Serbia president alleges Russian spying plot
Vucic spoke after a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss a YouTube video showing a Russian agent handing cash to a Serb in Belgrade.
The video showed a man identified as Lieutenant Colonel Georgy Kleban, a former assistant military attache at Russia’s embassy in Belgrade, meeting a retired Serb army officer, identified only as “ZK”.
Vucic said the video was made last December and did not say who filmed it.
ZK takes an envelope out of the bag and counts the money in his car.
Vucic said Kleban was recorded 10 times in similar exchanges, in three cases involving cash handouts.
“On several occasions, Serbian security agencies gathered audio and video evidence of contacts between Lt Col Kleban and members of the Serbian army,” Vucic told a press conference.
“I have one question for our Russian friends: Why? As far as we are concerned, we won’t change our policy toward Russia, we see it as a friendly and brotherly country,” the president said.
Russia and Serbia, both Slavic and Orthodox Christian states, traditionally have strong political, historic, military, cultural and economic ties. Belgrade has not imposed sanctions on Ukraine for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russia backs Serbia’s refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo, the breakaway Serbian province.
Although Serbia hopes to join the European Union, it has vowed to stay out of Nato.
Vucic said Belgrade had other evidence concerning Russian spying. “There have been 10 contacts with three sources,” the president said.
Vucic is due to visit Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 4. He said he did not believe Putin knew about the operations in Serbia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the video’s release as a “provocative action” designed to disrupt next month’s meeting.
“Summit-level contacts are due soon. We have become accustomed to seeing some ostensibly breaking news hit the headlines several days ahead of a summit or high-level contacts,” she said. “As time flies, everything is either refuted or turns out to be a hastily cooked provocation.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said nothing would damage bilateral ties and that the Kremlin was unaware of the alleged incident.
“Relations with Serbia are a partnership of a brotherly character. Nothing can influence that,” the veteran spokesman said.
Big Brother is watching you Russian President Vladimir Putin with President Aleksandar Vucic. Picture credit: Kremlin