The lawyer published a video of members of the Ministry of the Interior who followed the Russians in Belgrade
Russian lawyer Dimitrij Zahatov, a participant in a seminar organized by the Russian opposition in Belgrade last May, told Nova that he and his colleagues were monitored during their stay in the Serbian capital at several different locations and for several days in a row. He submitted photos of the people who followed them, as well as the vehicles they used for that purpose.
The information that Russian citizens were monitored and wiretapped during their stay in Belgrade in an interview for the daily “Nova” was first announced by Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist from Russia.
The story of the wiretapping received a controversial epilogue, bearing in mind that it was later revealed that the Minister of Police, Alexander Vulin, traveled to Moscow only two days after the gathering of Russian oppositionists in Belgrade and handed over transcripts of their conversations to Russia’s National Security Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
The result of the mentioned meeting was the arrest of the co-organizer of the gathering in Belgrade and the Russian oppositionist Andrei Pivovarov, who was arrested two weeks after Vulin’s stay in Moscow.
After the publication of this story, one of the lecturers at the seminar in the capital of Serbia, lawyer Dimitrij Zahtov, described in detail how they were followed by unknown persons for three days in a row.
Zahtov submitted photos and recordings of people he claims are behind him and his colleagues during their stay in Serbia. A subsequent check, the Nova.rs portal, revealed that these were members of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, employed in the Service for Special Investigative Methods.
Read the testimony of the lawyer Dimitirija Zahtova:
In the spring of 2021, my friends invited me to Belgrade, where a gathering dedicated to local self-government in Russia was held. They offered me to give a lecture on the legislation on administrative offenses. I agreed and arrived in Belgrade on May 7, 2021. Part of the event, in which I participated, was held at the Falkersteiner Hotel from May 8 to 11, 2021. On the evening of May 8, the participants of the event went to the center of Belgrade for dinner and sightseeing of the city.
We were in the Vuk restaurant in Vuk Karadzic Street. An hour after dinner started, I noticed a man and a woman sitting at the next table opposite me. During the next two hours, as long as they spent in the restaurant, they ordered only one tea and Coca-Cola. The girl ordered dessert. None of them drank alcohol.
They caught my attention because it was a Saturday, and their “socializing” didn’t look like a business or a meeting of any other kind at all. They didn’t talk much, but they watched us carefully all the time.
Dinner was over and our group split up. Part of the group went to Kalemegdan, and some went shopping in search of warmer clothes, since it was already getting dark and it was getting colder. We were walking along Knez Mihailova Street in search of a shop where we could possibly buy some warmer clothes, and I soon noticed that a young man who was sitting with a girl in a restaurant was moving behind us. I remembered him for all the jeans he wore,” explains Zahotov.
He then added that they went to a shop located on Knez Mihailova Street, and after he left it, he noticed a guy in gray jeans in the company of another man with glasses standing in front of the mentioned shop.
“In the hands of the latter, I noticed a small walkie-talkie, with a small antenna, from which the headphone wire protruded. He moved it from one pocket to another. That’s how I realized they were watching us. My colleagues were still in the shop at the time, and I was discreetly photographing these two men.
I shared my concern with my colleagues, who supported me in the idea of continuing to check my suspicions that they were following us. We headed towards Kalemegdan, along the way we stopped by small shops with large shop windows through which we could observe what was happening on the street, so we saw that the two men mentioned were still persistently following us. In a situation where we would separate, one would go a little further and the other closer to us. In order to finally check our suspicions, we turned from Knez Mihaila Street into a narrow alley leading to the Student Park. The alley was almost deserted and ideal for checking to see if we were under surveillance. After we passed through that alley and after we turned the corner, we waited for half a minute, and then we turned and headed again towards Knez Mihaila Street, and the “man with glasses”, who had previously followed us, followed us again. It became clear that they were following us.
The rest of the group, which was already located near Kalemegdan, I warned about our discovery and we agreed to meet and group near the Belgrade Fortress. As we were walking near Kalemegdan, a girl, a man with glasses and a guy in all jeans were constantly following us.
For example, in order to remain unnoticeable, a man with glasses would take off or put on a white jacket again, and a girl would, for example, move with one of them, then with the other and so on in a circle.
Bearing in mind that it was so dark near the fortress that they could easily follow us and spy on us, we were convinced that, following us, they realized that we did not pose any threat.
The monitoring continued the next day – this time on the river
Zahvatvov said that the next day, on May 9, he again noticed that two unknown persons were following them.
“We rented a boat tour on the Sava and Danube. I assumed that the surveillance would continue and I wondered at what point we would notice them again. After we left the port, behind the ship, at a distance of about 200 meters, we were followed by a small boat with two men, one of whom, in my opinion, is the same man with the glasses from the beginning of this story “, he explained.
The same men were seen on the Zemun quay
Zahtov states that the same men appeared the next day, May 10, during their tour of Zemun and a walk along the Zemun quay.
“We called a taxi to Gardosh and went down to Grobljanska Street. Getting out of the taxi, I saw a silver Volkswagen golf passing by us. Through the glass of the car I saw and managed to notice the same two men who were following us on the first day. Somewhat later, a man with glasses, from the beginning of this story, continued to the Zemun cemetery. He was there and constantly moving from one bench to another. I managed to capture his silhouette with a camera.
After some time, I decided, just in case, to find and photograph the car in which the mentioned men were driving. I found it parked at the bottom of Grobljanska Street. Behind the wheel of the car sat a guy who wore gray jeans the first night. “We spent some time in a cafe near the tower, after which we headed to the embankment, watching these people follow us,” he said.
“I had to approach them in the end”
The interlocutor points out that he rarely travels from Russia and that no one outside his country has ever followed him, so he could not restrain himself without approaching the people who followed him.
Curiosity did not let me go. Sitting in a cafe on Liberation Quay, I waited for the man with the glasses to take up his position and watch us. When he sat down at the next table, I walked towards him. In English, I tried to explain to him that I know who he is, that we are not enemies of his country, that we spotted their observation group three days ago, that we have nothing to hide from them, asking them to stop this show.
I said that, if he is interested in finding out something, he and his colleagues should sit at our table and listen freely to what we are talking about. He understood everything, but pretended not to understand me and not to speak English. I laughed at that, because it was quite strange to me that the informant did not know or speak English.
“Okay,” I said.
I took out my mobile phone and translated everything into Serbian and showed him the text of the translation. At that moment, his phone rang, he answered, and I managed to hear the excited voice of his interlocutor on the other side, who obviously saw everything and asked for an explanation of what was happening. I realized that it was his colleague from the group that accompanied us, because, although Serbian and Russian are different, they are still Slavic and simple words can be understood without a translator.
In response to his interlocutor, this man said “I do not understand” (in Ukrainian, this phrase sounds the same as in Serbian).
The general interpretation of the context of their conversation sounded something like this:
“He approached me, but I don’t understand what he wants from me.”
I said goodbye to him and once again invited him to join our table. After a while, I stopped noticing those people, even though I got up from the table several times to find them. They obviously realized that their observation had been discovered and withdrew “.