Belgrade lawyer Goran Petronijevic, who represented war crimes convict Radovan Karadzic in The Hague, was an “observer” in the recent Russian-organized elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories.
Among the observers was Srđan Perišić, former adviser to the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Serbia announced that official Kiev will “bring to justice” all those who participated in any way in the elections organized by Russia on the territory of that country.
The elections, which official Kiev and the West consider illegitimate, were held from September 8 to 10 in Zaporozhye, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian territories controlled by Russia.
Reports from Ukraine on social networks
The information that Goran Petronijević and Goran Šimpraga are in Zaporozhye was first published on September 10 on his Telegram channel by Dejan Berić, a citizen of Serbia, who fought as a sniper on the side of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. for which he is being tried in absentia in Serbia.
“Goran Petronijević and Goran Šimpraga found themselves in the hottest place, in Zaporizhzhya, close to the front line,” Berić, who meanwhile has started presenting himself as a war reporter, declared on the Telegram channel.
His Telegram channel is followed by more than 100,000 people.
A day later, on September 11, Srđan Perišić, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in East Sarajevo and a former adviser to Milorad Dodik when he was a member of the BiH Presidency, told the SRNA agency that as an observer he had visited the polling stations in Novoazovsk , Marijupolje and in Donetsk.
On the social network X (formerly Twitter), he has published two photos in which he poses with armor and a helmet, with the description: “On a visit to Donbass”.
Among the observers from Serbia was Goran Šimpraga, who introduces himself as a journalist and producer from Belgrade.
He boasted on the social network Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, that he had followed the elections in the Zaporozhye region of southern Ukraine.
“Conversation of international experts with Ela Panfilova, president of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation,” Shimpraga wrote on September 11 in the description of several photos showing him shaking hands with Panfilova.
He also released a video of a meeting in which international observers participated in a conversation with the president of Russia’s Central Election Commission.
The EU warns Russia of “consequences” after the “illegal” elections in occupied Ukraine
In the five-minute video, Shimprag in Russian evaluates the electoral process developed by the Russian Federation, saying among other things that the elections were organized “according to national standards”.
“When we talk about these elections, I think that Russia is one of the few countries that is able to organize such elections,” Šimpraga said.
Goran Petronijevic can be seen sitting next to him in the video.
Who are the Serbian observers?
Of the three observers, Goran Petronijević is the best known to the general public.
During the regime of the former president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, he was a judge of the District Court in Peja in Kosovo (then part of Serbia). In that position, in May 2000, he sentenced almost 150 Albanians from Kosovo to a total of 1,600 years in prison for the alleged crime of terrorism.
He was removed from the post of judge after the democratic changes of October 5 and then went to the profession of lawyer.
Before the international court, he represented several clients from Serbia accused of war crimes. The most famous is Radovan Karadzic, the first president of Republika Srpska, who was sentenced to life imprisonment before the Hague tribunal for war crimes.
Before the Hague Tribunal, he also defended former JNA officer Veselin Šljivančani, who was convicted of war crimes in Ovçara near Vukovar.
In mid-August, Petronijević announced that he had submitted an initiative to protect Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity Republika Srpska.
Earlier, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina filed an indictment against Dodik for disobeying the decisions of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kristijan Šmit.
In the official biography of Srgjan Perishić, it is stated, among other things, that he graduated from the Military Academy in Belgrade and received two master’s degrees from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade.
He is an associate professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in East Sarajevo, an invited lecturer at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade and a member of the research team of the Institute for Asian Studies in Belgrade.
At the time when Milorad Dodik was a member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Perišić was his advisor. He was removed from that position without explanation in May 2019.
In his public appearances and posts on the social network X Perišić emphasizes that “Serbs are not part of the West”, praises Russian President Vladimir Putin and writes that “in Srebrenica there is an initiation into the anti-Serb camp”.
We recall that in Srebrenica in 1995, the forces of the Army of Republika Srpska and paramilitary units from Serbia committed genocide against more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
The width less known to the public is Goran Šimpraga, who introduces himself as a journalist and producer. In addition to having the same name as Goran Petronijevic, Shimpraga and the Belgrade lawyer are also connected to the company Medija centar Nogina i Kurinoje – Ruski Ekspres, which was registered in Belgrade in 2014 for the activity of news agencies.
Goran Petronijević appears as the current owner in the Register of the Agency for Business Registers in Serbia, while Goran Šimpraga is the legal representative and director.
This business entity realized total revenues of 2.6 million dinars (22,000 euros), while all revenues were realized from the sale of products and services in Serbia.
