Serbian lawyer Stojkovic: The Russian Wagner mercenary group operates in Serbia through Aleksandar Vulin assisted by the BIA
Belgrade lawyer Cedomir Stojkovic, founder of the Oktrobar Group, which fights against Russian influence and hybrid occupation in Serbia, says in an interview for The Geopost that Serbia is an occupied country and that Russia can cause conflicts here precisely because it has turned Serbia into its henchman.
“As far as the separation of Serbia and Russia is concerned, the process of separation will be as simple as separating a man from a tumor.
Therefore, it is not at all simple and will not happen without the intervention of a surgeon. In this case, that surgeon must be the West, that is, the EU, America and NATO,” says Stojkovic.
Within the Oktobar Group, operates the “Team for the identification of Putin’s agents in the Republic of Serbia”, which compiles a list of Putin’s agents in Serbia whose goal is to expose the scheme of Russia’s malignant influence.
“This means that today when you look at the identification list of Putin’s agents, you will see politicians, ministers, members of parliament, but also journalists, media editors, media owners, university professors, presidents or representatives of non-governmental organizations and many others.” Stojkovic states.
He claims that the Wagner group operates in Serbia, not through Russia, but through the Serbs.
“They mobilized and recruited into their ranks people with Serbian citizenship, people with Serbian names and surnames, and they work for the Wagner group. And it’s no longer a secret. They are photographed in the centers of the Wagner Group, they are photographed with the emblems of the Wagner Group, they wear the symbols of the Wagner Group, they are the Wagner Group and they have Serbian citizenship”.
He points out that the Wagner Group’s interest in Serbia is to create a network of contacts and a population structure that can act in Moscow’s interest at Moscow’s command.
“As was the case at the barricades in Kosovo. And the Wagner group recruits people here, creates groups through right-wing, nationalist and Nazi elements that, if necessary, can cause conflicts and, if necessary, can create a new focal point here in the Balkans.”
He emphasizes that the state leadership of Serbia does not want to accept the Franco-German plan for Kosovo.
“The Serbian state leadership first played on the card that Kurti would reject that plan and then they would show how they accept that plan and then blame Kurti for being a destructive force for pacification and for building relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and that Belgrade is actually a constructive force. You can notice that from the moment when Kurti said that he accepts the plan, from that moment Belgrade is silent, it does not say anything in favor of accepting that plan”.
Stojkovic believes that the acceptance of the plan for Kosovo depends exclusively on Russia. “I think that through the actions of the Serbian government, we will actually be able to see what Russia wants regarding Kosovo and how far it is ready to go.”
He points out that the intensive meetings between Vucic and the Russian ambassador, Bocan Harcenko, were exclusively about Kosovo, in order to convey to Vucic, Putin’s opinion regarding the solution to the Kosovo problem.
Stojkovic is convinced that Russia is losing the war in Ukraine and that we should not be fooled that we will see a new Putin in the Kremlin even after Putin.
When it comes to the future of the region, the key is the joining of progressive forces. “That’s what we can only do. We need to create some transnational organization or platform through which we will explain to the West, and when we explain, I am sure that the West’s policy here will change significantly because they will see that they have people here with whom they can talk”.
The Geopost: It has been warned for a long time that Serbia is under the occupation of Russia. Someone will say that now is a phase of mistrust in the relations between the two “brotherly countries”. Will there be a phase of dissociation and how will we recognize it?
I used the term hybrid occupation of Serbia already in March 2022, and that was the first time that term was used, and from there the term moved to the region. I am a great lawyer and supporter of the fact that Serbia is an occupied country by the Russian Federation. It is occupied politically, socially, intelligence-wise, it is occupied in numerous other ways.
As for the separation of Serbia and Russia, that separation process will be as simple as separating a man from a tumor.
Therefore, it is not at all simple and will not happen without the intervention of a surgeon. That surgeon in this case must be the West, that is, the EU, America and NATO.
