Neither were NATO bases installed in the Montenegrin cities, nor has Montenegro lost sovereignty, nor have our wages been lowered due to the North Atlantic Alliance membership. Everything that anti-membership supporters said turned out to be wrong – Dusko Markovic, the Government House in Cetinje, on the occasion of the first NATO membership anniversary .

According to the unspoken rule, since the period of the Montenegro’s accession talks to the Alliance, a group of opponents to the Montenegrin North Atlantic membership has been airing in the Montenegrin and Serbian media and political scene the stories about losing the country’s sovereignty, freedom which NATO soldiers would enjoy, and possible attacks from other states or terrorist organizations holding grudge against NATO, particularly from the Russian Federation.

NATO radar

Since the presentation of the work results and future plans of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Montenegro (AFM) held in November 2018, when the Montenegrin Minister of Defense, Predrag Boskovic mentioned in the context of the future AFM development projects the procurement of a 3D radar for airspace control, numerous regional media, close to Russia or directly deriving from Kremlin, have reported on this with sensationalistic headlines, far away from the truth: Montenegrin Sky Taken by Americans! Up to Their Neck in Debts and Still Provide Millions for the New NATO Radars and From Bjelasica to Serbia NATO Monitors Russia!

Portals such as skandalozno.rs, in4s.net, novosti.rs, srbijadanas.com, smedia.rs, rs-lat.sputniknews.com, rtv.rs, mondo.rs, borba.me present the installation of the NATO radar on Bjelasica as a sort of threat to Russia and Serbia, highlighting that a “total occupation” era is coming and that by installing such a military facility in a place named Zekova glava in Bjelasica Montenegro becomes a legitimate target for Russian projectiles.

In addition, the portal novosti.rs connects the radar installation with the 1999 NATO intervention, highlighting that the projected place for the NATO radar installation is located near a place named Murino which was the NATO intervention target.  

The information on the procurement of a 3D radar was confirmed by Boskovic for agency MINA after the NATO members’ ministerial meeting on February 14, when he highlighted that the procurement of a radar represented the national priority. On that occasion, he emphasized that NATO offers radars to all its member states, and if requested the Alliance estimates whom it is the most needed, adding that the donation would be an acceptable solution for Montenegro. Also, if the radar could not be procured directly from NATO, Montenegro would go the bilateral way and try to procure it from some other member state.

Nevertheless, it has been confirmed that the request for the provision of the 20 million worth radar has been sent, that the NATO Investment Committee is considering it right now and that the negotiations are in progress. If the donation is to be realized, it would relieve Montenegro of the amount of 20 million euros expenses. Certainly, this step forward represents another strong effort to ensure the defense and the protection of the country’s airspace, together with the Air Policing Mission provided by the allied aircraft from Greece and Italy.

The Democratic Front party members, Andrija Mandic and Strahinja Bulajic have taken advantage of this opportunity to emphasize that this operation is directed against Serbia and Russia and that this radar will be a useful support to those aircraft used during the 1999 intervention.

NATO base

In the spirit of malign narratives on a certain radar donation by the Alliance, the abovementioned media have built on the story about the alleged establishment of a NATO base and a military polygon on the territory of Andrijevica and Sinjajevina, where owing to the geographic position exists the best conditions for the creation of a military infrastructure. This story was followed by indispensable conspiracy theory against Serbia and Russia, the stance that Montenegro represents an area for anti-Russian policy, and the use of clickbait headlines such as It is Clear Now What’s been Preparing!, NATO Strikes on Vasojevici, Secret NATO Plan Disclosed: Alliance Builds Two Bases in Montenegro.

What is important to mention is that neither Minister Predrag Boskovic nor any NATO official did confirm the establishment of any NATO base on the territory of Montenegro. On the contrary, the Ministry of defense has confuted numerous times such speculations with words: it is pointless to talk about it anymore.

As for Andrijevica, in the area of around 40 thousand m2 in a place Prljanija, a barrack “Miljan Vukov Vesovic” will most probably be established for the needs of the Armed Forces of Montenegro. This is corroborated by the recently adopted Decision on the Amendments to the Spatial and General Town Plan of the Municipality of Andrijevica. The Amendments to the Plan will provide an area of special use for defense purposes. Recently, certain media have speculated that the barrack establishment in Andrijevica is designed as a provocation giving the fact that in its nearby, in a place Murino, was a NATO intervention in 1999.

When it comes to Sinjajevina, the topic of a military polygon used for target practice, surplus weapons destruction and serving as a sort of a NATO base has frequently been misused for daily political purposes followed by many disinformation. Minister Boskovic said that this location would be used neither for a NATO base establishment, not for surplus weapons destruction, but that the AFM would use this specific area two times a year for several days and operate with less explosive than it is used on a daily basis for the construction of the Bar-Boljari highway.

Let us remind, two years ago when the story about bases was brought about by the Democratic Front and when Milan Knezevic (DF) said for the Moscow-based daily Izvestija that the plans on the establishment of a NATO base will be realized within two years, until 2019, the Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg confuted this statement with words: There will be no NATO activities in Montenegro without the consensus of the Government. NATO acts only when the country welcomes it. There are no plans for NATO base unless we are called on.

Therefore, first, there has to be a clearly presented request of a very NATO member to establish a military base on its territory, as was the case with Albania.

Actually, in August 2018, Edi Rama confirmed on his Facebook profile the establishment of a NATO airbase in Kuçovë in Albania, in the amount of 50 million euros in the first phase of the project, after the Albanian Minister of Defense Olta Xhaçka had proposed her American colleague James Mattis to establish a NATO military base on the territory of Albania.

Following domestic players, individuals and the media, even the high Russian officials joined the debate. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, stated that after Montenegro and Macedonia joined NATO, these countries would see the establishment of the Alliance military facilities on their respective territories, as well as that they would have to spend extra money in future on the purchase of the American weapons and that nobody will like it.

Additionally, portal in4s.net used the potential relocation of a military airport from Golubovci to give once again the impression to the public that everything in Montenegro is being done in the interest of NATO, while at the same time interests of the country are being neglected. On Monday, February 4, the mentioned portal published an article under the headline Writing of IN4S Confirmed: Kapino polje – a Runway for NATO Aircraft. The text states that NATO is getting its foot in the Montenegrin door and that everyone who did not believe in it got a confirmation, personally from “the Montenegrin NATO Ambassador”, Minister Predrag Boskovic.

What is disputable about the content is the fact that the entire article is based on statements given by both the Minister and the Mayor of Niksic, who not once did mention NATO. Therefore, it is concluded that there is a great discrepancy between the headline and the content, raising the question of what kind of confirmation was given by Boskovic and Grbovic.

