Vucic congratulates Putin on winning presidential election

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning the Russian presidential election, the Serbian leader’s press service said in a statement obtained by TASS.

“Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on your re-election as Russian president and best wishes to further steer your country along the clearly defined path of progress for the benefit of all its citizens. I am confident that with you outstanding talent of a leader with a clear understanding and inflexible will, responsibility and commitment to your cause, you will continue to achieve success in solving all issues important for Russia and in implementing plans for its further comprehensive development,” the statement runs.

Putin secures landslide victory in Russian election

Photo: Tanjug

Voter turnout in the Russian presidential election reached 67.4% as of 6.52 a.m. Moscow Time, Russia’s Central Election Commission reported.

The Central Election Commission continues counting the votes on Monday.

Russia’s incumbent head of state Vladimir Putin has garnered 76.67% of the vote in the March 18 election with 99.79% of the ballots counted.

More than 108 million Russians were eligible to vote. The overall number of ballots, which were cast during the voting, reached more than 73 million.

Ana Ivanovic gives birth to a son

Once the first racket of the world, Ana Ivanovic, and her husband, Bastian Schweinsteiger, became parents.

Former Serbian tennis player gave birth to a son last night in Chicago.

Ana and Bastian got married in 2016 in Italy.

Spanish Prime Minister: Kosovo is Serbia, Hashim Thaci is a criminal

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rahoy once again showed that he is one of the greatest European friends of the Serbs and Serbia. He refused to got in May to Sofia for the EU-Western Balkans summit, because Hashim Thaci will appear there “as the president of the fake state of Kosovo”, writes the distinguished Spanish daily “El Pais”.

Rahoy will never be in the same place with Thaci, since the official Madrid does not recognize Kosovo as a state, but also because of the more controversial, criminal biography of this Albanian leader.

Rahoy’s decision to boycott Thaci comes only two months after Spain sent a “non paper” document to Brussels stating that Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbia and that Madrid will never allow the false country to enter the European Union.

According to the “El Pais”, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Spain was supposed to attend the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia on May 17, but it is quite certain that he will cancel his participation, unless organizers deny the hospitality to Thaci.

“Rahoy will not attend the EU-Western Balkans summit because he does not want to be photographed with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, since Spain does not recognize the independence of Kosovo. Catalonia has repeatedly used Kosovo’s doctrine to justify its attempt to secede from the Spanish legal system, which leads Rahoy not to participate in the summit in Sofia”, writes Madrid newspaper, adding that Rahoy does not want to be photographed with Thaci because of his controversial, criminal biography.

Well-informed sources of “El Pais” add that the President of the European Council Donald Tusk has already begun a “special mission” to persuade Rahoy to change his mind, because it is “important to maintain close ties with the Balkan countries”. At the same time, organizers of the summit in Bulgaria, which currently presides over the EU, are considering how to cheer up the Spanish Prime Minister, so they proposed that the flag of the so-called Republic of Kosovo is not visibly displayed with the flags of other countries. However, this is not enough for Spain. Madrid insists that the representatives of the Kosovo are not present at all.

Commenting on Rahoy’s decision, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Spain has repeatedly shown that it is a true friend.

“Every honor to Prime Minister Rahoy! That is how you defend principles! Spain has repeatedly shown that it is on the side of Serbs. It did not recognize the false state of Kosovo and we have always known how to appreciate that support. This is another indicator that our diplomatic fight for Kosovo makes sense and gives results. We will continue to fight for our southern province by all diplomatic means”, emphasized Dacic.

Career diplomat Zoran Milivojevic believes that the Spanish attitude is extremely important because it relies on the Lisbon Treaty, on which rests the European Union.

“According to the article 49 of that treaty, only sovereign countries can be EU members, or candidates for membership. Because of the Spanish position, the EU did not sign SAA with Kosovo, but the European Commission did as a technical body. Therefore the so-called Republic of Kosovo is shown in the EU strategy separately, with the assertion that membership negotiations will begin when the conditions are met. All this is very important and evidence that Madrid defends its views in a principled and consistent manner. For Spain Kosovo is not a state and can not participate in the EU summit”, concluded Milivojevic.