So, only by getting support in that way, that is, this healthy social tissue that remains in Serbia must get the support of the West in order to fight against this tumor. If this support from the West is absent, then this healthy tissue will also become sick over time, because we have witnessed that this is exactly what happened in the past ten years, that all those healthy tissues of society through the malignant influence of the Russian Federation became sicker and sicker.
Therefore, disassociation must happen because it is the security interest of the European Union and NATO, given that Russia is actually realizing its geopolitical interest by acting through Serbia, and at this time that means blackmailing the West with the possibility that Russia will cause conflicts here. Russia can cause conflicts here precisely because it has turned Serbia into its henchman and into a state that is politically occupied.
The Geopost: The Team for the Identification of Putin’s Agents in the Republic of Serbia (TIPARS) operates within the informal October Group, of which you are one of the founders, which compiles a list of Putin’s agents in Serbia. How many are on the list so far and what is the ultimate goal?
The Oktobar group is actually a formal group that is registered as the Freedom Union of Serbia, the Oktobar group, which, perhaps, will become a political movement and a political party over time. At the moment, it is mainly engaged in the fight against Russian influence and hybrid occupation. The list of agents of Vladimir Putin’s regime is a list that is very precise and does not represent a product of any imagination, but is based on security assessments, it was also made by university professors in the field of security. We get numerous names from there as well. We have more goals with that list. But the primary goal at this time is to make people and citizens aware of how the Russian Federation works and how the Russian Federation’s malignant influence looks on the ground.
In translation, this means that today when you look at the identification list of Putin’s agents, you will notice politicians, ministers, members of parliament, but also journalists, media editors, media owners, university professors, presidents or representatives of non-governmental organizations and many others. So our list actually, in addition to identifying by name and surname who are Putin’s agents, it also shows, demonstrates and draws what the scheme of the malign action of Russian influence looks like.
So, Russian influence does not happen like American influence or European influence, Russian influence happens by Russia buying politicians, founding a political party, financing that political party, having members of parliament, controlling parliamentary committees, having ministers in the government of Serbia but its influence will not stop. The Russian Federation will have its people in the church, in the non-governmental sector, its people in the university. In particular, they will have ownership of the media, and especially Russia has a strategic influence on journalists and media editors, and will use that structure completely. The Russian Federation is actually in a position to exert a strategic influence on a society and a terrible influence on a country and all movements in it. It is no coincidence that the pro-Western groups in Serbia in the past, we can say 12 to 14 years, could not have any access to any resources for political struggle and action.
The Russian Federation managed to cut it off completely.
We know and this is a well-known fact since the era and foundation of the Soviet Union, every firm, every company of the Russian Federation, along with the director, has a deputy director in charge of security, and this is always a person who was previously appointed by the KGB and today by the FSB (Federal Security Service of Russia).
In the Oil Industry of Serbia (NIS), the deputy director is a person who is always and exclusively and only appointed directly by the FSB. That person, on the one hand, organizes work in that company and, on the other hand, creates the actions of that company within the strategic political interests of the Russian Federation. In translation, this means that NIS will finance and provide sponsorships to those media that promote Vladimir Putin’s policies, that they will provide sponsorships to those NGOs that promote Vladimir Putin’s policies, that they will finance the scientific projects of those professors that promote Vladimir Putin’s policies. And when you see what NIS financed, it did not finance any activity within the electrical engineering faculties, mathematics faculties. What NIS financed was the work of professors in the field of social sciences – history, that is. rewriting history, finances professors from the Faculty of Philology and the Faculty of Political Science to implement the policies of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Russia will not finance any professor from the Faculty of Pharmacy, that is, not Russia but NIS.
The Geopost: You can often hear assessments, mostly from circles once close to the Kremlin, that the paramilitary Wagner group is very influential in the political elite of Moscow. The Serbian authorities deny their presence in Serbia, as does their founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. Although the same group boasted about establishing an office in Serbia. At the protests in Belgrade, people were photographed with the Wagner logo on their jackets. The Serbian Prosecutor’s Office is silent. People with the markings of the Northern Brigade, the Wagner Group, and the Night Wolves were seen at the barricades in Kosovo, and evidence was sent to the Kosovo Prosecutor’s Office. What are your findings?
