnic groups being represented in the central government at the state level.

To oversee the peace implementation in the country, the international community formed the Office of the High Representative, which remains present in the country to date.

In a letter he wrote to the foreign officials, Becirovic warned the Republika Srpska leadership has been working for years on the “break-up of independent, sovereign and indivisible state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the OHR and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina pose the obstacle for them on that road.”

“The goal of this perilous policy exercised by anti-Dayton and separatist elements in Bosnia's RS entity is not only the elimination of the OHR. Their main task is the gradual elimination of all those crucial Dayton elements that are in charge of protecting the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and peace in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The time has come to give specific help to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its at least two-third majority of citizens who are firmly committed to the full membership in NATO and EU. The time has come to take serious and specific actions with an aim to protect the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution of BiH,” reads the letter.

The parliamentarian stressed that “the international community should not repeat the costly historic mistakes and must not allow the destruction of the Dayton Peace Agreement's key elements,” while closing down the OHR at this moment would mean a “direct support” to that destructive and separatist policies.

Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bosnian-mp-asks-foreign-officials-to-prevent-undermining-of-dayton-agreement/

If UG’s wins its claim, Serbia will have to pay damages from budget, judge warns

March 10, 2021

Milos Ivkovic, an arbitrator, said on Wednesday that if Serbia lost the United Group and its two subsidiaries arbitration claim filed with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington, D.C., Belgrade would have to pay damages from the country's budget.

He advised Serbia’s authorities to consider an out-of-court settlement, adding there was no appeal to the ICSID ruling and suggested that the Anti-Corruption Agency was allowed to determine whether the Telekom-Telenor agreement was legal freely.

Ivkovic told Nova S TV the UG’s move was the only remaining one showing the investor had no other methods, i.e., „the final arbitrary step an investor can take.“

„In line with the Washington Convention, bilateral agreements between sovereign states allow them to launch procedures before international judges, excluding the national courts’ jurisdiction regarding the violations of the international rights and contracts on the protection of investments between two countries,“ Ivkovic said.

The current case relates to the international agreement between the Netherlands and Serbia (then FR Yugoslavia) in January 2020, before the United Group invested in Serbia.
Ivkovic said at least three points of that agreement had been violated.

„Under article 3, the contract bans all Serbia’s activities which breach a fair and equal treatment. Any change in the legal system that had not existed at the time of investment, any abuse by the state and its institutions leads to the violation of this article,“ Ivkovic said.

The other violation relates to article 4, which says that Serbia must not give any privileged treatment to a foreign or local company.

„According to information we have, Serbia had breached the parts of both articles by favouring (state-owned) Telekom Serbia and private Telenor company,“ Ivkovic added.

Also, article 6 bans both direct and indirect expropriation, he said.

„It’s clear from Telekom’s internal communication that it aims to destroy the United Group. That would lead to an indirect expropriation and loss of the market, meaning the UG has the right to compensation for losing both direct and indirect profit,“ Ivkovic added, warning Serbia would have to pay it form the budget.

Serbia’s authorities have said they cannot react since it was an internal act between Telekom and Telenor.

„That’s not a valid excuse even for a (law) student during an exam, let alone in any other situation. The proof about certain activities planned behind the scene empowers the UG’s claim. Those evidence show there is an aforethought, an intent to inflict damage to a foreign investor. Not only it makes it easier to establish the violation of rights, but greater damage claim too,“ Ivkovic said.

„If Serbia doesn’t opt for an out-of-court settlement, it has to be aware that there is no legal move against an ICSID decision. That means that ignoring the Washington procedure will lead to substantial damage that must be paid from the budget. In that case, the United Group can confiscate Serbia’s properties. There is no remedy, no appeal. So, Serbia’s taxpayer will have to pay damages for something that can be solved in another way,“ Ivkovic said.

In the meantime, London-based daily The Telegraph that the legal firm owned by Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, received a contract to defend the „autocratic“ regime in Serbia, as the paper put it, adding her husband was already advising Serbia’s authorities.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/if-ugs-wins-its-claim-serbia-will-have-to-pay-damages-from-budget-judge-warns/

Serbia’s police prevent ex-soccer official from ‘surrendering’ to prosecutors

March 10, 2021

Former vice president of the Partizan FC Vladimir Vuletic told N1 on Wednesday the police ordered him to urgently report to the Department for Fighting Organised Crime (SBPOK) on Wednesday while he was drinking coffee with his attorney before voluntarily going to the Prosecutors' Office for Organised Crime (TOK) to give a statement related to accusations against him

He said he was suspected of extortion, kidnapping and money laundering.

Vuletic said on Tuesday morning he would surrender to TOK to give a statement related to the accusations about his links to the Partizan FC fans’ supporters led by Veljko Belivuk’s criminal group.

Vuletic had earlier said he would file charges against President Aleksandar Vucic and the Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin.

