Serbia and Russia

Serbia and Russia




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These Serbian nationalists are staging a pro-Russian car rally in Belgrade — they’re on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s side.

Serbian Nationalist, One: “We’re here because of Russia.”
Serbian Nationalist, Two: “Fight Nazism. Nazism was not exterminated in 1945. It has survived and must be destroyed.”

They’re convinced that Putin is doing just that: fighting Nazism in Ukraine. The letter Z adorns many cars here, the same as can be found on Russian army vehicles. It stands for the phrase for victory.

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Like most Serbians, Nebojsa Radulovic rejects these nationalists and the war. Even so he feels a strong connection to Russia and has long perceived NATO as a threat.

He was a teenager when his native Belgrade was bombed during the Kosovo War.

Nebojsa Radulovic: “I was 14 and in eighth grade. But instead of figuring out which high school to go to, we were preoccupied with trying to survive the bombings.”

To this day there are still ruins in central Belgrade, a grim reminder of the war. Radulovic says the bombings destroyed more than bridges and residential buildings — they also undermined his trust in the West and its values. And he says many here feel similarly.

Russia’s influence in Serbia meanwhile grew stronger over the years. Putin is currently on almost every front page.

Many Serbians view Russians as their Slavic brothers. Russia is admired and few criticize its war against Ukraine.

Belgrade Resident, One: “I think this war has been inevitable for a long time. The West is hypocritical, especially Western media that report on it.”

Belgrade Resident, Two: “We are the largest Balkan nation. We should feel the greatest responsibility. But we have not learned from our history. That’s awful.”

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One group with a long history of fighting for civil and human rights are the Women in Black.

But few join their protest against the war in Ukraine. The activists said the low turnout was sobering.

They believe it was linked to the fact that many Serbians long for a strong leader rather than a true democracy.

Stasa Zajovic, Civil Rights Activist: “Do Serbians like Russia or Putin? What they like are authoritarian governments that has nothing to do with Russia per se.”

Not long ago German foreign minister Annalena Berbach visited Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. The meeting was tense as Vucic is known for his close ties to Putin.

Since the war broke out, Vujic has attempted a political balancing act: approving a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion; yet refusing to carry out Western sanctions against the country.

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian President: “What are we supposed to distance ourselves from? In what sense are we connected to the conflict in Ukraine? What did Serbia do wrong?

Serbia is not talking about anyone, not bringing up any names. There is no love or hate. When it comes to us we only respect international law.”

President Vucic is currently campaigning to be re-elected in April, and polls suggest he and his party are set to win. Most Serbians share his view on the Ukraine war.

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In Tašmajdan Park park in central Belgrade, this monument commemorates the children killed during NATO attacks on the city. Memories of that old war are still alive.

Belgrade Resident, Three: “Serbia, Russia we are not in this war. But the US England, France need to recognize how it came to this.”

Belgrade Resident, Four: “I’m against every war. I was against the Kosovo War and against the one before that. I’m against interventions and oppose using force against independent states.”

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But Nebojsa Radulovic and his friends say the Ukraine War has pushed them to reassess their long-held loyalty to Russia and critical opinion of NATO and the West.

They feel isolated and wonder where that leaves them and their country, Serbia.

Nebojsa Radulovic: We’ve always been caught in the middle and that’s where we are again now. I’m not sure what difficulties we would encounter if we were to go along with sanctions against Russia.

We just cannot take that road right now our ties with Russia are too strong economically speaking. And there’s also an element of fear.”

Their biggest hope is that the war in Ukraine will end soon.

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Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro. Everyone around the world supports Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelensky. True or false?

Russia, Belarus. Do many Serbs say they support the invasion of Ukraine because they want a restoration of the Soviet Union or Tsarist Empire?

Ukraine. Serbian sentiments are based solely on old history and geopolitics. Is this right or wrong?

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Do Serbs feel disconnect with Russia because they are a Balkan nation, while Russia is East European or Eurasian?

Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan. All Serbs support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Everyone in Serbia supports Putin. Is this correct or incorrect?

Romania, Moldova. Does the Serbian government and president fully support, mostly support, partially support, largely oppose or completely oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both support and oppose, in the middle or neither support nor oppose?

Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic. Is there a memorial to Soviet soldiers in the Tasmajdan Park in central Belgrade?

Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece. “They feel isolated and wonder where that leaves them and their country, Serbia. ‘We’ve always been caught in the middle and that’s where we are again now.’” What does this mean?
Finland, Sweden, Denmark. What do people in your city, town and country think of the Russian invasion?

Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Can you think of other reasons Putin has invaded Ukraine?
Britain, Ireland.

Britain, Ireland. How would you analyze or characterize Vladimir Putin? Why do many Russians support the war?

France, Italy. What might happen in the future?

Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg. What could or should governments and ordinary citizens do?

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