About Russian influence in Serbia

by Cristian Florescu

Serbia is one of the last allies of Russia on the European continent because it avoids introducing sanctions against that country, 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 certainly 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 states that one of the main issues Moscow uses to influence Belgrade is Kosovo’s status in the UN Security Council. Russia uses its veto power to prevent Kosovo from becoming a member, which gives Moscow a significant amount of power over Belgrade.

Serbia is highly dependent on Russia for its energy needs. Gazprom, either directly or through its subsidiaries, is the majority shareholder in the former local oil company Naftna industrija Srbije (NIS), and also owns the two main pipelines that bring Russian gas into Serbia. This makes Gazprom a very powerful player in the Serbian energy market.

The company has a long history of sponsoring sports clubs, like the Crvena Zvezda Football Club and the Partizan Basketball Club. It also provides financial support for a number of festivals, institutions and cultural events.

According to Le Figaro, a right-wing group called Narodna Patrola recently put up graffiti with a Wagner emblem in Belgrade. This has caused Serbian President Vucic to react, as Narodna Patrola has been known to hold demonstrations in support of Russia since the war in Ukraine began.

This time, Vučić had to react to the Wagner group’s invitation for Serbs to fight in Ukraine. He said that he knew it was illegal and asked why they were doing it.

Historian Milivoj Beslin has said that ”for Russia, the Balkans have always been a reserve front, so they are working to keep it in a state of permanent instability”.

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