I hope that issues relating to the airport at Kapino Polje will be implemented in the coming period, for it to be able to respond to requests of partly civilian and military aviation. Today, we have also discussed the planning and the reconstruction of military garrisons, the construction of facilities of the General Staff, and the fact that the suggested deadlines should be met, some of which are urgent. Our Agency is already working on this, and I hope that we will respond to the needs of the Army, which will further implement these projects – Grbovic’s statement based on which the author of the text came to the conclusion that NATO aircraft will be landing in Kapino polje in the future.

In addition, the text itself represents the recycling of old content. During Boskovic’s visit to the town at the foot of Trebjesa in November 2018, the Minister pointed out that there is a possibility of relocating the military airport from Podgorica to Kapino Polje, due to the intentions of expanding the civilian airport in Podgorica. Shortly after, portal in4s.net reacted and published the text in which almost the same claims were made as now, adding that the Montenegrin government offered its cities for the NATO bases purposes. In the next few days, the text was republished by numerous other, mostly Serbian media outlets.

Losing sovereignty

One more hypothesis of anti-NATO activists, analysts and conspiracy theorists, circulating since the period before the membership is the loss of sovereignty. For example, right after Montenegro’s joining to the Alliance, a Democratic Front party member, Strahinja Bulajic, claimed among other things that joining to this military machinery, Montenegro has lost its sovereignty over its territory.

But is it really possible to lose sovereignty?

Sovereignty as a concept that dates back in the era of philosophers, from Socrates to Thomas Hobbes. However, according to the studies of Jackson Sovereignty – Modern: A new Approach to an Outdated Concept and Calster International Law and Sovereignty in the Age of Globalization, the modern sovereignty has been created with the establishment of a Nation-state, thus representing the highest authority exerted by a legal state within its territory. In such a way, the state sovereignty is directly linked with the notion of borders and territory. As Claster further states, territory is simultaneously a condition for a state to exist and a limitation to its rights: in principle, a state is sovereign only in its territory. Further, according to this concept of sovereignty, no other country or organization may impose its jurisdiction to another country.

In order to legally regulate the issue of military bases of one country to a territory of another, there have been adopted in practice the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) and the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA), as an overall security solutions which regulate and impose conditions under which a foreign military may act in the territory of a host country.

Such reporting is a classic example of a content which rests upon unsubstantiated facts, assumptions and disinformation, all with the aim to deceive a reader when it comes to a sensitive topic of NATO and to increase the level of animosity towards the West, following the recycle of old content and under the veil of everyday propaganda, standard reporting and through now the well-known anti-NATO channels.

In the midst of the story on anti-vaxxers and harmful effects of vaccines, which was popular a year ago, and which was one of the topics we have written about in our latest issue of the Magazine, in the end of March on portal srbijadanas.com appeared an article, emphasizing how American Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has recently published a solicitation for the purchase of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and biological tissue originating from the Russian population. A supplier should have sent the samples to AETC, providing the information on donor’s health as well.

As the portal stated, and as it was conveyed by other media (ekskluzivnevesti.com, aktuelno24h.com, intermagazin.rs, vestinet.rs, naslovi.net, vesti.rs, srbijajavlja.rs, smedia.rs, sedmasila.rs) Russian intelligence services informed the Russian President Vladimir Putin about everything that was going on. At the 15th annual conference in Sochi on October 18th 2018, Russian President confirmed to media that an ethnic bioweapon exists and it’s already tested in the form of medicine on dogs that subsequently suffered from terrible consequences after three generations. Allegedly, according to srbijadanas.com, he pointed out that it can be applied on humans, members of certain ethnic groups, and that the weapon is directed to certain nations, even families.

Furthermore, the portal cited Russian President’s speech delivered at the Human Rights Council’s meeting on October 30th 2017: “Do you know that they are collecting biological material from the entire country and all ethnic groups – of the people living in all geographic areas of Russia? The question is: why are they doing so? What they do, they do with a specific intention. We are a subject of great interest – Russian President said and called for resolving this situation without raising panic and revealed that “some forces” were collecting biological material of European Russians throughout Russia.”

Since the article didn’t have more detailed information on this, we decided to investigate it more thoroughly.

Although the portal stated the Russian portal Russia Today as its source, that article was non-existent on this portal. What we found on this portal was a video of Vladimir Putin at the meeting in Sochi, in the think tank, club for discussion “Valday” “ (Междунаро́дный дискуссио́нный клуб «Валда́й»), where its 15th session was held in October 2018.

However, what Putin is saying in this video refers to the issue related to the recent documents presented to the media by former State Security Minister of Georgia, regarding rumours on existence of a number of states developing biological weapon and the presence of the American biological laboratories in the territories of other countries, and not to the AETC solicitation for the purchase of the Russians’ RNA. Also, in the answer to this question, Putin didn’t mention that the weapon was directed against specific nations and families.

Secondly, the recent purchase of the RNA and biological tissue of the Russians actually represents a solicitation published by Air Education and Training Command (AETC). The Command asked for collecting 12 samples of RNA and 27 samples of the synovial tissue of the Russians settled in the area of Caucasus. As stated in October 2017 by Russian portal ria.ru, they needed samples of the Russians specifically, since the first samples they had got were the samples of the Russians, and no other would have been suitable for further analysis. Also, they stated it was about the research concerning musculoskeletal systems, and these samples are needed because they are substantial for functions of joints.

Furthermore, comparing the very headline with the rest of the article on the portal srbijadanas.rs, there are no words in the article text mentioning that the genetic weapon is being given through vaccines. Putin didn’t say that neither in his statement from October 2017 nor in the one from October 2018. Taking into account that the issue of vaccines has been extremely popular in the last year, we can conclude that the headline, apart from the text itself, was designed to immediately draw the attention of the readers.

Going back to the very beginning of our story, we can conclude that the portal, either for pure sensationalism, or to sow fear among people, put together two different news, one from 2017 and the other from 2018 in order to make a story on the alleged development of the genetic weapon and its transmission through vaccines.

The peaceful civil protests have been organized since February in Montenegro, initially as a reaction to the scandal caused by the activities of a businessman Dusko Knezevic, who is wanted by Montenegrin police for tax evasion and money laundering. Knezevic has accused the highest Montenegrin officials, through the series of posts on social networks and media hosting, of complicity. Walking and performing through the capital, protestors have expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling party and political situation in the country, demanding its resignation

In the end of February on portals in4s.net and borba.me the news on the organization of the countermeeting was published under the title “Crna Gora iznad svega” (“Montenegro above everything”), as a sort of the ruling structures’ reply to the current affairs in the country.

