At the end of last year, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appointed Nebojsa Rodic, former Ambassador to Austria and former Director of the Security Information Agency (BIA), as Ambassador to Montenegro.
“Nebojsa Rodic is appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Serbia to Montenegro. This Decree shall enter into force on the day following its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia,” the Official Gazette said at the end of December.
The appointment of people from the security structures as ambassadors is a regular practice in Serbia, which has people from the information security sector in its representations abroad. The BIA also has a person in the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The appointment of Rodic, who is known as the most trusted man of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and belongs to the “hard wing of Serbian politics”, as Serbia’s diplomatic representative in Montenegro is not surprising, given that for the regime in Belgrade, Montenegro is part of the “Greater Serbia” plans under the code name of “Serbian World”.
Rodić came to head the BIA in August 2012 from his position as Secretary General of the then President of Serbia and leader of the progressives – Tomislav Nikolic.
In his first months in office, Rodić was already confronted with the scandal of the tapping of the phones of Nikolic and Vucic. The phone records of the President and Deputy Prime Minister were allegedly requested by the Criminal Police Division of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP), which was discovered and prevented by the BIA.
Rodic was elected Minister of Defence in the reformed Government of the Republic of Serbia in September 2013 and held the post until April 2014, after which he was sent several times to ambassadorial posts (until recently in Vienna).
“In Serbia, people who work in security structures – go very far. These structures somehow become a stepping stone for their future careers”, Serbian diplomat Srecko Djukic told Montenegrin media.
Asked what Rodic’s first task might be after arriving in Montenegro, Djukic explained that before leaving for his post, the ambassador meets with a number of people in the country, and receives his final instructions from the signatory of the order appointing him – the head of state. .
He points out that when Rodić hands over his credentials to Montenegrin President Jakov Milatovic, “in a private conversation”, he can relay what Vucic has told him, “if he has told him anything”.
Before Rodic, the ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro was Vladimir Bozovic, a member of the SNS, a Niksic man with a colourful biography, who was declared “persona non grata” in December 2020 for breaking diplomatic rules. He was also banned from entering Montenegro because he was deemed “a carrier of malign influence for the interests of foreign services”.
In addition to the title “persona non grata”, Bozovic is also accompanied by a number of labels that have stuck to him in Belgrade’s political and media circles. The most prominent is certainly the one he brings from the time when he was stationed in Student Town, when he started working in the security service, carrying out the orders of the New Belgrade detachment of the Resor of State Security of Serbia (RDB), who then kept the criminal indictment against him in a drawer from the beginning in the 1990s, thus saving him from years of imprisonment, securing him a law degree and the title of Borivoj Borović’s lawyer, after a deal in his office.
Bozovic was Inspector General of the MUP during the reign of Vojislav Koštunica and then a member of the Serbian Renewal Movement of Vuk Drašković. He is remembered for popularising the March 2005 report of the Inspector General of the MUP on the investigative actions (Operation Raft) in the case of the ‘Maka’s Group’ suspected of the murder of Police General Bosko Buha on 10 June 2002. The epilogue of this report is the acquittal of 19 November 2004 of this criminal group for “lack of evidence” – in order to accuse Djindjic’s closest associates of extorting testimony against Zeljko Maksimovic Maka.
The Montenegrins gave up on Bozovic, but Serbia did not – on 16 November 2023 he was appointed Consul General of Serbia in New York.
BIA diplomats in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Serbian regime chooses very carefully who it puts in ambassadorial posts not only in Montenegro but in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, because “half of Bosnia and all of Montenegro”, as Aleksandar Vulin, former head of the BIA and the man who says what Aleksandar Vucic means, often points out, is part of the process of “uniting the Serbian states”.
Former BIA chief Aleksandar Djordjevic was until recently Serbia’s ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Indeed, after Rodic’s departure from the BIA in September 2013, the post of director was vacant for more than a month, and the selection of a new head of the security agency was, according to his own statement, obstructed by the then Serbian Vice President, Serbian Minister Aleksandar Vucic.
He explained to journalists that he was not satisfied with the proposed candidates, adding that it was “too important a post to decide too quickly”.
And it was – Aleksandar Djordjevic, a close friend of Vucic, his classmate.
Djordjevic headed the BIA for almost four years – until 29 May 2017.
During Djordjevic’s leadership of the BIA, the famous assassination attempt on Vucic was allegedly foiled near his house in Jajinci, where a pistol, four hand grenades, 100 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, several rounds of automatic weapons and 10 rounds of 10-15 bullets of unknown calibre were discovered.
However, even though not even a full year had passed, the prosecutor’s office closed the case because it did not have enough evidence to bring criminal proceedings, giving the public the impression that the whole event had been a poorly staged show. Vucic as a victim.