The FSB also denies that they are in Washington, and they are in Washington, the CIA denies that they are in Tehran, but they are in Tehran. Wagner is not only a paramilitary organization, it is also a paraintelligence organization. Where it is in their interest to show that their activity exists, they will show video material and promote their activity. Where it is in their interest to cover up their actions, they will cover it up just like all the world’s intelligence services and para-intelligence services do. When it comes to the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office, it was not silent when it came to the Wagner group, it was very vocal about Wagner when it rejected the criminal charges that I filed concerning the Wagner group.
So, we know that the Wagner group operates in Serbia, not through Russia, but through the Serbs. They mobilized and recruited into their ranks people with Serbian citizenship, people with Serbian names and surnames, and they work for the Wagner Group. And it’s no longer a secret. They are photographed in the centers of the Wagner Group, they are photographed with the emblems of the Wagner Group, they wear the symbols of the Wagner Group, they are the Wagner Group and they have Serbian citizenship.
When we submitted criminal charges to the Prosecutor’s Office of Serbia regarding the Wagner group and when we claimed, among other things, that the Russian man in Serbia who was appointed as the head of the Serbian intelligence service Aleksandar Vulin as the director of the BIA (Security Information Agency of Serbia) that he was actively preventing counterintelligence work of BIA regarding Wagner and that’s why we filed a criminal complaint against him and the Prosecutor’s Office reacted quickly and dismissed the criminal complaint within just four working days without conducting any investigation. Which in translation means that the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade has absolutely confirmed that Alkeksandar Vulin actively prevented the investigation of the Wagner Group because the public prosecutor prevented the investigation into it. The streak continues.
Now we have to know that when the Wagner group enters a certain territory, it always works in cooperation with the FSB of the Russian Federation. These are not competing organizations, but compact organizations, what the FSB cannot do, Wagner does, because sometimes it is very important to show in one society, that is, due to different political and diplomatic relations, that the official service of a country is not involved in certain intelligence activities and then they say it’s not us, it’s not the Russian state, it’s the Wagner intelligence organization. As we saw in Crimea and Donbass in 2014 when Russia said no, it’s not the Russian army, they don’t have the marks of the Russian army, it’s someone who fell from Mars and occupied it.
The Geopost: What is the interest of Wagner Group in Serbia?
The Wagner Group’s interest in Serbia is actually to create a network of contacts and a population structure that can act in Moscow’s interest at Moscow’s command. As was the case at the barricades in Kosovo.
And the Wagner group recruits people here, creates groups through right-wing, nationalist and Nazi elements that, if necessary, can cause conflicts and, if necessary, can create a new focal point here in the Balkans. And we could see that in Kosovo and I’m sure that was the background of Wagner’s actions.
The Geopost: What is the scenario, in your opinion, in relation to Kosovo, which is being calculated by the state leadership of Serbia while considering the acceptance of the Franco-German European plan for Kosovo?
My personal opinion is that the state leadership of Serbia does not want to accept that plan.
The Serbian state leadership first played on the card that Kurti would reject that plan and then they would show how they accept that plan and blame Kurti for being a destructive force for pacification and for building relations between Serbia and Kosovo, while Belgrade is actually constructive force. You can notice that from the moment when Kurti said that he accepts the plan, from that moment Belgrade is silent, it does not say anything in favor of accepting that plan.
If Belgrade really wanted to accept that plan, it could accept it the second it was proposed without any fear that the population of Serbia would condemn it. I am telling you this because Aleksandar Vucic at this moment, and in previous moments, has absolute and indisputable control over the media, has an absolute and indisputable majority in the parliament, an absolute and indisputable majority in the voting body. Therefore, difficult decisions have never been easier to make. Because you have an absolute majority and support that can allow you to make difficult decisions and implement difficult acts without the risk of losing power.