Those writings were encouraged by the post on the Facebook page “100p Ponovnoj Izdaji Crne Gore“, which announced this event in the following manner: “The great anti-fascist and patriotic protest entitled ‘Crna Gora iznad svega’ will be held at the Independence Square in Podgorica on Sunday 24th 2019, starting at noon“.

Deleted Facebook page

The mentioned page, through which citizens were summoned to this meeting, was created only a few weeks prior to this post, while now is non-existent since it has been deleted.

FOS Media has reacted to the writings of these portals and verified the alleged information with the authorized body, i.e. Police Administration of Podgorica.

According to them, countermeeting was not registered to the Centre of Security Podgorica, as confirmed by Tamara Popovic, spokesperson of the Police Administration, who said: “No gathering that is to be held on 24th March 2019 has been registered to the Center for Security Podgorica up to this moment”.

It is worth mentioning that, according to the Public Assembly Act, the legal framework for informing the administration body authorized for police affairs on the organization of the gathering shall be no later than five days before the event.

Despite the fact that countermeeting wasn’t registered, a great number of media has written on this matter, in various manners and connotations.

Since the alleged countermeeting was scheduled for 24th March – the 20th anniversary of the NATO intervention in FR Yugoslavia – numerous media have interpreted this news as a provocation of the ruling party

Some of them kept writing how the countermeeting represents a sort of a support which the President Milo Djukanovic enjoys among the citizens and how that is, at the same time, a  response to the civil protests “Odupri se – 97 000”, whose organizers are alleged advocates of the “Great Serbia”, while others associated the name of this meeting “Montenegro above everything” with Hitler’s Nazi slogan „Deutschland über alles“, meaning „Germany above everything“.

Thus, the news on countermeeting has been presented in Montenegrin and Serbian media until the Day D, i.e. 24th March has come. Despite the fact that there was no countermeeting, none of these abovementioned media has corrected themselves for conveying unverified information.

All summed up, it shows us how the media, seduced by sensational information amidst civil protests in Montenegro, “hurried” to publish a story leaning on the Facebook post, which anyone could have posted and linked with the current issue of the NATO intervention. Remains the fact that no one, apart from the portal fosmedia.me contacted the authorities to verify whether this event had been scheduled or not.

On April 11, 2019, the news about NATO intercepting a passenger plane in the Montenegrin airspace circulated through the Balkan media, along with headlines, such as: Drama in the Montenegrin Sky, NATO Hunters Strike Again on the Border with Serbia, This is a Huge Incident, which led to a benign air policing operation taking quite opposite connotations.

Media outlets, among which there were AA, Alo, Balkans Al Jazeera, Blic, Dnevni list, IN4S, Informer, Mondo, Novosti, Politika, Pravda, Radio Sarajevo, Sputnik Serbia, The World News, Vesti reported that two fighter aircraft of the Italian Army, which are in the service of NATO, intercepted a passenger plane above the airspace of Montenegro, which had previously lost communication with air traffic control, however, the Ministry of Defense quickly denied that the operation had taken place in airspace of Montenegro.

The announcement states that the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejon, Spain, notified the Air Surveillance and Reporting Center of the Army of Montenegro on April 9 that a passenger plane B-737 was expected to enter the airspace of Montenegro from the direction of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The passenger plane B-737 lost communication with the Air Traffic Control from Zagreb, which caused it to move south towards Montenegro and Albania.

The Air Surveillance and Reporting Center contacted the Air Traffic Control of Podgorica, where they got feedback that they had communication with all aircraft, including B-737. However, as the procedure stipulates and in accordance with the NATO Air Policing Mission in Montenegro, that began on June 5, 2018, which implies that the airspace of Montenegro will be protected by the fighter aircraft of the Air Forces of Italy and Greece, two Italian Eurofighters conducted interception and visual identification of the aircraft in order to remove all doubts that there were some illegal actions, but that happened in the Albanian airspace.

The loss of a radio connection with Zagreb was due to a misunderstanding between the civilian air traffic control and the airplane crew. After maintaining regular contact with civilian controllers, the plane continued to travel to its destination in Hurghada, Egypt.

Since February, peaceful civic protests have been organized in Montenegro, primarily as a reaction to the scandal caused by the activities of businessman Dusko Knezevic, who has been accused of tax evasion and money laundering by the Montenegrin authorities. Knezevic accused some of the highest-ranking Montenegrin officials of complicity in the series of posts on social media and his appearances in the media.

The spontaneous action of citizens was also partly caused by the inactivity of the Montenegrin opposition. Even though the opposition parties have in principle supported the protest, some of them have been trying to take control of the entire process from the beginning. When they realized that the protest organizing committee of 26 people is immune to their attempts, they went into a concealed and open obstruction.

The Democrats have made their own version of the protest by gathering in the Montenegrin cities on the day of every protest in Podgorica, and URA made their own choreography when entering the protests with the lit torches trying to take credit for political gains.

However, the protests are going smoothly and without incidents, with demands for government to step down, for the fair elections and a more decisive fight against corruption, but with the emphasis that Montenegro’s foreign policy priorities should not be questioned. The latter was enough to alarm of the opposition, especially those who were are attached to Russia and the Russian politics.

That is why the alt-right facebook page Stari Liberal, which is according to many sources administrated by Roberto Golovic, a former Lieutenant of the Montenegrin Army and the Annapolis Naval Academy trainee, tries to undermine protests from the beginning by emphasizing examples of violence from neighboring Albania protests and the yellow vests protests in Paris.

At the same time Marko Milacic, the leader of the Prava Crna Gora, a pro-Russian party, a man whose highlighted photo on facebook is his selfie with Putin, goes to Paris and live streams broken windows and states that this is an example for protests in Montenegro.

Igor Damjanovic, an associate of the Russian Ruska rijec portal, is in the forefront of protests mentioning on his Facebook account, and recently joined by the deputies Nebojsa Medojevic and Slaven Radunovic as well as a large number of activists of the Democratic Front who have already openly pressured the protest organizers, by insulting and bullying them on social networks.

Damjanovic is known as a supporter of the regime in Venezuela, Lebanese Hezbollah, and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. What is indicative for the political processes is that those radicalized activists are being accepted even by the moderate URA as people with a bit conservative attitudes but more important is that they are against the DPS.

Budimir Minic, Montenegrin lawyer and one of the organizers of the protest, was insulted and bullied by the Democratic Front and anti-NATO Freedom to the People activist, Bojan Bulatovic, for his stand on non-violent protests.

What unfortunately happens is that the number of the Democratic Front activists present at the protest is  increased and that affects the changes in the attitudes of moderate opposition party members from URA, the Democrats, and SDP. Although there is likely an honest intention of a large number of demonstrators to change Montenegro’s politics for better, a smaller part of the demonstrators have far more extreme and radical views. The problem is that the latter are more vocal and aggressive, and they are making pressure to cause problems and violence that would only hurt the aims of the protest.

