Serbia is one of the last allies of Russia on the European continent because it has been consistently avoiding imposing sanctions against it – the French newspaper Le Figaro reported, noting that Russian influence in Serbia extends to all sectors of society with the approval of the Serbian authorities.
„That influence is so great that it started to bother the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, who was caught in his own trap“, the article said, adding that „Serbia supported the resolution of the UN General Assembly on March 2, which condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but remains one from the last allies of Moscow on the European continent”.
The article goes on to say that the status of Kosovo is one of the main issues which Moscow uses to influence Belgrade as Russia uses its veto power in the UN Security Council to prevent Kosovo from becoming a member.
Le Figaro points out that Serbia primarily depends on Russia in the energy sector. Directly or through its subsidiaries, Gazprom is the majority shareholder of the former local oil giant Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) and is also the main owner of two gas pipelines that bring Russian gas to Serbian homes and industry.
Through its network of companies, the company has been a sponsor of sports clubs for years, such as the FC Red Star and BC Partizan, but it also finances a number of festivals, institutions and cultural events.
Speaking about the Russian right-wing influence in Serbia, Le Figaro reports that graffiti with the Wagner logo appeared in Belgrade, authored by the extreme right-wing movement Narodna Patrola, which organized demonstrations in support of Russia shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, and that this prompted Vucic to react.
This time Vučić had to react. „Why do you, members of the Wagner group, invite Serbs to fight in Ukraine, when you know that it is illegal,“ he said.
In December last year, recruitment ads were posted in Serbia with the aim of recruiting mercenaries to fight in Ukraine on the side of Russian forces, amid rumours of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner opening its office in Belgrade.
The paper also quoted historian Milivoj Beslin, who said that „for Russia, the Balkans have always been an alternate front, so they are working to keep it in a state of permanent instability“.
The article also quotes analyst Thomas Brey, who, in his column for Deutsche Welle, wrote that “most Serbs now see Russia and China as the country’s most important donors and trading partners and are against Serbia joining the EU. But the reality is that about two-thirds of Serbia’s foreign trade has been with the West for decades. Moreover, the most money coming into Serbia in terms of investment comes from the West. According to surveys conducted in June 2022, the majority of young people support Vucic as their national leader and are against the West and in favor of stronger links to Moscow. Nevertheless, about half of those surveyed want to emigrate because they are unhappy with the situation in Serbia. Interestingly, hardly anyone wants to go to Russia. Instead, almost all of them want to go to Germany”.
As far as taking sides in the Russian-Ukrainian war, for the majority of Serbs, the country must remain neutral in the conflict. and if they had to choose between the West and Russia, only a third would opt for the Western camp, the French newspaper concluded.
(Naslovi.net, Beta, 19.02.2023)
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