In a letter to the EU, the Kingdom of Spain emphasized that Kosovo is inalienable part of Serbia and that at no cost will it allow a false state to enter the European Union.

The official Madrid delivered to Brussels an unofficial document (the so-called non-paper), which firmly emphasizes that Kosovo “can not be considered as a state”. This letter was sent from Madrid a week before the planned adoption of the EU Enlargement Strategy, in which Brussels treats Kosovo as a separate state, which Spain has unequivocally opposed.

Vucic: No babies, no Serbia


If we do nothing with natality, we are over as a nation. Therefore, in the future, the mother who gives birth to the first child will receive 100,000 Serbian dinars (~1000 USD) at once, for the second child 10,000 (~100 USD) dinars per month for two years, for the third 12,000 (~125 USD) dinars for 10 years and for the fourth 18,000 (~185 USD) dinars per month also for a period of 10 years.

The mother who gives birth to third and fourth child will have 30,000 dinars per month from the state in the period of 10 years, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, noting that this is only one of a number of measures taken to improve the demographic image of Serbia and that he made a decision to form a Population Policy Council. President’s public address was also attended by Minister Slavica Djukic Dejanovic and Secretary General Nikola Selakovic.

“Demographic image of Serbia is devastating. Serbia currently has 6,995,808 inhabitants, and if such negative trend continues – by 2060 it will have between 3.9 and 5.5 million inhabitants”, said the president in addressing the nation. “This means that we would seize to exist both as people and a nation, we would not have national, economic nor demographic or political potential.”

President Vucic explained that we “lose” 107 people every day, that we have been losing population for 67 years, and that in the last 27 years we have a negative natural increase.

“The number of children per mother is 1.44, and for simple reproduction we need at least 0.8 more. Otherwise, we will come to the situation that in a few years we have significantly fewer inhabitants with the same number of pensioners”, said Vucic and added that no one else is guilty of this, not the US, EU, … But ourselves.

On Friday, the government adopted, according to him, population strategy and urges all those responsible to engage in its implementation.

Ex-US Ambassador to Serbia: Enough is enough, Belgrade to say “no” to EU, US


Serbia should not agree with the formation of the Kosovo army even at the cost of EU integration, said former US ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery.

“Enough is enough”, Montgomery answered when asked by Tanjug how he sees messages delivered to Belgrade by US State Department official Wess Mitchel, including the open support of the US to the Kosovo Army.

Serbia should insist on the primordial positions of the West on the issue of the Kosovo army – and this is a strong opposition to every form of it.

Montgomery recalls that he himself has been involved in the Kosovo issue for years and that he remembers how much the West strongly resisted any formation of the Kosovo army.

“We knew very well that former KLA fighters will be part of it and that the formation of a truly multi-ethnic group was impossible. It’s no coincidence that the Kosovo Constitution also forbids it”, said Montgomery.

For this reason, he said, “I see with great regret that Kosovo Albanians ‘have deflected the blade of that resistance’ and that we have changed the attitude and began to reluctantly accept these armed forces”, said former US diplomat.

He warns that at the same time it is allowed that ZSO is “neither in heaven nor on earth”.

“My advice to the Serbian government would be to say: No, no and no”. And to keep the West in the beginning positions regarding the Kosovo Army. If it means the end of the progress in the process of EU accession, then let it be so”, Montgomery said.

According to him, the Kosovo chapter in the negotiations with the EU was first opened and will be the last to be closed.

“The completion of concessions now will not end the undue pressure from the EU, nor will the EU be much more firm towards the Kosovo Albanians. “What’s enough is enough”, concluded William Montgomery.

Vucic: Kosovo – only compromise or there will be no solution


“If they do not want a compromise, there will be no solution and that’s it – full stop.” said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

“We will continue discussions with Albanians, to try to resolve our problems, no matter I don’t believe them. But, we have no other choice”, said Vucic in an extraordinary address to the nation on the Kosovo issue, as a key political issue of the country, and defeating demographic situation, as the main problem of the state, as he previously defined it.

