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The Wagner Group at the Opposition Protest in Serbia


A megjelenés dátuma

Wagner Csoport, tüntetés / Wagner group at Serbian oppositions protest

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Olvasási idő: 4 perc

In Serbia’s opposition rallies and protests, suspicious figures, likely members of the Wagner Group in Serbia, have been responsible for provoking multiple incidents at the recent opposition protest in Belgrade. During Friday’s demonstration, they attacked a woman, than a girl and later targeted Savo Manojlović, the campaign director of the „Start-Change” (Kreni-Promeni) opposition movement, when he tried to intervene.

The glaring evidence

There are numerous glaring pieces of evidence in Serbia indicating a resurgence of politicization through rallies and mass gatherings, reminiscent of not-so-distant . This provides fertile ground for various misled groups led by deranged ideologies, such as the People’s Guard, which has established strong ties with the Wagner Group.

The Russian (semi)military unit deliberately seeks to incite conflicts worldwide—most recently, its name came up in connection with Sudan. Similarly, something of the sort has „happened” in Serbia, where local members were involved in a demonstration near the Kosovo border a few months ago. More recently, they inflamed the extreme-right Belgrade protest in the Serbian Parliament, allegedly with the intention to assassinate Aleksandar Vučić.

The People’s Guard, pretending to be fierce opponents of the Serbian president, has even instigated actions against him in Russia, and naturally, they appeared at the quasi-opposition protest in Belgrade, organized by parliamentary groups opposing the government.

On Friday, the People’s Guard incited several incidents, with one of its members attacking a woman holding a sign that read „Stop Femicide” (referring to the alarming number of women killed by their husbands or partners in Serbia this year). Subsequently, they targeted a girl who was filming the incident.

Wagner Csoport, tüntetés

Members of the Serbian „branch” of the Wagner Group, on the left Ilija Vuksanović, on the right Damjan Knežević

In Serbian social media, multiple individuals have exposed a man named Ilija Vuksanović, whom a Belgrade lawyer claims was sent to the protest by President Vučić himself, with the intention of inciting incidents, something he has done before.

It is mere speculation whether the Serbian president gave this instruction, as the People’s Guard does not belong to the president’s background organizations (although such connections exist). In terms of ideology, they are closer to the extremist parliamentary party known as the Oath Keepers (Zavetnici). However, one can never be certain about the influence of the Serbian police on the group’s leader, Damjan Knežević, as he was taken into custody and presumably „reeducated” following the recent anti-government protest in Belgrade.

We mention Knežević because he was one of those who forcibly removed Vuksanović from the scene, which went unnoticed by the Serbian social media, just like the fact that several participants of the opposition protest were wearing the „logo” of the Wagner Group on their arms. Knežević can be seen in the striped sweater in the image on the right.

Serbian social media has also noted that Vuksanović indeed bears the symbol of the Russian private army on his right arm. However, the commentators stopped the video at an unfortunate moment, failing to notice that the man passing behind him also carries the same „decoration,” indicating membership in the same prestigious company.

Wagner Csoport, Wagner, tüntetés


Čedomir Stojković, a Belgrade lawyer and leader of the October group, who filed criminal charges in mid-January against Damjan Knežević, strongly associated with the Wagner Group, and several members of the People’s Guard, including incitement of national, racial, and religious hatred and intolerance among peoples and ethnic communities, has now posted a photo on Twitter showing Russian flags as well.

According to Stojković, the People’s Guard deliberately brought out three Russian flags to the protest for propaganda purposes, aiming to compromise the demonstration and create a false narrative that Russia is behind the protests.

The Belgrade lawyer believed that the members of the People’s Guard intended to prove that the protests had taken on a violent character by launching attacks against participants of the rally.

Following this, Stojković warned that it appears that the Serbian branch of the Wagner Group, in cooperation with the Serbian Progressive Party and the Russian embassy, is planning broader incidents for the upcoming opposition protest.

Why are we surprised?

All indications suggest that violence has seeped into the pores of Serbian society, as the events of the 1990s have resurfaced in public discourse. At the highest levels, the name of Slobodan Milošević, who bears the greatest responsibility for the wars three decades ago, is mentioned in a positive context. It has become almost impossible to unravel the relationships that Serbian opposition and government parties have built and maintained with the criminal underworld. Moreover, certain organizations openly flirt with the Wagner Group, and there is more than one of them.

In the meantime, or rather on a daily basis, members of the Serbian far-right, among others, verbally attack Kosovo. It is the current topic at hand, but if necessary, they would gladly do the same tomorrow regarding Bosnia, Croatia, or even Montenegro.

In the Serbian media, there is a clear government dominance, while government officials constantly attack the opposition media, which is also responsible for generating tensions. However, they allow these media outlets, which are essentially oriented towards incitement, to operate and even provide them with financial and moral support. These outlets are often associated with propagandists from the 1990s war era.

Given this situation, why are we surprised when a few guns go off? It’s rather miraculous that there aren’t more incidents, as tension flickers in everyday life and catches up with everyone, even those who try to avoid it. Serbian society is once again being socialized along the lines of violence, moving in the same direction as it did a few generations ago.


Dodik travels to Moscow, yet receives money from the European Union

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a megjelenés dátuma

Dodik pénzt kap az EU-tól / Dodik travels to Moscow and receives money from the EU

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Olvasási idő: 5 perc

The European Commission has lifted the suspension it imposed last year on the disbursement of EU funds intended for the Bosnian Serb Republic. Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb entity, expressed his gratitude to his coalition partners for their support in this matter, while the entity he leads is experiencing worsening economic conditions. The upcoming repayment of bonds issued on the Vienna Exchange this year may force Dodik to take on additional significant loans. It is possible that he will seek assistance in Hungary as well.

