Pro-Russia activists joined nationalist protesters outside the Serbian presidency building this week, in the latest sign of Russia’s growing influence in the country.
The protesters chanted slogans such as “no surrender” and “treason”, warning of riots if Serbia backed a European Union plan to normalise relations with Kosovo.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic condemned the protesters as “anti-Serbian”, but the government denied that Moscow stoked the protests.
The ongoing war has increased tensions in Belgrade, and the president has received death threats if he signed a deal on Kosovo. Three men have been charged with calling for a violent change of Serbia’s constitutional order.
Among them is Damjan Knezevic, a Serbian far-right leader who organised the protests and publicly backed Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which has played a significant role in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Knezevic was recently pictured visiting Wagner’s Russian headquarters in St. Petersburg, and another man was arrested for apparently taking a sniper rifle to the protest.
President Vucic went on TV to accuse the protest organisers of being paid for with foreign cash and vowed that Serbia would never be defeated by lies, threats, and a few rifles.
He also stated that he did not need someone from Wagner to tell him what he can and cannot do. The Russian ambassador condemned threats against the Serbian leader.
However, as the war in Ukraine nears its one-year anniversary, Serbia is struggling to maintain ties with Moscow while moving closer to the European Union.