The new Russian director of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center says he has no intention of persuading anyone that the facility is not a military base.

The arrival of Viktor Gulyevich, “a Baikal commander,” to Nis, a town in southern Serbia, has stirred spirits when it comes to the Center (RSHC), Sputnik said.

Gulyevich is described as a world-class rescuer and an expert on avalanches, who earned his PhD from the University of Irkutsk and worked for over 20 years in the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

During the interview for Sputnik, he spoke about the Center’s plans, Russia’s future assistance to Nis, international cooperation in the region, and the risky job of being a rescuer in the Baikal mountains.

Gulyevich says the RSHC is very well-equipped, and that it was good it is owned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “My main task is to make this a regional training center in the Balkans. This place has a great perspective. All my energy will be focused on this, and the best way of cooperation between Russian and Serbian sides will be the exchange of experiences among the rescuers,” he said.

Asked “whether he had been briefed for three days in Moscow before coming to Nis, and whether he had been told that many in the West think this is Russia’s new military base,” Gulyevich replied, “Nobody had to explain anything to me, I read the papers.”

“They did not give me any instructions when it comes to politics, we as the Center, as a humanitarian intergovernmental organization, should not be dealing with that at all. Of course, there will always be those who will, whatever I or any of us say, talk badly about it. Whatever we do, they will seek something to hang on to and draw some bad conclusions. I have no intention of commenting on that, or persuading anyone to the contrary. You know that the Center is open to everyone, everyone can come and see,” Gulyevich pointed out.

He also said that he agrees with an earlier statement made by Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin that the Center should be improved, and that in in order to do that, much more equipment can arrive from Russia.

“But our task is not to send as as many rescuers as possible to be on duty here, instead it’s to send top class rescuers who can train your people. We want to work with children in schools and universities, with volunteer and state organizations, the goal is to train as many Serbs as we can to react in emergency situations. Ten rescuers from Russia can’t do much. Our goal is not to create a center like those in Russia, ours is a big country, and, after all, we have a lot more money – instead we want to adapt the system to you in Serbia,” he said.

Gulyevich added that one of the Center’s goals is to fill up its reserves. New classrooms and equipment will arrive, he said.

“As far as that is concerned, we will not leave Serbia in the lurch. Once you extend your hand to someone, you continue to do that, so goes the saying. The Center was formed as a long-term project that should show Serbia how to respond in emergencies, floods and fires. We want to help restore the civil protection system that you had before the breakup of Yugoslavia,” said the new director of the Russian-Serbian Center in Nis.

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