Recently, after criticizing DF for calling for violence, opposition activist Petar Glendza, a history professor from Cetinje has been the target of the synchronized campaign of the Borba web portal close to DF, the Facebook page Stari Liberal, as well as the activists of the Front, like Zoran Pestoric.

One of the narratives of activists and supporters of the Front spreads ethnic and religious hatred. Thus, organizers of protests that are not Orthodox Christians are ridiculed because of their Bosniak or Albanian names.

Strado Turovic, Medojevic’s party activist, Spasoje Tomić, the activist of the Front, and lieutenant Roberto Golovic, who allegedly stands behind the Stari Liberal,  are at the forefront of the attacks of this type.

Most of those activists regularly communicate with internet warriors from Serbia like the Nemanja Ristić, accused of participating in 2016 coup attempt, the ultra-right Zavetnici movement, but also they regularly participate in the seminars and activities organized by the right-wing movements in Europe and by the Government of the Russian Federation.

I. Damjanovic (second on the left) with Milica Djurdjevic, leader of the Zavetnici movement, while visiting the Russian Federation Council

It remains to be seen whether the protest organizers will remain independent and true to their goals, or will they surrender to the strong pressure of those who see the alternative to our politics in societies where for their protest activities they would be incarcerated in some of the penalty colonies in Siberia.

Disinformation is now without a doubt an integral part of Russian foreign policy, but even though it feels brand new it dates way back. It has a long history and it is closely tied to the birth of the KGB in the 1950s and the doctrine of active measures. These active measures (Russian: активные мероприятия) included manipulation and media control, written and oral disinformation, use of foreign communist parties and front organizations, clandestine radio broadcasting, manipulation of the economy, kidnappings, paramilitary operations, and support of guerrilla groups and terrorist organizations.

These attempts were nebulous and prolonged, and included operations like Operation Neptune – a 1964 attempt to use forged documents with the intention of implying that western politicians had supported the Nazis, and the most famous Operation Infektion – a disinformation campaign run by the KGB in the 1980s to spread information that the United States invented HIV/AIDS as part of a biological weapons research project at Fort Detrick, Maryland. When AIDS emerged in the early 1980s, Soviet bloc disinformation specialists quickly recognized the opportunity the mysterious epidemic offered and planted disinformation only months after the scientific community had coined the term “AIDS” and established the existence of a causative virus. The Soviet Union used it to undermine the United States’ credibility, foster anti-Americanism, isolate America abroad and create tensions between host countries and the U.S. over the presence of American military bases (which were often portrayed as the cause of AIDS outbreaks in local populations).

The groundwork appeared in the pro-Soviet Indian newspaper Patriot. An anonymous letter was sent to the editor in July 1983 from a well-known American scientist and anthropologist who claimed that AIDS was manufactured at Fort Detrick by genetic engineers. The scientist claimed that that deadly mysterious disease was believed to be the results of the Pentagon’s experiments to develop new and dangerous biological weapons, and implicated Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists sent to Africa and Latin America to find dangerous viruses unknown to Asia and Europe. The Patriot item appeared just as AIDS was beginning to attract the attention of the international scientific and medical communities, linking the United States with what was then an unexplored public health problem.

The AIDS story exploded across the world and was repeated by Soviet newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio broadcasts, and television.

The campaign started in earnest in October 1985 after the story was ignored for two years, with the original article being republished by Soviet newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta. To provide a scientific foundation for their charge that AIDS was manmade, the Soviet Union used a pseudo-scientific paper written in 1986 by a retired Russian-born East German biophysicist named Dr. Jakob Segal, co-authored by his wife, Dr. Lilli Segal; and Dr. Ronald Dehmlow at Humboldt University of East Berlin. The report was quoted heavily by Soviet propagandists, and the Segals (who were educated in France) were often said to be French researchers to hide their connections with communism. Dr. Segal postulated that the AIDS virus was synthesized by combining parts of two distantly related retroviruses: VISNA and HTLV-1.

In the report, Segal said that his hypothesis was based purely on assumptions, extrapolations, and hearsay and not at all on direct scientific evidence.

The Segal theory repeatedly has been dismissed by leading Western and Soviet AIDS experts, including Dr. Luc Montagnier, director of the Paris-based Pasteur Institute and Dr. Viktor Zhdanov, the U.S.S.R. top AIDS expert and chief of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Medical Sciences Ivanovskiy Institute of Virology. Dr. Zhdanov told a TASS correspondent that the AIDS virus has not been obtained artificially. Nevertheless, Segal’s allegations continue to circulate, primarily in Soviet, South Asian and African media.

In an effort to undermine U.S. defense arrangements with allied countries, create pressures for the removal of U.S. military facilities overseas, and further exploit of anti-U.S. sentiment, Moscow has warned countries that U.S. military personnel stationed at U.S. military facilities pose a public health danger to local populations. For example, the Soviet newspaper Sovyetskaya Rossiya (January 23, 1987) asserted that in Western Europe, most AIDS cases were registered in the places where U.S. troops were stationed. TASS (February 12, 1987) reported panic in Japan and that local businesses were closing their doors to U.S. military personnel; a subsequent TASS report (February 17, 1987) alleged that they were notorious for their loose morals and were spreading AIDS in South Korea. Sovyetskaya Rossiya (March 15, 1987) attributed the spread of AIDS in the Philippines to the presence of U.S. military personnel in that country. Local communist and government-controlled newspapers in Latin America (Nicaragua and Panama, for example) have picked up the charges as well, blaming U.S. soldiers for the spread of AIDS in the region.

In the late 1980s, AIDS began spreading through the Soviet Union, and Moscow developed a greater interest in exchanging medical research on the subject than it had a few years before. Because the AIDS disinformation campaign jeopardized cooperation with US scientists, Moscow began to listen to Washington’s complaints. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Academy of Sciences, through the government’s official newspaper Izvestia, disavowed the thesis that AIDS was artificially created.

The end of the Cold War threw the KGB into disarray, but the damage was already done – once a rumor takes root, it is nigh on impossible to eradicate it entirely, and the myths planted by Operation Infektion were no exception. It wasn’t until 1992 that the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Yevgeny Primakov, conceded that the KGB had instigated and perpetuated the myth.

In 2005, a study by the RAND Corporation and Oregon State University revealed that nearly 50% of African Americans thought AIDS was man-made, over 25% believed AIDS was a product of a government laboratory, 12% believed it was created and spread by the CIA, and 15% believed that AIDS was a form of genocide against black people.

The use of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to communicate and share information has made us more connected, but on the other hand, it made us prone to consuming, sharing and believing in unverified information posing as facts, such as AIDS originated in the U.S.

