Who are Serbia's allies

Russia - How Putin is spying on his Serb allies

How Putin is spying on his Serb allies

A YouTube video that looks like an agent film. Behind this is an espionage affair that is burdening the traditionally good relationship between Moscow and Belgrade.

The video, which recently appeared on YouTube, shows clichéd scenes like from a cheap agent film. A man hands a bag to another man in a parking lot. That happened almost a year ago. In the meantime Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić confirmed at a press conference in Belgrade that the messenger was the Russian diplomat Georgij Kleban, the recipient was the retired Lieutenant Colonel Z.K. of the Serbian Military Intelligence Service. It was also confirmed that the bag contained bundles of money that Z.K. meticulously counted at the parking lot.

The origin of the video is kept like a secret. The Serbian secret service is not the source, said Vučić, but it could also be an attempt not to strain relations with Russia any further. According to media reports, a Bulgarian investigative journalist is said to have identified the Russian diplomat Kleban, who was deputy military attaché at the embassy in Belgrade. He is said to have regularly received confidential information about the Belgrade government from at least three other Serbian keepers of secrets.

Serbia wants to join the EU

Vučić tries to downplay the affair and at the same time plays the surprised: Serbia has always tried to establish friendly relations with Russia and has always rejected Western sanctions. "So I ask our Russian friends: Why?" He said he “saw no logic” in this espionage story. He was convinced that Vladimir Putin was “not informed about these activities”, affirmed Vučić - it sounded like kneeling before the Russian President. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We have no idea what the incident is about."

So much ignorance at the highest levels is suspect. He cannot publicly explain the “logic” that Vučić misses: In Belgrade, it is an open secret that Putin does not trust his Serbian brother, who remarkably often emphasizes the “indestructible friendship with Russia”, but also the future in the sees economic and political cooperation with Western Europe and EU membership.

Important base of operations in the Balkans

For Putin, Serbia is the most important strategic partner in the Balkans. With Serbia as the base of operations, it is easy to cause constant unrest in the Balkans in order to remove parts of the region from the influence of the EU and NATO. Montenegro is the model of this strategy: at the end of 2016, a coup directed by the Russian secret service via Belgrade was supposed to overthrow pro-Western President Milo Djukanović. Montenegro escaped the fate of a Russian military base on the southern Adriatic and has been a NATO member since June 2017. In Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, Russia could ultimately be more successful.