Djordjevic tried to remove responsibility from himself by dismissing three long-standing and decorated BIA operatives who had participated in all the country’s biggest and most sensitive operations.
After his dismissal as head of the BIA in mid-2017, he continues his political career as Serbia’s Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. He will be remembered as the first ambassador from Dayton who refused to come to the BiH Presidency.
First, in July 2020, he cancelled a meeting with the then President of the BiH Presidency, Šefik Džaferović, “due to an urgent call to Belgrade”.
In fact, Đorđević was called by Đaferović to protest against the verdict convicting BiH citizen Husein Mujanović in a court in Serbia for alleged war crimes committed on BiH territory, as well as to protest against the practice of prosecuting BiH citizens by the Serbian authorities.
A year later, Đorđević categorically refused an invitation to a meeting with the then President of the BiH Presidency, Željko Komšić, to discuss the arrested Edin Vranje.
His mandate expired this summer and Ivan Todorov was appointed to the diplomatic service in Sarajevo at the end of October this year.
BIA on “special assignment” in Macedonia
Serbia, i.e. FRY, has sent its own diplomats to Macedonia. The late Zoran Janačković, one of Slobodan Milošević’s close associates, a diplomat and long-time senior civil servant of the SAA, was a diplomat in Skopje. In 1990 and 1991, he was Chief of the Federal State Security Service (SDB).
A big stain on diplomatic relations between the two countries will remain the case from 2017, when Serbia sent Goran Živaljević Guta, a member of the Serbian Foreign Ministry and the BIA, on a “special mission” to Macedonia.
Živaljević’s deliberate intrusion into the Macedonian Assembly on the night of 27. April 2017, when a political showdown between supporters of Nikola Gruevski and Zoran Zaev took place in order to prevent the election of a representative of a minority Albanian party as Speaker of the Assembly, speaks of a certain “mission” that Življević had, or a wrong move that in a way reveals some other intentions of Serbia or some other security factors and questions the bad moves and assessments of the MFA and BIA of Serbia.
The then Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić came to the defence of Živaljević, stressing that he had not violated diplomatic protocols and that he was only reporting on the situation in Macedonia, because “Serbia needs to know how this situation can affect national and state interests. ”
He said that Zivalevic had done nothing to violate the Vienna Convention and diplomatic protocols, that his task was to inform what was happening in Macedonia and whether Serbian citizens were involved in these events. Asked who Zivaljevic had entered Sobranie with, Dacic said, “Well, I’ll tell you now”, and then read out a list of names of people from Macedonia who had organised protests in Serbia against Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and said that they had already informed Macedonia about this for two years.
Vucic’s justification for Zivaljevic was that he did not go to Sobranie “on his own”.
“He did not ask me or anyone else in our country … He asked the highest representatives of the Macedonian executive, he asked directly and said he wanted to go there and asked if they had anything against it and if they allowed it. And they were aware of his presence.”
Serbian officials said after the event that Zivalevic was the legitimate representative of the BIA in Macedonia and that his job was to report on the unrest in the Assembly, while Macedonian officials said that his presence was interference in Serbia’s internal affairs.
“They said that Mr Zivaljevic is the man responsible for the events in Sobranie, that he did it together with the Russian services, because it was too much for them to say that the Russians were paying so much attention to one Macedonia, so somehow they had to involve somebody else,” Vucic said, without specifying who he was referring to.
At the end of May that year, journalists from KRIK, Macedonia’s TV Nova and OCCRP obtained documents from the Macedonian secret service showing that Zivaljevic was carrying out propaganda campaigns to promote Russian policies, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and fight against Macedonia’s NATO accession.
According to the Macedonian Service, Ivan Stoilkovic, a member of the Macedonian Parliament and President of the Democratic Party of Serbs, and Miroslav Lazanjski, a member of the SNS and a late Serbian journalist and later diplomat in Moscow, took part in this.
Before joining the diplomatic mission in Skopje in 2014, Živaljević was a diplomat in Croatia, where the local intelligence service complained to their Serbian counterparts about his work after he left Croatia.
Zivaljevic was Serbia’s consul-general in Banja Luka and one of the kidnappers of Vladimir Nikolic, the former head of analytics at Serbia’s State Security Department (RDB), who was in the office of Veselin Bošković, the director of the land construction fund, brother of Danica Drašković, wife of Vuk Drašković.
Prior to the assassination attempt on the Ibarska highway, directed by the RDB and targeting Veselin Bošković and Vuk Drašković, the head of the SPO, Vladimir Nikolic was kidnapped by RDB men, and Živaljević was among the kidnappers.