Putin acknowledged the importance and potential of the Internet and social networks, so that is why active measures are once again in use, this time updated for digitally interconnected information space.

Even though active measures date back to the KBG era, they offer perfect explanations and reasons behind the biggest disinformation campaigns conducted by Russia in the modern era, from the illegal annexation of Crimea, the elections meddling around the world and now the anti-vaccination campaign – yet another public health problem connected to Kremlin. The anti-vaccine movement has proliferated over recent years, in part because of its most vocal proponents using social media to churn out often misleading information.

The retrospective observational study, assessing the impact of bots and trolls on online vaccine discourse on Twitter from 2014 to 2017 was published by the American Journal of Public Health in October 2018. The study shows that much health disinformation is promoted by Russian bots and trolls. Twitter accounts run by automated bots and Russian trolls masqueraded as legitimate users engaging in online vaccine debates. It is noted that by posting a variety of anti, pro and neutral tweets trolls and bots they wanted to legitimize the vaccine debate. These accounts post content about vaccination at significantly higher rates than does the average user with a goal to promote discord rather than favor one side of the vaccine debate. Exposure to the vaccine debate erodes public trust in healthcare providers and leads people to delay vaccination, exposing us to the risk of epidemics, said dr Broniatowski, one of the authors of the study, adding that just amplifying the debate can, therefore, have real consequences.

This analysis is supplemented by a qualitative study of #VaccinateUS – a Twitter hashtag designed to promote discord using vaccination as a political issue. The #VaccinateUS tweets were uniquely identified with the Russian troll accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed operation specializing in online influence operations.

One tweet casting doubt on vaccines cited in the study read: Did you know there was a secret government database of #Vaccine-damaged child? #VaccinateUS.

Another that argued for vaccinations said: #VaccinateUS You can’t fix stupidity. Let them die from measles, and I’m for #vaccination!

Sometimes the same account would take two sides of the same issue.

In April 2017, an account named Baldwin tweeted this anti-vaccine sentiment: Vaccine dangers are hidden from parents by the FDA using a simple TRICK – make the placebo as toxic as the vaccine so both have = reactions.

A month later Baldwin seems to have switched positions.

WHO recommends vaccination with 1st dose of #hepatitisB vaccine within the first 24 hours of life #VaccinesWork, the account tweeted in May.

Dr. Broniatowski tells for Radio Free Europe he has seen no evidence of Russia’s trying to weaken Western democracies by persuading people to stop vaccination. Rather, the known trolls masqueraded as legitimate users on social media and debated vaccines as part of their strategy to promote political polarization.

At Duke University in North Carolina, people within The Forge (center for scientific health data) are working and trying to understand and respond to health-related disinformation on the Internet. Director of the Forge, Robert Califf, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has said that medical misinformation may be the issue of our times that demands top priority and that a large number of the social-media posts represent state-sponsored cyber warfare, particularly from Russia.

In order to understand why, we need to depart from disinformation per se, focus on the bigger picture and realize the grand agenda. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea, the relations between the West and Russia plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War. The Russian modern world, Putinism (Russia under Putin) feels vulnerable and not compelling compared to the West and western values. Inside Russia, we are likely to witness the continued rejection of the pillars of the European democracy, including civil society activism, freedom of speech and political pluralism, adding on top of that the most recent Internet laws adopted by the Duma. Fixing the problem would mean changing the authoritarian system and rule, which is not likely to happen. The only other suitable option is to weaken the West, through non-traditional war or hybrid warfare, that is adapted to the modern world, unlike the conventional weapons, using cyber operations, disinformation campaigns, weaponized crime, economic sanctions, energy dependence, etc. Same goal, just different methods from what we have seen during the XX century, especially throughout the Cold War. Active measures were the heart of Soviet operations, hybrid measures are the heart of Russian operations today.

That all of the abovementioned is not the mere speculation, proves the statement of the former KGB General Oleg Kalugin:

Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples.

The anti-vaccination issue is so grave that the World Health Organization included it in their Ten Threats to Global Health in 2019 alongside with air pollution and climate change, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, HIV, the world flu pandemic, vulnerable and vulnerable environment (exposed with droughts, hunger, conflicts and similar hazards), antimicrobial resistance, resistance to antibiotics and antiviral drugs, Ebola and other high risk pathogens, and poor primary health care.

Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved – it is stated in the WHO report.

It also highlights the dangers that anti-vaxxers present, including as an example a 30 per cent increase in recorded cases of measles around the world. Vaccination hesitancy, as stated by the WHO, threatens to destroy the progress of catching up with vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to the World Health Organization cases of measles in Europe have hit a record high in the first six months of 2018.

When it comes to Europe, more than 41,000 people have been infected in the first six months of 2018, leading to 37 deaths, which is almost the double from the whole 2017, when there were 24.000 registered cases and 5.200 in 2016. Experts blame this surge on a drop in the number of people being vaccinated.

Ukraine and Serbia are among the countries with the highest rates in Europe.

Anti-vaxxers and anti-vaccination players in the Western Balkans

1. Vakcine INFO

The portal vakcinainfo.org and the Facebook page Vakcine INFO represent the project of the association Građanska inicijativa za neobaveznu vakcinaciju, aiming at informing citizens in Serbia and the region on the whole truth about vaccines, as well as providing lesser-known information on safety, effectiveness, and justification of vaccinations. The individual membership application form of the Association may be bought at the website vakcinacinfo.org, while the membership fee covers the expenses of the legal entity status amounted to RSD 1,200 for the calendar year of 2018.

Among posts on the website, there are reactions to opinions of an epidemiologist and a doctor, Zoran Radovanovic MC, also called a legal charlatan. Dr. Radovanovic is accused of giving, as they say, an inexpert opinion, as well as of making pressure upon citizens with his ruthless excoriation. In his text Infections, courts and vaccines published on November 16, 2017, at the media portal Danas, Dr. Radovanovic defends medicine and vaccination and calls on all the citizens to let go of the conspiracy theorists.

The association Građanska inicijativa za neobaveznu vakcinaciju has also its own Facebook page named Vakcine INFO followed by 17,842 users. This page is very active and posts photos, videos, and posts, then researches and analysis of certain doctors, quack doctors and healthcare institutions providing negative vaccine narratives, all in the attempt to raise public awareness on adversary effect of vaccination and consequences it bears.

This page has recently posted a photo with a list of vaccines, medicaments and cosmetic products containing cells or parts of aborted babies. However, this photo does not have a source and a piece of information on where they obtained this data. Some other photo posted under the title Da li ste znali?, reading that polysorbate 80 found in many vaccines is a preservative, does not also have precise data on its source.

