Pro Publica and ICIJ ‘Shadow Diplomats’ in the Balkans
After months of research, Pro Publica and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) today published the story of a large number of Honorary Consuls who, by obtaining diplomatic status, have exerted a soft and harsh influence on the governments that appointed them, and some of whom have been involved in corrupt and controversial business ventures.
Pro Publica is an independent media outlet that attracted American and global attention in 2010 after its journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for a story on hospitals during Hurricane Katrina. Since then, Pro Publica has won six more Pulitzers and established itself as one of the most authoritative American and global organisations for investigative journalists.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is a network of hundreds of investigative journalists and organisations present in more than 100 countries around the world. It is best known for its Panama Papers and Pandora Papers investigative projects.
A major study published today, entitled Diplomats in the Shadows, covered and analysed two Russian consuls in the Western Balkans. These are Boro Đukić, who as Honorary Consul represented Russia’s interests in Montenegro, and Sergei Samsonyenko from Northern Macedonia.
The authors of the research found out about Đukić from our colleague Ljubomir Filipović from Montenegro, a political analyst and columnist for CdM in Podgorica. Filipović commented on the research for Geopost and told us more about the role of Consul Đukić in the developments in Montenegro.
“Đukić was once a Montenegrin diplomat who at some point moved to Russia and made money in who knows what way. He reappeared in public life in Montenegro in 2014, when he was made an honorary consul and opened a consulate in the Budva Avala hotel”.
Pro Publica writes about how Đukić was involved in founding and sponsoring the pro-Russian political party Prava Crna Gora, and how he was linked to a number of radical organisations. Filipović adds: “Đukić is more than linked to these para-state, paramilitary formations, and he makes no secret of it. On his social networks to this day you can see posts from the gathering of the Nožni vukovi, something called the Balkanska kozačka armija (Balkan Cossack Army) and similar radical organizations.”
Filipović continues, “Đukić was most active in Montenegro during the church protests, and photos of him with the highest dignitaries of the Serbian and Russian churches can be seen on the networks. These activities cannot be classified as soft power. The man has crossed the red lines of diplomatic etiquette and has therefore been expelled from the country”.
In fact, in one of the actions of the Montenegrin government in 2018, Đukić was stripped of his hospitality as an honorary diplomat. Đukić is also mentioned in the Russian media, where in 2021 criminal proceedings were initiated against him for false testimony in favor of intelligence and police officials in that country.
Another example, which Pro Publica and ICIJ write about, is Sergej Samsonjenko, a hotelier and restaurateur from North Macedonia, for whom it turned out, according to investigators, that his residences serve as bases for Russian intelligence operations in that country./Ljubomir Filipovic for The Geopost