Link to “Russian House”
Radio Free Europe has only found the Facebook page of “Russian Express”. In its description, there are three links leading to the page, but none of them can be opened.
The last post on Facebook “Russian Express” was on August 13. Most of the posts are announcements transferred from the Facebook page of the “Russian House” in Belgrade. “Ruski dom” is the representative office of the Russian federal agency “Rossotrudnichestvo” in Serbia, which, among other things, deals with the diaspora and humanitarian work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
As RSE has previously written, since the beginning of the occupation of Ukraine, this institution has organized and supported several events that justify the war in Ukraine.
Support for the Russian invasion under the guise of culture in the ‘Russian House’ in Belgrade
The director of “Russian House” Yevgeny Baranov enjoys diplomatic immunity and all other rights as a diplomat of the Russian Embassy in Serbia. Šimpraga himself has several photos with Baranov on social networks, based on which it can be concluded that they have a close friendly relationship.
Yevgenij Baranov is also connected to Goran Petronijevic through the RHM (Russian Humanitarian Mission) Foundation. This non-governmental organization is located at the same address in Belgrade as “Russian Express”.
Petronijević is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Russian Humanitarian Mission, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors was Yevgeny Baranov until October 2020.
Sergej Glushchenko, Russian citizen and international coordinator of the Russian association “Besmrtni puk” is currently in that country.
This association, which also has a branch in Serbia, organizes the manifestation called “The Immortal Regiment”, in which the descendants of anti-fascist fighters march, organized every year on May 9, the day of victory over fascism, in more than 100 places.
Among the activities of the Russian Humanitarian Mission is the financing of the construction of a road section in the south of Serbia between the municipality of Medveja and the village of Putinovo, which has been named since 2016 in honor of the autocratic Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Radio Free Europe has contacted Goran Petronijević, Srđan Perishić and Goran Šimpraga, asking them to be interlocutors on this topic. No reply came from any address.
What did the Embassy of Ukraine say?
The Embassy of Ukraine in Belgrade assessed in a statement published on September 13 that the Russian Federation held “fake elections in the temporarily occupied territories”, stressing that they are “invalid and not recognized by the international community”.
They also state that it is “another attempt by the Kremlin to legalize aggression, an attempt at annexation and temporary military control over part of the territory of the sovereign and independent European state of Ukraine.”
The announcement states that three Serbian citizens – Goran Petronijevic, Goran Shimpraga and Srđan Perishić – participated in the show organized by the illegal Russian occupying authorities.
“The persons involved in the implementation of these falsified elections, including the leadership of the Russian Federation, representatives of the occupying administrations and electoral structures, as well as their propagandists, will be brought to justice. Ukraine will also initiate the imposition of new international sanctions. against those involved”, announced the Embassy.
Radio Free Europe requested a comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, but by the time the text was finished, the answer had not come.
It is not known whether and within the framework of which international mission the Serbian citizens monitored the election process.
As explained to RSE by the non-governmental organization CRTA, the observers in the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) leave with the consent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. Before that, it is necessary to undergo training for observers organized by the OSCE.
It is certain that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did not have its observers, since these elections were not even in the annual election calendar on the website of this international organization.
Extreme right from Serbia
This is not the first time that Serbian citizens participate in election observation missions organized by the Russian Federation in Ukrainian territories.
Misha Vacic, the front man of the Serbian far-right, was in Volgograd in September 2022 as an international observer of the referendum being held in the breakaway and occupied regions of Ukraine on joining Russia.
As the Serbian non-parliamentary right announced at the time, Vacic, at the invitation of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited the polling stations located in the refugee camps on the territory of the Volgograd region, where residents from the separatist regions of Ukraine who have already left live. .
In the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as in the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, pro-Russian separatists organized referendums on the annexation of these territories to Russia.
Official Kiev, the United Nations and Western governments did not recognize the referendum, which was held in areas under Moscow’s military occupation. These territories make up about 15 percent of the territory of Ukraine.
That election process, illegal for the West, was followed by Srđan Perišić, as well as some citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, about which RSE wrote.
Kiev accused the observers of being “puppets of the Kremlin”.
International community for elections
Like the referendum a year ago, the international community did not recognize the recently held elections in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said on September 11 that sanctions against the organizers of the elections and the candidates who took part in them were “quite conceivable”, but added that such sanctions are mainly imposed within the European Union.
The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken (Antony) also condemned the elections, saying that “the fake Russian elections in the occupied areas of Ukraine are illegal”./RSE/