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Officially, Serbia did not deliver any rockets to Ukraine, and the rest is “not their concern”
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Szerbia, rakéták / Serbia did not deliver rockets and missiles to Ukraine
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In the rocket case, Serbia continues to deny it. Both the Serbian foreign minister and the defense ministry leader claim that Serbia did not officially supply rockets to Ukraine. Ivica Dačić, the Serbian foreign minister, stated that since the beginning of the Ukrainian war, Serbia has not exported or granted permission for the export of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, Russia, or any country that may be considered “problematic” from an international standpoint. However, during the recent weapons transport scandal, no one claimed that there was direct export to Ukraine, and that permission was granted for this purpose. We are trying to outline how the deal went, about which probably none of the participants knew all the details.

Mostly enjoyed the cabbage

In 2018, the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, was a featured guest at the Guča brass band festival in the company of Ivica Dačić, and she did not conceal how happy she was to “relax” in Serbia. 

Ivica Dačić was pleased to host the spokesperson, who, while listening to the brass bands, tried Serbian food specialties, with the meaty cabbage being her favorite.

Rakéták, táncoskedvű Zaharova

Zaharova in good mood (Forrás: Blic)

Zaharova had so much fun that she even danced at least once.

However, this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson did not have the “urge to dance,” but rather to “give advice,” stating that Moscow expects an official explanation regarding the Serbian rockets sent to Ukraine.

As the Serbian foreign minister, Ivica Dačić was one of the officials responsible and, due to his acquaintance with Zakharova, may have felt it was his duty to respond, as they had “brassed” together in Guča five years ago.

Officially denied

Dačić also responded to the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, in which he did reject the responsibility of the Serbian state but did not completely dispel the suspicion that some involvement by a Serbian arms dealer was possible.

During a Belgrade conference held by Serbian diplomats in recent days, Dačić stated that Serbia has not exported or given permission to export weapons or military equipment to Ukraine, Russia, or any country considered problematic from an international perspective, since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict.

He suggested that if someone has information about this matter, then it is him because his ministry is involved in issuing export licenses.

However, Dačić added that he is talking about legal institutions that have export rights.

Rakéták, kiviteli engedéy

The signatory of the export permit (Screenshot)

The Serbian foreign minister is telling the truth, but the issue is not that simple, as the traces have been successfully erased, and it is uncertain whether the Belgrade government was aware of what was actually happening.

Recently, the Russian Mash news portal published a “confidential” Serbian export license issued on October 21, 2022, in Belgrade. However, the license was not issued by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs but by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Telecommunications, on behalf of the signatory, State Secretary Stevan Nikčević.

Presidential confirmation


On the day after this article was published, the Serbian president also confirmed that Serbia did not sell any weapons or ammunition to Ukraine or Russia, emphasizing this point with the Serbian saying “we are as clear as a tear drop.”

-We did not sell any weapons, (military) equipment or ammunition to Russia or Ukraine. We have sufficient “end-users,” and we export only to them

said Aleksandar Vučić, who was in Qatar at the time. He did not, of course, comment on Serbian private companies dealing in arms trade. Regarding the relationship with Turkey, he stated that there is an obligation with regard to the deals made with Turkey, that the weapons supplied to them cannot be forwarded without Serbia’s consent.


However, this document did not authorize the export of Serbian rockets to Ukraine, and everyone involved seemed to be quite cunning.

Yet, there may be some manipulation even within the document itself, as the Turkish company Arca, previously defined as the end-user, is listed with a Turkish name as an intermediary, while the Turkish Defense Industry Agency is named as the end-user, which is probably a translation of Arca into Serbian, written in Cyrillic letters.

So, Arca likely acted as an intermediary for itself, but it is hard to believe that the signatory did not notice or know this.

The Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs is certainly right in that the end user is not listed as Ukraine or Russia, but rather as a semi- Turkish state company, and the permit was not issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on these facts, it is also true that the Serbian state did not supply weapons to either Ukraine or Russia, and there are no permits/evidence to support that – someone else did it instead.

Earlier, the Serbian Defense Minister, Miloš Vučević, said in the Skupština (parliament) that Serbia does not export military equipment and weapons anywhere where it is not allowed, but added that “it is not Serbia’s responsibility to determine whether private companies are buying and selling Serbian weapons to other countries’ traders on third markets.”

Who was the proxy supplier?

If we interpret the above sentence, we can conclude that it might be about a company that is not under state supervision, but collaborates with a state-owned weapons factory. In this case, a privately owned weapons trader may be considered, whose company no longer acts on behalf of the Serbian state.

