Another public warning issued by CEAS regarding the pro-Kremlin elements behind the opposition demonstrations under the slogan „1 of 5 million“ that will take place tomorrow, the impacts of which may be endanger the constitution and result in violence

Bearing in mind that a large rally has been scheduled for 13th April 2019 in Belgrade, as a part of the ongoing demonstrations under the slogan “1 of 5 million” that have been going on in Belgrade for months, the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies in Belgrade (CEAS) is issuing another statement to warn the public in the country and abroad about a number of harmful consequences of these protests that may deepen the tensions and cause confusion among the members of armed forces and law enforcement forces in Serbia, at the time when the Serbian government is already in a very difficult position.

CEAS is wondering why are these alarming circumstances regarded favorably by some of the key public figures that allegedly support the principle of democratic control of the armed forces, a compromise with Priština and generally pro-European orientation of Serbia. The same goes for some of the self-declared investigative journalists and endangered free media outlets.    

For a number of years, especially after their participation in the failed demonstrations under the slogan “Stop to dictatorship” in 2017, CEAS has been documenting illegal activities of the Army Trade Union of Serbia (VSS), which is using the right to unionize as a pretext for open political engagement. VSS holds its Statute as the ultimate normative source document, although their Statute is in violation of, for example, the Law on Armed  Forces.     

VSS is taking an active part in demonstrations “1 of 5 million” and is deliberately using an incorrect interpretation of the current political processes, claiming that some of the legitimate positions of the highest government officials, e.g. those concerning the delimitation with Kosovo, are in “violation of the Constitution” and constitute “treason”, although they are well aware that every important political decision must undergo verification at the National Assembly. Passing of amendments to the Constitution at the National Assembly, that may be required as a part of possible future decisions of the country officials regarding the relations between Belgrade and Priština, would constitute a procedure that is fully in line with the constitutional and legal framework, and not a violation.          

Bearing in mind that members of VSS are active members of the Army of Serbia, according to some estimates around 5000 members strong, their failure to act in accordance with law and their arbitrary actions and decisions as to in what manner, who with and under what conditions they will choose act and when they will refuse to comply, present a major threat to democratic control of the armed forces and security that might be abused by various local and foreign factors.         

In their recent public announcements, VSS made threatening allusions to the events in Romania from couple of decades ago. “Would the glorious army leaders of the past, like Živojin Mišić, Radomir Putnik, Petar Bojović, the minister of war Pašić, have kept silent and listened to the nonsense spouted by Vulin, a political clown without precedent in the political history of Serbia… And if we found ourselves in the boots of the “supreme commander”, as he is often referred to by that same Vulin, we would have to think twice where the truth is. They had a similar meeting of the top army brass in Romania in 1989, with almost identical message sent to the communist dictator Ceauşescu. Just two days later, the minister of defense and his generals launched what went down in history books… As the only representative trade union, VSS shall have an adequate response to any illegal or non-constitutional actions. We have given up all hope regarding the honor and military code of these generals long time ago. However, the history teaches us that what goes up also must come down.”               

It is worth repeating that one of the key persons in these events in Romania, general Victor Stănculescu, who “arrested” Ceauşescu, organized his trial and execution, claimed that execution of Ceauşescu was agreed after his last meeting with Gorbachov, when he refused to implement democratic reforms in the country. Stănculescu  claims that in the months before the murder he had meetings with KGB people and that the whole “spectacle” was organized by Russian agents from civilian and military agencies, as well as that the level of coordination between Russian and Western agencies (CIA) was high.              

Its is hypocritical and dangerous when the formal political leaders of allegedly nonviolent protest “1 of 5 million” refuse to disown the “services” of VSS and fail to distance themselves from their participation in the protests, but give them space and allow them to speak. Let us not forget that in the night of illegal breaking into the building of RTS one of the speakers was Novica Antić, who is still falsely claiming to be the leader of VSS and a victim of political persecution, although he was removed in accordance with law. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. It is well known that people close to Vuk Jeremić, one of the leaders of the allegedly nonviolent protests, were actively involved in the failed demonstrations “Stop to dictatorship”, and also supported by VSS and a number of NGOs which allegedly fight for the rule of law and democratic control of the security system.          

Bearing this in mind, CEAS invites all interested parties to pay attention to the fact that in the protest “1 in 5 million”, in close proximity of one of the leaders, Boško Obradović, we could see one Ninoslav Milošević, a paramilitary mercenary who in 2015 spent a year fighting in Donbass on the pro-Russian side. Milošević confirmed this himself, for example, in the interview given to radio M2 in December 2016. On account of his illegal participation in the conflict in Ukraine he was sentenced to six months of house arrest by decision of the Higher Court in Belgrade in 2017.   

CEAS has examined in detail all pro-Kremlin connections of the political leaders of the ongoing protests, primarily Mlađan Đorđević, a high official of the Alliance for Serbia and close collaborator of the protest leader Dragan Đilas, in its recently published report From Moscow without love, which provides an extensive description of the illegal and dangerous activities of VSS and the Police Trade Union of Serbia, which have been supporting each other for a long time. The report is accessible at address: https://www.ceas-serbia.org/images/publikacije/CEAS_Iz_Moskve_bez_ljubavi_WEB.pdf 

We emphasize that all politically active leaders and their supporters from the army and police, in addition to close links with pro-Kremlin structures, have in common the following: euroscepticism, dissemination of disinformation and highly negative attitude, based on incorrect interpretation of the circumstances, procedures and legal framework, towards possible compromise between Belgrade and Priština that would help Serbia maintain its European course, which is badly needed.    

CEAS wants to remind the readers that the nature of these demonstrations, and starting from 13th April their method as well, are quite similar to what has been taking place in Podgorica, resulting in a violent attempt to remove the ruling structures in Montengero a couple of years ago. For these events there are numerous indications that the pro-Kremlin structures stood behind the protests.  

CEAS estimates that it is not in the interest of Serbia, EU, USA or NATO to see a similar scenario unravel in Serbia, bearing in mind the effort all these parties have made to secure a peaceful compromise and a comprehensive agreement between Belgrade and Priština. Such compromise is not in the interest of certain elements in Moscow and Kosovo. However, it appears that the political leaders, who keep demonstrating in Serbia, actually wish for a resolution of the Kosovo crisis under additional pressure from the West, maybe disregarding the interests of Serbia, that would eventually remove the burden of obligation to make important decisions. It is possible that after this they would not hesitate to use methods that might include elements of a coup d’etat to take power in Serbia, although they have significantly less support than the current government. CEAS wants to ask whether they have support from certain Western structures of the international community for this dangerous scenario, and why is pro-European Serbia hesitating to take a stand and declare its position regarding these undoubtedly compromising circumstances.            

It is easy to make fun of the strange circumstances that led the Minister of Defense to go on a hunger strike (for the time being, it is the only reaction of the pro-European experts and public), however, if we want peace in Serbia and the region, we must ask ourselves what is the nature of these strange circumstances and what are the grounds for this drastic decision. Some of these elements have been exposed in this statement.    

Still, CEAS holds the opinion that this decision should be revoked, as it might cause problems in communication and the chain of command, both in Serbia and in foreign affairs, most of all on account of the complex situation in Kosovo and around Kosovo – which may generate unwanted and grave consequences with grave implications for the security of the entire region.      

Belgrade, 12.04.2019.