Via the Facebook page, this initiative gives its continuing support to Jovana Stojkovic, a doctor prosecuted before the Court of Honor of the Regional Medical Chamber in Belgrade on charges that her public statements caused the decrease of vaccination coverage and resulted in the measles outbreak in Serbia. Dr. Jovana Stojkovic is also one of the authors whose texts may be found on the website vakcinainfo.org. Besides this case, the Facebook page Vaccine INFO gave support to Lidija Gaski, a doctor from Croatia and another fierce advocate for the right to freedom of choice regarding vaccination, which is legally binding in this country.

2. Pravo na izbor

The portal pravonaizbor.rs and its related Facebook page are created to question the justification of mandatory vaccination in the Republic of Serbia, on the grounds of numerous legal, health, ethical and other arguments. The Facebook page, putting vaccines solely in a negative context, warning against the pharmaceutical mafia and calling on all people to be informed before (non-)vaccination, is followed by 9,876 Facebook users.

On its portal, this Association emphasizes that vaccines may contain parts of aborted babies, human or animal DNA, aluminium and mercury, at the same time not stating how they got into possession of that data, and therefore the public is prevented from the whole information.

On its Facebook page, Pravo na izbor posted that NATO in its book Immunological Adjuvants[1] and Vaccines has characterized vaccines as a biological weapon.

The posted photo emphasizes that the abovementioned book on page 37 says: Vaccines cause autoimmune diseases. As an adjuvant, aluminum increases the production of certain antibodies, causing allergies and anaphylactic shock.

The analysis of the whole above mentioned book and the extracted page 37 showed that there is nowhere a similar phrase formulation to this one. Even syntagmatic unit biological weapon is not mentioned in this study.

It is important to mention that the book Immunological Adjuvants and Vaccines is published in 1989, so even if the information to which the organization Pravo na izbor refers is correct, it would be doubtful to rely on the research 30 years old, particularly when it comes to the field of medicine.

Presenting such information aims at deceiving the public and raising panic about sensitive topics.

3. Dr. Jovana Stojković

Dr. Jovana Stojkovic, who publicly and openly stands against the vaccination of children both on her Facebook page and in the TV shows, has been filed a lawsuit in December 2018 before the Court of Honor of the Regional Medicine Chamber; they also requested her medical license to be revoked. At the same time, she is the president of the citizens’ association Pravo na izbor and the movement Živim za Srbiju.

At the Živim za Srbiju campaign’s website – the website presenting measures and changes they strive for in the system of the society and the state – there is a special channel where Dr. Stojkovic presents her stances on the fight against vaccination, as well as other combats such as maintenance of a traditional family image, fight against LGBT population, the surrender of the Serbian Kosovo and Metohija, etc.

This campaign has also its Facebook page which often deals with the NATO topic. As stated in one of the posts, during 78 days of radioactive uranium bombing, 79 children were killed.

In one of their posts on the Facebook page, Dr. Stojkovic poses the following question to people: Before you were against the American shells! Now you fight for the American vaccines?

Source: Facebook

Besides anti-vaccination speeches, she gives, very frequently, anti-NATO and anti-West speeches in public, praising Russia as an ally which should be addressed for help. On her Facebook page, she organized and called on numerous protests both the anti-vaccination protests and the ones related to current issues – NATO, the LGBT people, Kosovo.

Actually, on May 14, 2017, the first Sveroditeljski protest (All-parents’ protest) was organized under the auspices of the citizens’ association Ja volim mamu i tatu.

Why this particular protest was very interesting to us is not for the reason it was organized, but for the fact that one of its speakers was actually Dr. Jovana Stojkovic, while one of the protesters was Radomir Pocuca, who was introduced in the previous issue of our Magazine when writing about Yellow vest protesters in Paris and their connections with the fighters in Ukraine. Pocuca fought for the Russian interests in Donbas and, as he said himself, against the evil threatening his holy motherland Russia. Following the plea bargain, he pleaded guilty before the Serbian Prosecution and was convicted to a prison term of one year and a half and five years of parole.

R. Pocuca attending Sveroditeljski protest

[1] A substance enhancing the immune system of a body to respond to antigens.

The use of social networks, such as Twitter, has significantly changed the interaction in the politician-voter relation. In this manner, the officials have become more available to the public, but, on the other hand, the use of Twitter in political purposes has enabled faster exchange of important information.

This analysis, in the context of fake news and Twitter, deals with the phenomenon of “fake” followers among the most prominent actors of the political scene on the Western Balkans, who have own accounts on this social network.

For such purposes, we used one of the company’s tools SparkToro, which deals with these types of assessment based on the common methodology.

Their Fake Followers Audit combines around 25 factors which are, among others, in correlation with “spam” and bot accounts in order to provide the assessment of the followers, i.e. “fake” followers by analyzing the combination of the factors.

Some of the factors used by Fake Followers Audit

Prominent actors of the political scene, and whose accounts have been analyzed, are the presidents and prime ministers of the Western Balkans countries, except in the case of Montenegro, whose President and Prime Minister do not use this social network. Hence, we decided to analyze the leader of Pokret za promjene party – Nebojsa Medojevic, as the most active Montenegrin politician on Twitter. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, only one of the current three members of the Presidency has an account.

As it is presented on the chart, the Prime Minister of Albania – Edi Rama, with 332.902 followers and the President of Serbia – Aleksandar Vucic, who is followed by 288.173 people, have the greatest number of followers on Twitter. The President of Croatia – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is in the third place, followed by “only” 114.519 accounts. However, although they have a great number of followers, the significant part of them are “fake” followers, which is supported by the data we have found out. In the case of the Albanian Prime Minister, out of 332.902 followers 267.986, i.e. 80.5% are “fake”. The similar situation is with Serbian President. Out of 288.173 followers at the moment of conducting this analysis, 231.403, i.e. 80.3% are categorized as “fake”. On the other hand, Montenegrin MP – Nebojsa Medojevic and Prime Minister of Kosovo have the most favorable relation of “true” and “fake” followers. Medojevic is followed by 12.525 followers, out of which 36.3% are “fake” accounts, while out of 8.026 accounts that follow Haradinaj 36% are “fake”. When it comes to Montenegro, the MP Nebojsa Medojevic is followed by 12.525 followers, out of which 4.547, i.e. 36.3 are fake. Out of 14.572 accounts that make Twitter followers’ base of the Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev, 6.543, i.e. 44.9% are fake accounts. On the other hand, when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic is the only one having a Twitter account, out of the three members of the Presidency, and is followed by 4.180 followers, out of which 50% of them are “fake” accounts.

Fake accounts (most often the bots) have the ability to automatically generate and post a content of the most likely non-verified rumours and disinformation, all with a view to deceiving the social media users.