The “Western-oriented” Serbian opposition press suspects Slobodan Tesic, a Serbian arms dealer, and not without reason.

If we take a closer look at the export license, it states that the goods owner is not the Serbian state, nor the Serbian state-owned Krušik company, but Sofag doo (limited liability company), which according to Belgrade media reports, is owned by Slobodan Tesic’s daughter.

Presumably, Krušik sold or handed over the weapons to Sofag, or Sofag took over the shipment in its name, which landed in Turkey, where, according to Serbian ministerial approval, it could only be used for military purposes.

Therefore, the Serbian state is clean in terms of formalities, the exported weapons/rockets did not belong to Serbia, nor were they sold by Serbia or Serbian state-owned arms trading companies. According to the documents, Serbia did not supply weapons to either Ukraine or Russia, so the ministers were telling the truth, as we have already mentioned, or as stated in Belgrade, it is not Serbia’s concern what private companies engaged in arms trading do.

Of course, the question may arise whether the Serbs knew what purpose the designated Turkish end-user (& intermediary) wanted to purchase the rockets for and what they intended to use them for. They were certainly not naive.

It is possible that they had no idea what the path of the rockets would be, although due to the proximity of the Ukrainian war, they may have had “some idea”.

Why did it become an issue?

Just one week after the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin-backed media reported that Serbia was allegedly selling weapons to the Ukrainian army.

The Mash (mash.ru) Russian portal recently posted a brief report without specifying its source, and the attached video featured unverified documents, claiming that Krušik, a Serbian defense industry company, had sold 3,500 artillery shells to the Ukrainian defense ministry.

Although the authenticity of the published documents could not be verified, no one from either the Russian or Serbian side disputed their authenticity. If we follow the events step by step, it becomes clear that a Canadian, Slovak, American, and Turkish company participated in this complicated arms delivery case.

Only Krušik protested, claiming that the “foamy story” in the media was incomplete and based on irrelevant information, which was extremely maliciously tried to…

Only Krušik protested, stating that the media’s “inflated story” is incomplete and based on unrelated information, which maliciously attempts to place the Serbian company in a negative context. 

Krušik adds that there are contradictions in the published documents, including the alleged order of weapon sales and the names used. Regarding the latter, they note that the presented papers feature two names, M-21 GRAD and GRAD-200, with the latter being the label they use for the missiles they produce, but as they are not weapons experts, they will not go into that. 

“Since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, we have not entered into any contract for a missile or mine where the end-user has become a party to the conflict,” said the company in southern Serbia, which nonetheless did not claim that the documents were false. 

– Since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, we have not entered into any contract for a missile or mine where the end-user has become a party to the conflict

said the company in southern Serbia, which nonetheless did not claim that the documents were false. 

According to the export permit, the end-user in question is not Ukraine, nor does a Ukrainian company appear in it, but rather Turkish Arca, which then passed on the rockets without involving Ukrainian companies. 

Meanwhile, the BBC has determined that the workers seen in the video wear work clothes with the logo of Turkish company “S Sistem Logistics Services Co,” which has several warehouses in Turkey, including at the Istanbul airport, but according to its website, it has no location in Bratislava, so Mash’s claim that the footage was shot in Bratislava can be questionable, but if we let our imagination go, we would not necessarily rule it out.

Rakéta

However, if we take a closer look at the Turkish shipping document, the recipient listed is Slovak MSM Novaky, whose role is not overly clear, as the Ukrainian Defense Ministry names itself as the end-user in the document it issued, along with exporter Arca and supplier American company Global Ordnance Trading, owned by Marc Morales, whose “thoughts, prayers, and ammunition” are with Ukraine, specifically with General Valery Zaluzhny. 

If we try to close the loop, we find that an American company bought Serbian weapons for the Ukrainians with some intermediate stops, which would not be unique since the Americans also bought Serbian weapons for the Iraqi army during the Iraq War.

What is Mash?

According to the BBC, Mash, the Russian news portal that exposed the arms shipment, is operated by News Media, the majority owner of which is Kremlin-affiliated Aram Gabrelyanov.

Rakéták, mash

Mash is one of the Russian portals that glorify the Ukrainian invasion in the Russian media and on social media, such as Twitter.

In recent years, Gabrelyanov has been involved in managing various media channels whose work has been financed by the Russian state budget.

Last November (2022), together with two other journalists, they received a 450,000 euro grant from Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch new media projects in the separatist regions of Ukraine, namely the Donetsk and Luhansk “states”, which have since reportedly joined Russia.

 

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