Serbian and Russian ultra-right joining forces

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, representatives of extreme right-wing organisations from Serbia have travelled to Russia and maintained contact with extremist groups in the country, according to an investigation by Radio Free Europe (RSE).

The Czech EU Presidency recently prepared a report discussing the effectiveness of bans on right-wing extremists in the Western Balkan countries. The Serbian right-wing parties’ ties with Russia are particularly highlighted in the document.

Rifles, Orthodox icons and occasional pictures of war criminals on the walls – this is what the premises of Srbska Akcija, an unregistered clerical-fascist organisation, and the Russian Imperial Movement, whose members are participating in the war in eastern Ukraine, fighting for the ‘unification of the Russian people into one state’, look like.

In early May, a video was posted on the YouTube channel of Srbska Akcija, featuring the visit of the Serbian ultra-right to the premises of the Imperial Legion, a wing of the Russian Imperial Movement in St. Petersburg. In the twenty-minute video, Denis Gariyev, head of the Legion, guides two members of Srbska Akcija through the shooting range, weapons depots and gives a presentation about his organisation.

The Imperial Legion is an ultranationalist organisation in Russia designated by the US State Department as a global terrorist threat in 2020. In the document, its leaders Stanislav Vorobyov, Denis Gariyev and Nikolay Trushchalov are labelled as terrorists because the Legion ‘provides paramilitary-style training for white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe and actively works to unite this group in a common front against their alleged enemies’.

As Gariyev says in a conversation with members of Srbska Akcija, members of the Imperial Legion have been fighting in the east of Ukraine since 2014. According to him, the Imperial Legion is a monarchical organisation and sees Russia ‘only as a monarchy’. Gariyev and his followers hark back to the era of the former Russian Empire, which was ruled by the Tsar and extended territorially over the territory of today’s Ukraine, Poland, Finland, Belarus, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

“We believe that what is happening in Ukraine is a civil war in the Russian territory. We, like the Serbs, have an obligation to unite our people into a single state, which, unfortunately, has fallen apart,’ Gariyev said in the video, alluding to the ‘Greater Serbia’ ideology, inherited by numerous parties and movements since the early 1990s in Serbia.

Gariyev demonstrated his commitment to such ideology by showing guests from Serbia a ‘classroom’ in which a dozen members of the Imperial Legion were seen cleaning their rifles. On the wall of that room hung a framed photo of Ratko Mladić, the former army commander of the Republic of Srpska, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Srebrenica genocide and crimes against humanity during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “You all know who he is,” says Gariyev as he proudly points to Mladic’s portrait.

Right next to the picture of the convicted general is a framed portrait of Yuri Budanov, a former Russian military officer who was sentenced by a Russian court to ten years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a seventeen-year-old girl in 2000 during the war in Chechnya. He was released on parole after spending eight years in prison and in 2011, he was assassinated in Moscow by a Chechen.

The document of the Czech Presidency of the EU also highlights the strong ties that Russia has with predominantly Christian Western Balkan countries.

“The strong relationship Russia has built with the Orthodox Christian population in the region is one of the reasons for the growing distrust of the West. Russia presents itself as the protector of certain peoples, but also of Orthodox Christian groups in the Western Balkans,” the document reads.

“The visit of the members of the Serbian far-right organisation to Russia is extremely worrying,” the report adds.

Michael Colborne, a journalist and head of the far-right research group of the Bellingcat website, told Radio Free Europe. “I am concerned that, in the context of the current war in Ukraine, this may create an opportunity for Belgrade and Serbia to become a base for some members of the international far-right, especially those with strong pro-Russian views.”

According to a report written by the Centre for International Security and Cooperation, two members of the Swedish-based far-right Nordic Resistance Movement – Anton Thulin and Viktor Melin – participated in the Imperial Legion’s paramilitary forces’ training programme in St Petersburg in August 2016.

(Danas, 22.07.2022)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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