Vucic: I haven't Spoken to Putin for months, Wagner has to Stop recruiting Fighters in SerbiaSoutheast Europe | January 18, 2023, Wednesday // 17:07| views
Wagner graffiti in Serbia
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has called on the private military company Wagner to stop recruiting fighters to fight in Ukraine.
He told Serbia's Happy TV that the group has no presence in Serbia at a time when Kosovo media and Western officials are expressing concern that its fighters may be operating in Serbia, not recruiting for Ukraine, but at the barricades between Serbia and Kosovo and elsewhere in the Balkans. Such statements were made by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, "concern" was also expressed a few days ago during a visit to Belgrade by US State Department adviser Derek Chollet.
Vucic commented on the topic a few days after graffiti appeared in Belgrade in praise of PMC "Wagner". Serbia is "neutral" in the war in Ukraine: it condemns the aggression against the territorial integrity of the country, but does not impose sanctions on Russia, although it has allowed the possibility of doing so and despite calls from the European Union, to which it is applying, to align its foreign policy with it.
Both Vucic and his defense minister, Milos Vucevic, reminded pro-government Happy TV that such mercenaries as offered by Wagner are prohibited by law and any Serb involved faces severe legal consequences.
Meanwhile, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin responded to a VOA reporter's question about whether Wagner fighters were present during the 2022 barricades in Kosovo, denying that there were any fighters in the group for long time:
“PMC Wagner has never been to Serbia. And it had no contacts with Serbia. Currently, there are no Serbian citizens in PMC Wagner and there have not been for a long time. As far as we know, the Serbs are handling their problems admirably on their own.”
Two days later, in an interview with Bloomberg, Vucic explained that the relations between Russia and Ukraine are in a difficult period and that they have worsened because of the war.
According to Vucic, in the past years he talked a lot with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and even took Russian lessons so that they could communicate without a translator. However, the situation has changed: the two have not spoken for "many months".
“We have said from the beginning that we cannot support Russia's invasion of Ukraine. For us, Crimea is Ukraine, Donbas is Ukraine. It will remain so.”
And on TV he repeated that he will not allow "Wagner" to recruit Serbs to fight against Ukraine.
The prime minister of Kosovo: Putin is "obsessed with Kosovo" and wants to fuel the conflict with Serbia
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed optimism that an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo could be reached within a few months, Kosovo Radio and Television reported, citing an interview the Kosovo Prime Minister gave to Swiss newspaper Blick. Kurti is currently in the Swiss city of Davos, where he is participating in the World Economic Forum.
"I am optimistic that an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia can be reached within a few months, if there is a desire to reach one, and there is support from the democratic West - the EU, NATO, the US and Great Britain." “I have expressed my desire to do so. But an agreement requires two parties. In order to have long-term peace, security and regional stability, Serbia must distance itself from two things: the past of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and now Russian President Vladimir Putin. Because Serbia is getting closer and closer to Russia. Putin wants to fuel Serbia's conflict with Kosovo," said Kurti, quoted by KosovaPress.
Kurti added that Kosovo's success was hindering the Russian president and said Putin "is obsessed with Kosovo." "I'm careful, but I'm never afraid. I am vigilant. Putin is obsessed with our country Kosovo. He is pleased with the lack of success of Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is angry and annoyed by the fact that the West has been successful in Kosovo," Kurti added.
In his interview with the Swiss newspaper "Blick", Kurti also spoke about the situation in the northern part of Kosovo, saying that at the moment it is calm there and there is a presence of the Kosovo police "I recently made a public appeal to all Serbs in Kosovo to apply for a job in public services, for example the police. This comes after Serbian officials resigned following tensions in northern Kosovo. I do not aim to replace the Serbs in power with Albanians! I want the Serbs (to come) to these positions," Kurti said.
The latest escalation of the crisis in Kosovo-Serbia relations began with the decision of the government in Pristina to change the Serbian license plates on the cars of Kosovo Serbs to Kosovo ones. Serbian representatives left the Kosovo institutions and police forces, and units of the Kosovo police moved into predominantly Serb areas. After negotiations and compromise, Pristina has for now given up on changing the license plates, but tensions have been fueled by the arrest of a former Kosovo Serb member of the local police.
In protest, Kosovo Serbs erected barricades on December 10, blocking roads and some border crossings in northern Kosovo for about twenty days. They demanded the release of arrested former policeman Dejan Pantic, who Kosovo authorities say had organized attacks on electoral bodies. After Pantic was released from prison under house arrest, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke with Kosovo Serb representatives in Raška, the removal of barricades in the northern part of Kosovo began.
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