Vucic on Saturday told a news conference about the atrocities allegedly committed by Belivuks’s group, Vuletic, a law professor at Belgrade University, should be ashamed and announced details about his role in the affair.

During Nova S ‘The Impression of the Week’ talk show on Sunday, Vuletic spoke about Serbia’s Government Secretary-General Novak Nedic’s relations to Belivuk’s group.

Vuletic’s lawyer would submit charges against unidentified people in the Interior Ministry, officials from President’s office, and the Government for providing media with the data marked ‘strictly confidential,’ and against responsible people in TV Pink and the daily Kurir for publishing the data.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbias-police-prevent-ex-soccer-official-from-surrendering-to-prosecutors/

Civil Rights Defenders: Shameless tabloids’ campaign against Serbia’s website

March 10, 2021

The international organization, Civil Rights Defenders, condemned what it saw as a shameless tabloid campaign of pro-government media against (Crime and Corruption Reporting Network) KRIK, linking it to a notorious criminal group.

„In fact, KRIK first revealed the gang’s close connections with key figures in the ruling party,“ the organization wrote on its Twitter account.

KRIK said the pro-regime media targeted the network to discredit it, this time linking them to a leader of a criminal organisation.

Zeljko Bodrozic, the President of the Independent Association of Serbia’s Journalists (NUNS), said the media under the authorities’ control „launched a hazardous campaign of linking independent media to Veljko Belivuk’s criminal group to abolish state officials from responsibility for the emergence, strengthening and atrocities committed by this and other criminal groups.“

Later on Wednesday, the Independent Society of Vojvodina’s Journalists (NDNV) warned all respective institutions that such attacks could have serious consequences. They target journalists who report on corruption and crime in which Serbia has plunged in recent years.

The Society recalled that this year, 21 attacks on journalists were registered.

Also, KRIK’s editor Stevan Dojcinovic told N1 TV that „there is not much we can do under these circumstances in the country because the state targets us and put us in such a situation.“

Several pro-government tabloids reported on their Wednesday’s front pages that Belivuk cooperated with the KRIK website and that it was his ‘personal media’ with which he had a ‘secret deal.’

Dojcinovic said the situation was more dangerous than with previous attacks since the journalists were linked to a criminal group that is „in an open mafia war.“

„It has never been like this,“ Dojcinovic said, adding he and all colleagues felt insecure.

NDNV added that the KRIK reporters were not under attack for the first time, adding that no one was punished.

The Society called on people to „show solidarity with journalists“ and  to understand the attacks on KRIK „as attacks on their right to be informed.“

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/civil-rights-defenders-shameless-tabloids-campaign-against-serbias-website/

Police interrogate activist for describing pollution in Serbia as mass crime

March 10, 2021

Serbia's police interrogated Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta, an activist of the 'Defend Mt. Stara Planina Rivers Movement,' two days after he told Nova S TV's 'The Impression of the Week' talk show broadcast on Sundays the treating of the environment in the country was a mass crime.

He said the criminal police took him for informative talks on Tuesday. „The reason was my statements in the talk show. They were ok, and it did not last long,“ Jovanovic said.

During the show, he talked about the state’s unconcern about the environment and described the pollution in Serbia as a mass crime.

„People are poisoned en masse; people are deprived of water, the earth poisons people,“ Jovanovic said.

„We are dealing with people who will if they have some benefits, build a nuclear landfill near a kindergarten. And talking to (Serbia’s Prime Minister) Ana Brnabic about ecology is a waste of time,“ Jovanovic added during the talk show.

He said that „what the Chinese are doing here… they would never do that to themselves. They are installing the most modern technologies at their pollutants.“

Earlier, the Movement warned about the pollution caused by the Chinese Zijin Bor Cooper company and demanded a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to Serbia.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/police-interrogate-activist-for-describing-pollution-in-serbia-as-mass-crime/

Coronavirus on March 9: Montenegro

March 9, 2021

The Montenegro Public Health Institute said that seven people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic broke out to 1,092.

It said that 2,142 people were tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in that period, including 612 who tested positive. There are 9,063 active cases with another 511 patients reported to have recovered from COVID-19. A total of 80,803 people tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic broke out.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-march-9-2021/

Coronavirus on March 9: Kosovo

March 9, 2021

The authorities in Pristina said that another 13 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic broke out to 1,668.

A total of 2,410 people were tested in that period, including 444 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. There are 9,761 active cases. Another 452 patients were reported to have recovered from COVID-19. A total of 335,123 people have been tested to date, including 74,079 who tested positive.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-march-9-2021/

Coronavirus on March 9: North Macedonia

March 9, 2021

The North Macedonia Public Health Institute said that 22 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic broke out to 3,228.

It said that 3,394 people were tested for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in that period, including 872 who tested positive. There are 9,300 active cases with another 412 patients reported to have recovered from COVID-19. A total of 108,350 people tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic broke out with 95,822 reported to have recovered.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-pandemic-daily-regional-update-on-march-9-2021/

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