In Brussels, they loosened their grip

Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, achieved a significant result on Friday, as the EU revoked the suspension of EU-funded development projects in the Serbian entity.

The disbursement of EU funds intended for the Bosnian Serb Republic had been suspended since February last year, as the EU Commission sought to exert pressure on Dodik’s Independent Social Democrats Alliance (Savez Nezavisnih Socijaldemokrata, SNSD) due to their secessionist tendencies.

Although the European Union did not impose sanctions on Bosnian Serb political leaders at that time, the Commission ordered the freezing of all projects receiving EU support.

It was already known at the time of the halt in investments, mostly related to infrastructure development, that the Serbian entity, burdened by significant debt due to bonds issued on international stock exchanges, would not be able to compensate for the resulting shortfall from its own budget.

In May of this year, several Bosnian newspapers reported that the leadership of the Bosnian Serb Republic could be in trouble if they do not find new external funding to finance their accumulated external debt.

While the risk of technical bankruptcy is not discussed in Banja Luka, it can be assumed that the EU, in plain terms, „didn’t let Dodik off the hook” and resumed the disbursement of previously frozen financial assets.

According to experts knowledgeable in the Bosnian financial sector, the EU’s restart of programs has provided a lifeline to the otherwise grim state of the Bosnian Serb economy.

However, experts agreed that the influx of EU funds alone will not be sufficient to ensure the necessary growth for financing external debt. This is because its impact does not generate enough additional GDP growth in the Bosnian Serb Republic to break free from the debt spiral.

One may ask, why did Brussels yield?

The answer, according to many, is that this step was a significant gesture towards the Bosnian Serb region on the brink of international isolation and economic collapse.

Dodik, in turn, has only earned this by fulfilling the coalition agreement he made with the Croatian Democratic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica Bosne i Hercegovine, HDZ BiH) and the left-wing Bosnian party alliance known as the „troika” until now.

Troubles within the coalition arise

The importance of restarting EU programs is also reflected in Dodik himself expressing gratitude, in front of the press, to Elmedin Konaković, the Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs, for consistently keeping the issue of restarting frozen projects in the Serbian entity on the agenda during his visits to Brussels this year.

elmedin konakovic milorad dodik 1

On the right, Elmedin Konaković, the Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs, plays the role of a helpful lobbyist, while on the left, Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, needs to be connected to a financial infusion

Simultaneously with the announcement of the financial good news, Denis Bečirović, the Bosnian member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, also held negotiations with members of the Western Balkans Working Group of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Bečirović’s participation in the meeting caused significant disruption within the communication machinery of the Bosnian government coalition. This was because the member of the presidency asked the present EU representatives to impose further sanctions against Dodik, and he described the continuation of the disbursement of EU financial assets as a „terribly bad step.”

Regarding Bečirović’s stance against Dodik, it is worth noting that in previous years, he has repeatedly accused the top Bosnian Serb leader of separatist tendencies and violating the principles of the Dayton Agreement.

His recent actions were particularly uncomfortable for his own party, the Social Democratic Party (Socijaldemokratska Stranka, SDP), as this position completely contradicted the coalition government’s stance, including that of his own party, regarding EU funds.

Although there haven’t been similar levels of communication discord among some players within the five-party government coalition in the past, and the government seemingly continued its work uninterrupted, strong figures within the coalition parties often make comments that indicate underlying tension.

When it comes to separate communication, the SDP takes the lead, as several prominent members sharply criticize the work of the coalition partners organized on the basis of two ethnicities, the Bosnian Serb SNSD and the Croatian HDZ BiH.

The ‘unique word scattering’ observed in the communication of the SDP can be traced back to the fact that the Yugoslav state party’s successor organization in Bosnia, in addition to its traditional center-left orientation, has sought to broaden its support among progressive and neo-Marxist youth groups. These groups find it difficult to accept that the SDP, which represents a multiethnic and atheist approach they support, formed an alliance with the Bosnian Serb and Croatian conservative political forces that were continuously criticized in the previous cycle.

Dodik needs to pay (or should pay)

Regardless of the opening of EU funds, the economic situation of the Bosnian Serb Republic is difficult to assess positively.

The maturity dates of entity bonds issued on the London and Vienna stock exchanges are approaching, and their repayment will pose a significant burden on the budget of the Serb entity.

The numbers speak for themselves.

This year, the Serb entity has a bond-based debt obligation of approximately 1,099 million BAM (convertible mark), which amounts to 208 billion Hungarian forints. In addition, the government of the Bosnian Serb Republic has to pay an additional 900 million BAM (170 billion Hungarian forints) this year based on other commitments.

A significant portion of these obligations is related to certain infrastructure investments. From this year’s upcoming debt pile, a portion of the Bosnian Serb bonds issued on the Vienna Stock Exchange in previous years will mature in June. After this, the Serb entity will have to pay approximately 400 million BAM (75 billion Hungarian forints).

To ensure the financing of the mentioned debt, the Bosnian Serb Republic received a loan of 180 million BAM (34 billion Hungarian forints) from Hungary.

We have previously reported in detail about this transaction and the support program provided by the Hungarian government to Bosnian Serb agricultural entrepreneurs.

According to news reports in the Bosnian press, in order to continue rolling over the high external debt, Dodik may be preparing, or rather, be forced to take on another loan of approximately 2 billion BAM (380 billion Hungarian forints) in the near future.

Most analysts link this future transaction, which has so far been only speculation, to the Chinese development funds that are still leading in the Western Balkans region, due to the drying up of Russian resources. However, it is also possible that Dodik may once again knock on Budapest’s door for a little injection of funds.

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