If his electorate dried up because of that, and it wouldn’t, given that you control all the media, it would dry up by 5 to 10 percent, which is not enough to threaten his power. I think with certainty that Belgrade does not want to accept that plan at all. However, I think it is very important, my opinion, despite the fact that some Western partners do not agree with me, I am sure that time will show that they should have talked to me much earlier. And it is as follows: in 2019, Aleksandar Vucic received an order from Vladimir Putin in the middle of Belgrade, and I was once asked what the order was for? I said it’s the only order that Putin gives – it’s an order for extraordinary obedience.
And then somewhere they laugh at that sentence. And then I ask, have you ever heard that Putin gave the medal for anything else? Therefore, the only case when Putin gives an order to someone is that someone is extremely obedient and loyal to him. That 2019 was the time when Putin was convinced that Aleksandar Vucic was extremely loyal and obedient to him. Let’s not forget that at the time when Aleksandar Vucic came to power, he took Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Donald Trump’s lawyer, by boat on the Sava and Danube rivers, a lawyer for whom the Americans made documentaries that he was actually a personal connection between Trump and Putin.
Therefore, let me now return to the Kosovo plan. When Aleksandar Vucic considers the German-French plan, he does not take into account the interests of Serbia, but the interests of Russia and what is in Russia’s interest in this regard. Otherwise, if it were the opposite, he would first return the order he received and tell Vladimir Putin, ‘you know, I am no longer a man who is exceptionally obedient and loyal, and considering that I do not deserve this order for extraordinary obedience and now I am returning it to you’.
I think that is precisely why he did not foresee what Serbia will do in the end, because if we were to consider only the interest of Serbia and consider what the government of Serbia will judge to be in the interest of Serbia, the answer is very clear and certain: it must be judged that it is in the interest of Serbia to accept the Franco-German plan. But when you ask the question of what is in Serbia’s interest with regard to Russia to accept or not accept the Franco-German plan, the calculation becomes extremely politically complicated, because what the Kremlin wants and what it always does is that it does not want to deprive itself of its agent by confirming to the West that someone is his agent.
The head office always wants to protect its agent, and that’s how I see Aleksandar Vucic. You have seen numerous meetings between Bocan Harcenko and Aleksandar Vucic. Bochan Kharchenko is important as the ambassador of Russia because he has a direct security link through his satellites and satellite antennas in the Russian embassy, he has a direct link with the Kremlin and what is communicated between the Russian embassy and the Kremlin remains a secret for the intelligence circles of all countries due to crypto protection and everything else.
And I am sure that these meetings, which took place intensively, were solely because of Kosovo, in order to convey to Aleksandar Vucic the opinion of Vladimir Putin, how they project that solving the Kosovo problem would be in Russia’s interest.
Therefore, I think that through the actions of the Serbian government, we will actually be able to see what Russia wants regarding Kosovo and how far it is ready to go. And as for Serbia itself, let me repeat, if only the interests of Serbia were taken into account by the Serbian government, we would have accepted the Franco-German plan by voting in the Parliament. By publication in the media and very clear propaganda in those media where Vucic has been propagating himself as a great ruler for a decade, he can propagate the benefit of the Franco-German plan in those same media.
The Geopost: What is the interest of the Serbian opposition? We have seen that they are largely against the plan for Kosovo as well?
It’s all a show of the Kremlin. In Serbia, at least three opposition parties are directly financed by Russia – the New DSS of Milos Jovanovic, Bosko Obradovic (Dveri movement), then we have Milica Zavetnica (the Covenanters movement) and we also have Vuk Jeremic (the People’s Party). Let’s never forget that Vladimir Putin supported Vuk Jeremic in his candidacy for a high position in the UN. I will repeat, Vladimir Putin does not support anyone who is not absolutely loyal to him. However, if all these political forces were to gather together without the support of Aleksandar Vucic, no one would pass the census individually. Individually, they would not be able to collect signatures for the elections because their policy is completely empty, irrelevant, has no strength and no one recognizes them as the bearers of a major policy.
