When prison sentences for dogs of war were introduced eight years ago, for the most part it was about preventing the recruitment of Islamic extremists for the wars in the Middle East on the side of ISIS. But it will turn out that the market for mercenaries who have been travelling from Serbia to Ukraine to fight on the side of the Russian paramilitaries in the east of the country is even more developed.
Upon return, they received light sentences, mostly probation, or house arrest, only a few ended up in prison. But it is important that, for years, a law has been applied in Serbia that clearly states that these mercenaries are not patriots at all, but ordinary criminals. This law is one of the few that received the support of both the government and the opposition in the Parliament, which clearly shows Serbia’s attitude towards the dogs of war, regardless of whose flag they fight under.
And then, in such a country, a foreign country, through the media it owns, publishes an advertisement for the recruitment of mercenaries. The Serbian branch of Russia Today, by publishing an ad of the private Russian army, Wagner, became subject to the application of the Criminal Code, as someone who recruits mercenaries in a country where it is strictly prohibited.
This was not a mistake, nor an incident of careless journalists, in a media that is otherwise banned in all of Europe, as a pillar of Russian war propaganda. For the Russian state, it was a cold-blooded move to show arrogance towards Serbia, its laws and its politics.
Treating Serbia as a subordinate area is a long-standing Russian practice, and after a series of situations such as the publication of the Wagner group’s ad, it is clear that it is a matter of state policy, and not a series of coincidences and incidents.
On this occasion, Aleksandar Vučić asked the authorities in Moscow – “Why are you doing this to Serbia?” Just as he asked Russian authorities three years ago – “Why?” when the espionage activities of the Russian lieutenant colonel Georgy Kleban against Serbia were discovered and documented.
It is difficult to explain to Serbia how Russia was directly working against it and its laws, while Serbia was showing a more than friendly relations towards it. Even to its own detriment, when it comes to, for example, sanctions, which Serbia persistently does not impose on Russia.
It is also difficult to explain when the leadership of the Russian state, its president Putin and then everyone else take Kosovo’s declaration of independence as a justification for seizing Crimea and four other areas in the east of the country from Ukraine. No matter how much Moscow convinces Serbia that dismembering and annexing parts of Ukraine has nothing to do with Kosovo, the fact remains that Russia took advantage of the Kosovo precedent. For Russian conquest goals, the case of Kosovo is a legal cover, at least that’s how the Kremlin sees it.
Russia is not interested in the fact that it directly destroys Serbian policy towards Kosovo. The only important thing for Russia is to achieve its war goals in Ukraine, and it will always be ready to send a message to Serbia that it will never recognise Kosovo and that Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council is sacred.
And while Serbia continues to be grateful to Russia for vetoing the British resolution on the Srebrenica genocide in the Security Council, it forgets that Russia itself said that it was genocide, when it needed it for its conquest campaigns in the neighbourhood. Just like in 2008, when justifying the aggression against Georgia, Sergey Lavrov spoke about Srebrenica and genocide, saying that Russia will not allow a repeat of the genocide against its people similar to Srebrenica in 1995.
Putin “waved” Srebrenica as the place where genocide was committed, whenever he wanted to dramatize the position of the Russians in Donetsk, saying in 2017, and then in 2019 that if the Ukrainians close the border – “There would be Srebrenica, as simple as that.”
It is also difficult to explain why, from September until the end of last year, Moscow wished for, incited and worked on the explosion of a conflict between Serbs and Albanians in the north of Kosovo. Moscow wanted to turn every crisis, from license plates, identity cards, to the arrest of Serbian policemen, into shootings and bloodshed.
Their officials offered Serbia and Serbs military aid, if necessary, while through their channels they released a sea of disinformation about the fact that the Serbian army had just entered Kosovo, that there were casualties, and they even falsified the statements of Aleksandar Vučić. Because it would be good for them if Serbs and Albanians turned their guns on each other, and particularly if the Serbian Army attacked NATO and its KFOR mission in Kosovo.
How else, than the intention to completely destabilise Serbia, can we understand Primakov Junior coming to Vučić with a proposal from the Kremlin to form a government with the opposition, which protested under his window? Or when, at the anti-Vučić protests, and even during the violent invasion of the Assembly, members of the Russian intelligence services led the crowd.
Was it also a gesture of friendship when the Russian security agent took pictures of Vučić’s son Danilo at his workplace? Or was it a message that the agent could have had something much more dangerous than a camera in his hands.
It is difficult to understand all these open gestures of hostility and contempt for Serbia as a country, only if Russia is observed as an eternal historical friend, which has Serbia close to its heart. If we are to believe the sweet announcements from the Kremlin about the unbreakable love, and not the obvious contempt for Serbia that is unfolding before our eyes.
Serbia owes Russia nothing. It owes itself to break away from a hostile embrace, where its country, its laws and its future suffer for no reason.