Another headline containing the inevitable headline concerning NATO has appeared recently and has significantly drawn the readers’ attention. Namely, it is about a photo in which KFOR members pose expressing “Satanist” greeting in front of the Gracanica monastery in Kosovo and Metohija. A number of both Montenegrin and Serbian portals published this news under a controversial headline.

The portal IN4S published, on 28th February 2019, an article entitled “American NATO Troops Expressing Satanic Greeting in front of the Gracanica Monastery” with the explanation that the hang loose greeting made through the specific position of the thumb and pinky finger represents a modern form of Satanism and is one of a numerous occult greetings.

The photo, de facto, exists and it was initially published on February 8th on Facebook page KFOR – Multinational Battle Group-East, where it was stated that the soldiers were paying a visit to the Gracanica monastery, learning about the history of the monastery, as well as helping in creating more solid relations in Kosovo. However, if we search the term “hang loose” or “shaka sign” on the Internet, we will find out that, in fact, there are no links with the so-called modern satanic greeting, that it originates from Hawaii and symbolizes the greeting that means everything will be OK, or as the English would say “take it easy”.

source: in4s.net

The greeting which the soldiers expressed in the photo reminded the portal editors of the satanic greeting and invoking the devil, however, it is not true. The satanic greeting would be made with the extended thumb, index finger and pinky holding the two remaining fingers curled. If we are to go further in analyzing the disputable greeting, it may represent calling the God.

The text focuses on 1999 bombing – it mentions NATO soldiers in the context of “Satan’s deputies” with a view to promoting the story on diseases that are allegedly caused by depleted uranium.

Taken by this news, some of the portals have just copied the writings of the abovementioned IN4S, thus Večernje novosti, naslovi.net, vestinet.rs, mondo.rs, vesti-online.com, tanjug.rs, Espreso.rs have, inter alia, published the same article without checking what “hang loose “actually stands for and therefore, by publishing disinformation, deceived the public.

Unlike them, the Informer published this news, emphasizing that the greeting which the Base Bondsteel soldiers expressed in the photo in front of the Gracanica monastery, in fact, symbolizes calling the God and linked it with a famous football player Ronaldinho and the manner he celebrated every scored goal.

Some of the readers, well aware of the topic and writings, have also expressed their attitude and launch an avalanche of the comments in regard to this article.

We come to the conclusion that the headline is intended to draw readers’ attention and create an image that the KFOR soldiers in this manner disdained and insulted the abovementioned monastery based on the non-verified information.

Foundations of professional journalism, at least the one inherited by Western civilization, shook the story of Claas Relotius, now a former journalist of German Spiegel (Der Spiegel). Reputation of the renowned German weekly, which has been being built up for seven decades, was tarnished when it came to light that their journalist fabricated, and even invented information and interviewees in his texts.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

Almost all national, regional and world media wrote about the case of journalist Claas Relotius, who, as he himself admitted, fabricated information, invented or embellished statements and quotes in at least 14 texts published by German Spiegel. He started his engagement in one of the most influential print media in Germany in 2011, as a so-called freelancer. In this period, he published around 60 texts that “captured” attention of the world public, that was fascinated by his researcher spirit reach. Thanks to his writing he received several prestigious awards, among which are the one for journalist of the year awarded by the US CNN in 2014 and German Reporterpreis, just one month ago.

Klas Relocijus sa nagradom CNN-a, izvor: NBCnews.com

Through internal investigation, along with the suspicions of several journalists working with Relotius, the editorial board of Spiegel found out that he fabricated information in his text about building a wall between the US and Mexico, stating that he saw a sign in Minnesota saying “Mexicans, keep out”. Furthermore, it is also doubted that texts about prisoner Muhammad Bawazir, who refused to leave Guantanamo Bay, and those about Aleppo brothers and sisters who live on the streets of Turkey, are fabricated. The last story cost him criminal charges, on suspicion that through his personal email account, he sent instructions for donations for these two children, that ended up on his private account. Even the very existence of the girl is subject to suspicion.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?

First and foremost, the credibility of all journalism aspects, responsibility for what is written, accountability to the reader, and faith in the truth, have been shaken. The question has arisen: “What were the reasons that made reputable journalist fabricate already dramatic and sad life stories, invent statements, interviewees, characters?” We would say nothing but blindness to the global aspiration for exclusivity in reporting. The speed imposed by the structure of the media in the 21st century puts to test the established postulates of journalistic ethics, where “we write truthfully about the truth in the interest of the entire community” is not the top priority. The imposed reporting dynamics that prefers speed over quality, leave the system completely unprotected against such sorts of abuse and fraud.

Jaegers Grenze jedan od tekstova koji imaju fabrikovan sadržaj

This is, also, a smack to democracy as a whole. We live in the time of the information and news crisis, which consequently makes an impact on the perspective of democracy, and which is going on parallel with processes of new media boom, processes of post-democracy and post-politics. Online media have altered professional standards, there is no more impartiality, the public is no more passive information recipient, but on contrary, citizens themselves look for information due to distrust in media, they establish alternative media, and finally “new, odd forms”, such as fake news, appear. The very definition of this phenomenon contradicts the professional standards since news is by its definition truthful, otherwise, it is not news. Lazy objectivism can be reflected in a situation where fake news and disinformation run the marathon, while a journalist is still on the starting point, meaning that the traditional media has been sleeping peacefully tucked in, not being informed at all about the organized marathon.

How are media going to regain trust of the public in quality journalism, will be the main issue in the years to come, not only for scholars and students who analyze mass communications, but for those who try to shape citizens’ attitudes, hence, institutions in democratic societies, by their performing and reporting on what has happened. Information crisis is the one that touches upon the perspective of democracy, but also the one that shakes its fundaments. The increase of propaganda, hatred speech, populism, disinformation, and fake news spreading, as well as self-critical policy with extremism blade that jeopardize stability and peace in the country and abroad, are some of the characteristics of the world we live in.

Strengthening public purpose of journalism, and helping the media connect with citizens in a more effective manner, will be a challenge in the period to come. This existential crisis requires, primarily, journalists who revert to the postulates of their profession and to reporting in a manner close to the public. It is imperative to find solutions for financing journalism of public interest as well. Those solutions require political will to invest in open, connected and pluralistic systems of communication. More investments in quality information and actions in fighting hatred, racism, disinformation, and intolerance are needed; more resources for research reporting; more connections to ethical values in governing and managing media.

At the time of social network popularity boom, the traditional media have to embrace social media, with a view to defend truth and spread verified and reliable information. What a group of like-minded persons can do with unverified information posted on social networks, in a short period of time, traditionally structured media cannot retrieve easily. “Electronic autism” creates an illusion of communication, creates a reader who, in this conceit, believes, and then spreads unverified information, often unconsciously creating a double false narrative whose decoding requires a coordinated action guided by truthful reporting. The solution is seen in strong advocacy of cooperation, the media, and computer literacy, in combating various forms of inequality, but also in criticizing single-mindedness, disinformation, and populism.