In the last elections, they entered the parliament because Vucic’s SNS collected their signatures on the one hand so that they could run at all, and on the other hand it lowered the census from five to three percent. If it weren’t for that, they wouldn’t be able to enter the parliament at all. Therefore, when we talk about the Serbian opposition, there is no Serbian opposition, there is a Serbian camouflage opposition, just as there is a Russian opposition in Russia, just as there is a Belarusian opposition in Belarus or an opposition in North Korea, there is also an opposition in Serbia. The reason for this state of affairs is this hybrid occupation of Russia, because for us pro-Western groups who have a pro-Western way of thinking, the resources for political action are completely disabled thanks to the action of the Russian Federation, which had the task of privatizing NIS, that is far from 2008 to today, to cut off the pro-Western groups in Serbia from any possible funding and that is why we who do not have funding are not in the parliament, and the parties that have direct funding from Vladimir Putin or Aleksandar Vucic are in the parliament.
The Geopost: How much is Vucic afraid of Russia, we know that Russia does not forgive betrayal?
He fears Russia as much as Sergei Lavrov fears Russia. And Sergei Lavrov fears Russia as much as Vladimir Putin fears Russia. So these are smokescreens that are being thrown. Russia can never have a greater influence in Serbia than America. For example, if I were the president of Serbia and if I had absolute power like Aleksandar Vucic and if I were afraid of Russia, I would get on a plane and land in Washington where I would say that I am afraid of Russia, so I would say that I, as the bearer of the sovereignty of this country which I am afraid of Russia, please help me not to be afraid of Russia.
So America would then say, okay, here we will send you our best experts, and maybe if you ask, we will also send you tanks and planes, what do you need to defend yourself from that Russia. America already sent it in Ukraine, it sent it in Romania. Someone thinks that they would not send it to Serbia, they would only send it if asked. However, Vucic does not ask for it because he is not afraid of Russia, and he is not afraid of Russia because he disputes the politics of Russia just like Sergey Lavrov.
The Geopost: Nevertheless, Vucic succeeds in deceiving the West, which, on the other hand, ‘rewards’ Serbia and thus appeases Russia’s proxies in the Balkans, which is why the entire region seems to be suffering?
There are many reasons for this, and I will mention two that no one talks about. The first thing in the essence of human psychology is that we always see things better than they are because no one likes to deal with garbage, everyone likes to deal with flowers. That it is so simple, is shown by numerous cases of domestic violence where women suffer terrible violence not only because they do not have the strength or courage to stand up, but many of them cannot admit to themselves that things are that bad, because it is much easier to deceive yourself that things are actually better than they are.
And this is how the West deceived itself in Ukraine, this is how it deceived itself in Moldova, this is how it deceives itself in Serbia and the Balkans. And then that awareness is often very painful because you simply now have to understand that you don’t have flowers that smell but you have garbage that stinks. And now instead of accepting that you have a day that will be beautiful and you will enjoy it, you now have to accept that tomorrow you will have a day where you will have to deal with that garbage. It is very difficult to change consciousness, especially in politics, because politicians live by portraying things as great. That is the number one reason why the West does not recognize these things in Serbia and the Balkans.
Another reason is that we must first understand where we are, what we are and how big we are. We are as important to the West as Lichtenstein is to the region. Those are the proportions. As long as Lichtenstein does not create a problem for us here in the Balkans, we have no perception that it exists. Only when Lichtenstein becomes a problem do we realize it exists. And as you can see, Vucic seems to be the only one in the region to recognize this, that’s why he has a policy of escalation and de-escalation – he draws attention with escalation and says there will be a problem here, and then presents himself as a factor in de-escalation and then presents himself as the solution to that problem that either doesn’t exist or if it does, he created it.