Živaljević was a witness until 2005, but later became a defendant in custody for extorting a statement from Nikolić. It all ended in a “showdown” between members of the security services.
Živaljević personally questioned Vladimir Nikolić, who spoke about this on the Insajder programme in 2005:
Vladimir Nikolic: I was stopped by a traffic police patrol, told to leave the vehicle, open the trunk. As I was opening the trunk, the famous white van approached, four guys ran out of the white van, like terrorists, put a bag over my head, handcuffed me and shoved me into the van. They drove me who knows where for two or three hours and took me to that basement.
B92: And who was the interrogator who interrogated you and what were they interrogating you for?
Vladimir Nikolić: The investigator was Goran Živaljević, and he was promoted after these changes, so he was promoted and became Deputy Director of the State Security Service.
The BIA told B92 that Živaljević was suspended in June 2006, but sued the agency in court, which reinstated him in February 2008, because the Police Act stipulates a six-month time limit within which an employee can be removed from his job. .
Živaljević worked in the counter-intelligence sector (RDB) in Belgrade, mainly for the activities of foreigners, foreign diplomats and journalists.
He was a trusted man in the RDB structures as a good operative, a trusted man who, before the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić in 2003, was appointed to the post of deputy head of the BIA “after thorough checks and a search for people who did not dirty”.
Asked why there was no intelligence protection and how the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić was allowed, Živaljević, then deputy head of the BIA, said that the task of protecting state officials was out of scope and that at the time of the assassination, the MUP had full authority over this business.
UDBAS Consul General of the in Rijeka
In early January 2017, the Serbian government appointed Goran Petrovic, former RDB chief who came to the “job” in 1986, as Consul General in Rijeka. His mandate expired last September.
Petrovic has long worked on counter-intelligence work against the West. His career came to an abrupt halt in 1999, when the “July installation” led by Rade Markovic removed him from his post.
This lasted until the October 5 changes, when Zoran Đinđić’s government appointed him RDB chief at its first session. Among other things, he was given the mandate to investigate the most monstrous crimes of the Milošević regime, many of which bore the stamp of the notorious service.
Shortly after taking office, while he was talking to Đinđić and Dušan Mihajlović in Krunska Street in Belgrade, his waiting driver was shot dead. His performance as chief was best appreciated by the members of the Special Operations Unit, who made his removal one of the main conditions for ending the armed rebellion in November 2001.
BIA in Ukraine
Former Serbian Ambassador to Ukraine Rade Bulatovic also came to the BIA virtually from detention and held the post during both Vojislav Kostunica governments. After the assassination of Đinđić on 12 March 2003, Bulatović was arrested in the framework of the police action “Sabre” on suspicion of “association for the purpose of hostile activity”. As reported in the media at the time, there were allegations that he and General Ac Tomić had secretly met with Dusan Spasojević and Milorad Ulemek Legija. Bulatović was released after three months, the charges were dropped and he received compensation for illegal detention.
In 2013, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic appointed Bulatović as Ambassador to Kiev, a post he held until August 2019. While in Kiev, he also served as non-resident Ambassador to Georgia.
His tenure in Ukraine will be marked by tensions in relations between the two countries. In fact, when Oleksandar Alexandrovich became Ukraine’s diplomatic representative in Belgrade in 2015, his country was already at war with Russia. Ambassador Aleksandrovic, known as a diplomat, knew how to blink when diametrically opposed interests intertwined – especially when Serbia stressed that there is no greater friend than Russia in the defence of its territorial integrity, while Ukraine is no greater enemy than Russia when it comes to threats to its territorial integrity.
Bulatovic was invited to Belgrade for a consultation in 2017 after Ukrainian Ambassador Aleksandrovic provoked the official Belgrade by saying that “Moscow is exploiting Serbia and the Serbian factor” and that “Russia is training mercenaries to kill Ukrainians”.
Vulin not deployed
The post of head of the BIA in Serbia is currently vacant and will await the formation of a new government after Aleksandar Vulin, who was placed on a sanctions list by the US in July for “corruption and involvement in drug trafficking and ties to Russia”, resigns in early November 2023.
Vulin has regular direct contacts with Russian representatives. In mid-December, he was in Moscow, where he met with the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev.
Mr Patrushev stressed that he highly appreciated Mr Vulin’s courage and “dedication in the struggle to preserve the independent and freedom-loving position of the Serbian people and state”.
Vulin’s portfolio – from Director of the Government Office for Kosovo, through the Ministries of Defence and Interior, which he headed, to the position of the first man in the Serbian secret service – makes him an excellent ambassador. The fact that he was recently recruited by Milorad Dodik as Senator of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an entity of the Republika Srpska, would certainly not be an obstacle for him.