“Electronic autism” creates an illusion of communication, creates a reader who, in this conceit, believes, and then spreads unverified information, often unconsciously creating a double false narrative whose decoding requires a coordinated action guided by truthful reporting. The solution is seen in strong advocacy of cooperation, the media, and computer literacy, in combating various forms of inequality, but also in criticizing single-mindedness, disinformation and populism.

The motivation for further research was found in the Kiev Post‘s article published on January 14, mentioning the alleged establishment of the Unité Continentale organization in Belgrade.

Even though this article does not provide any further information, we decided to look into it a bit. Our first clue was French newspapers and portals, giving the fact that the article relied upon the French portal La Dépêche. The truth is that La Dépêche did write on the topic of French Donbass fighters, but nowhere in the article did it refer to Belgrade as a possible place of establishment of the Unité Continentale organization.

Therefore, we continue our research.

The other French portal, Libération, led us to an article from August 2014, published a week after four volunteers from France – Victor, Nikola, Guillaume and Michael – came to Ukraine to fight for Russia, all of whom are recognized as the founders of the Unité Continentale organization.

The article states that the Unité Continentale organization was established in Belgrade in January 2014, after having got in touch with the political party of Vojislav Šešelj, the Serbian Radical Party, and a nationalistic group called „Zavetnici“.

 „In Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, their paths crossed. Here is where they organized, in January, the Unité Continentale organization.“

It was with his political party (Vojislav Šešelj), the Serbian Radical Party, and another nationalistic group, Zavetnici, that „continentals“ got in touch in Belgrade.

In order to prove the credibility of this article, we paid some attention to its author Hélène Despic-Popovic. As a journalist, she was a special envoy in Donetsk for the French portal Libération. Despic-Popovic is also a specialist for the Balkans region, ex-USSR countries and Eastern Europe. She published a book under the title „Chroniques d’un génocide: Les carnets de général Mladic“ and also writes for the portal Nouvel Est – Voyage, Balkans, Caucase.

When it comes to the group „Zavetnici“, not only that it is quite politically active in Serbia and present in the media since its very founding in 2012, but its actions exist well in the territory of Montenegro, Republika Srpska, in one word in the whole Serbian diaspora.

The confirmation of their connection with the Unité Continentale organization we found on their Facebook page. The photo below shows that the Unité Continentale basically „calls on“ all citizens to participate at a gathering under the title „Serbs and Russians together through centuries“, which is organized by „Zavetnici“.

In addition, interesting is the news, reported recently in the media, announcing that the group „Zavetnici“ expressed their wish to form a political party.

Further research on the Unité Continentale organization led as to an article from June 2018, published on the Radio Slobodna Evropa portal, in which it is mentioned its establishment in Belgrade and pointed out to a number of Serbian people who were its members and who were convicted before Belgrade’s High Court in 2018.

Actually, the document provided to the Radio Slobodna Evropa by the General Prosecution of Ukraine, as a response to the enquiry concerning Serbian fighters in Ukraine, states among other things that the Unité Continentale organization was established in summer 2014 and that among 54 investigated persons there were 6 Serbs, all identified as its members.

They are Radomir Pocuca, Zoran Kljajic, Stevan Milosevic, Stefan Celavi, Ivan Mackic and Bratislav Zivkovic. All of them are labelled as the Ukrainian battlefield mercenaries on the Ukrainian website „Myrotovrets“– a website made in the connection with the Center of Research on the Signs of Crime against National Security of Ukraine.

As early as 2014, Serbia adopted the amendments to their Criminal Procedural Code referring to the participation of Serbian nationals at foreign battlefields, and in February 2018, the Belgrade’s High Court delivered 28 convictions to Serbian nationals for the participation in Ukrainian war in 2014.

Among interesting persons from the abovementioned list, we found out that Radomir Pocuca was convicted before Belgrade’s High Court after a plea deal to a prison term of a year and a half, and four years of probation.

The other interesting person is Stevan Milosevic, whose interview for the Radio Slobodna Evropa portal from October 2018 gave us the following information.

In the interview, Milosevic does not mention in what way he came to Ukraine, but he does mention that he came into contact via a Facebook page with an organization in Donbass which organized him a trip to Russia. A guy from France, Nikola, also the commandant of their group, provided him and several others with airline tickets Belgrade-Moscow.

We recall that the Unité Continentale organization was established by Victor Lenta and Nikola Perovic, who is born in France of a Montenegrin father and a Serbian mother, who has both Serbian and French citizenship.

Further tracking the Unité Continentale story development, we came across Cristopher Othen, a blogger who wrote a lot about both this organization and Serbian Donbass fighters.

His blog post reveals that soon after their arrival in Novorossiya, the fight over leadership occurred between Lenta and Perovic, causing a lot of distress inside the organization. After this development, the Novorossiya authorities disbanded the group, thus putting an end to their activities. Even though few members returned home, a number of them stayed in Ukraine.

Finally, in 2018 we came across further activities on the Unité Continentale Facebook page where a new person emerges – Darko Pavlovic – who is, according to the posts, due to take the organization leadership at the end of the year.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

During the research process on the establishment place of the Unité Continentale organization, we came across its commander’s statement, Nikola Perovic’s, for the Srbin.info portal, which took us to a different direction, yet connected with the whole story.

According to his statement, one of the Unité Continentale organization members, Ivan Mackic, mentioned at the beginning of this article, came up with an idea to establish a special unit, Serbian Hussar Regiment, which was due to unite Serbian and French people. The whole story included Pocuca as well, also a former member of the organization. As things were moving in another direction for Nikola and his organization, he abandoned this idea and there is where our clue ends when it comes to Nikola’s statement anyway.

Further details about this Regiment were found in the YouTube video published in September 2017, where one of the Serbian volunteers in Novorossiya, Dejan Beric, questions Radomir Pocuca and Vlado Stanic about an alleged assassination attempt on him and the Regiment’s colonel Dragan Srdic known as Dragon.

Here, Pocuca indicates his leaving the Unité Continetal group and that during his stay in Moscow he came into contact with Ivan Mackic, with whom he started to develop the idea of the Regiment’s establishment. Getting in touch with Metropolitan Sergej, the whole idea got a more serious note and the Serbian Hussar Regiment was established.

In the beginning, the Regiment was established within the „Oplot“ unit, and there existed the idea of its independence after it evolved. During its active period, call on the fight in Ukraine was performed via a YouTube video. As for now, the further developments of this Regiment are unknown.