Here in the Balkans, it is a big task for us to unite and explain these things to those who are bigger than us, just as a child should explain to a parent that there is a problem. Sometimes it’s not easy for the child to explain, he can’t explain, the parent sometimes can’t understand, he’s busy with other obligations, he’s dealing with Ukraine, China and Taiwan, he’s dealing with some other things. It is up to us to unite and through some of our international and inter-Balkan cooperation to set these things right, explain them in that way to the West and then ask the West for support in solving these problems of ours here. Because it is in the common interest of each individual country that there is peace here, that there is reconciliation, that instead of competing to see who will have more hooligans at the barricades, we start competing to see who will have more mathematicians at Cambridge.
That’s the future of our countries, that’s what we can only do and we won’t be able to explain by ourselves, we have to create some transnational organization or platform through which we will explain to the West. And when we explain, I’m sure that then the policy of the West here will change significantly because they will see that they have people here with whom they can talk, to work on these projects that are very important and they last. Do not forget that the EU project did not start in Maastricht, the EU project is 300 years old, it survived even two World Wars, enormous suffering, and again that project was finally completed, not yet completely, but almost completed. Likewise, the project of peace in the Balkans will be completed one day and will never be abandoned. And it is up to us to convince the West that it will indeed be so.
The Geopost: According to military strategists, Putin is losing the war in Ukraine. What is it that could prolong his reign? What can we expect in 2023?
His reign is completely irrelevant because when Putin dies, a new Putin will come. Because the system of replacing heads of state in Russia is such that no one else can come. Therefore, Nemtsov cannot come (the murdered leader of the Russian opposition, Boris Nemtsov), if a new Nemtsov appears, he will be killed. So after Putin, a new Putin is coming to us. This new Putin will probably only have new lies. The lies will be different, perhaps they will convince the West that Russia did not think so in 2022. Since of course they lost the war, there is no dilemma.
Russia’s GDP at the world level takes three or four percent and Russia says it is at war against NATO, and NATO takes 60 or 70 percent of its GDP. NATO has one billion inhabitants, the richest inhabitants, in Russia there are 142 million poor citizens, except for the few in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The capacities for the production of military equipment and weapons when comparing the West and the East is like comparing a five-year-old child and Tyson.
The West has adopted a simple strategy in Ukraine that looks like this – because of the nuclear weapons that Russia has, we cannot directly send our tanks and planes there because how do we know what the crazies in the Kremlin will do. That is why we are sending weapons without our soldiers and waiting for Russia to be completely exhausted on that front, which will happen because they are dying and being exhausted, Ukraine is also being exhausted, but it has the support of the West. And then, when Russia is sufficiently exhausted, Russia will be forced to the negotiating table. And now that you no longer have planes or people, all of your people have died, come and sit down at the negotiating table to now move out of Ukraine and back to Russia. And as far as Moscow is concerned, we cannot deceive ourselves. Vladimir Putin is an agent of the KGB, who educated him, taught him everything, he owes his loyalty to the KGB.
Once KGB forever KGB. In order to come to power, he used the KGB’s levers, and then when he came to power, he used the KGB’s levers to eliminate every possible threat, not to him personally, but to the KGB and to that structure and that system of government. And when he completed that, he went to other countries and used the same levers to rule other countries. For example, in Serbia, for example, in Moldova, for example, in parts of Ukraine, he brought Yanukovych to power, for example, in Bulgaria, he brought the president that way, we have Milanovic in Croatia, Orban in Hungary and so on… This is that system of governance and that system of coming to power.
Now, today, at this hour, if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack and dies, don’t have any doubt that the system that was created in the KGB, which is now called the FSB and has a slightly wider effect, that this system does not have another person to bring to power or more candidates who will be in that position, so only the candidate who will be perhaps better for that geopolitical moment will be chosen. If they judge that they need a candidate who will apologize to the West, then they will choose one of those five candidates who does it best.
If they estimate that they need a candidate who will best suppress revolutions in Russia, then that candidate will be the president. But there will always be a candidate from this same system. Nothing will change in Russian politics until the structure and system and organization of governance and change of power in Moscow are broken. /The Geopost/