“Conversation and dialogue are the most important thing, to find a compromise solution. If they do not want a compromise, there will be no solution and that’s it”, he said.

He is ready, he said, to listen to anyone who shows him another choice, provided that the person knows all the circumstance related to the issue.

Brussels Agreement is dead?

Screenshot Tanjug video

More than five years we have been trying to reach the peace and solution for Kosovo-Metohija issue, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Speaking to the nation, on the day of the pogrom in Kosovo, he said that the first six out of total 15 points in the Brussels Agreement are dedicated to the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO).

All six of the 15 points from the Brussels Agreement on the Establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities remained a dead letter on paper, said Vucic.

“For five years someone does not want this to happen. We did not believe that Albanians would do anything for the sake of the Serbs. The EU wanted the ZSO to be formed, but if the international community really wanted it, their condition for visa liberalization to Pristina would be formation of the ZSO, and not the demarcation with Montenegro”, Vucic said.

Serbian President urged Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija not to participate in the formation of Kosovo’s Army. At the press conference he said that the authorities in Pristina are going to Serb areas and bribing Serb young men to join their army.

“I cann’t tell you everything now…”, said Vucic.

On the occasion of the statement of the US Ambassord William Montgomery that Serbia should not accept the formation of the Kosovo army at any cost, but to insist on the US’s original position on the issue, which is “no” to the Kosovo army, Vucic thanked Montgomery for the correct approach.

President stressed that Serbia can not approve the formation of the Kosovo Army.

“They are not going only to the south, they also go to the north to bribe our young men. They say – here is the cash, be part of the army. We are facing this and talking to the Serbs in Kosovo”, said Vucic.

He added that he did not want to react to the statement by US official Wess Mitchel that the Kosovo Army, in which there will be Serbs, will not be a threat to Serbia.

“Really? You are forming an alien army on the territory of Serbia, in which you will include Serbs… What, as in Austro-Hungarian and Turkish times, we are to fight Serbs against Serbs?”, asked Vucic.

That is why he urged Serbs not to participate in the formation of the Kosovo Army, both those from the south and north of the province, and in that way help resolve the Kosovo issue.

“They are to behave responsibly, take care of themselves and their security, but not to participate in the formation of state bodies of another state, without having agreed with Serbia on any issue”, Vucic emphasized.

Dacic: If they do not form ZSO we will rip apart the Brussels Agreement


Whether the Serbian Municipalities Community (ZSO) will be formed in due time or will wait for the signing of a legally binding agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, is a dilemma opened by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, saying that he heard a new option – that the ZSO will be just part of the package of the agreement, which he called a “superb insolence”.

“I would never sign the Brussels Agreement if the main thing in it wasn’t ZSO. ZSO and the integration of Serbs into Kosovo institutions were on the paper. If there is no ZSO, we will withdraw the entire Brussels Agreement”, said Dacic.

Asked whether the EU is for the change of the content of the agreement on the ZSO, which is required by Pristina, and whether its formation will be awaiting a legally binding agreement, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the High Representative Federica Mogherini, told Serbian daily “Vecernje Novosti”:

“The ZSO agreement is agreed between the two parties within the framework of the dialogue. Within this dialogue, the EU expects the relations between the two sides to normalize and to form the ZSO as soon as possible.”

Political analyst Dusan Janjic believes that “the package” Dacic mentioned does not necessarily mean that the formation of the ZSO will have to wait until the signing of a legally binding document with Pristina. He explained that the two parties in 2013 only initialed the Brussels Agreement, and that the signing of a legally binding “paper” will give legal force to that first agreement.

Vucic to US, EU: I do not trust you anymore

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said yesterday that he no longer trusts the international community, which is a guarantor of the Brussels agreement, and not just Albanians, on the issue of the formation of the Community of Serbian municipalities (ZSO).

“ZSO is talked about at every meeting. I dont trust them about anything. They have been lying to me for five years. I’ve been asking for five years and now I say ‘You are lying to me’. Not only Albanians. I didn’t trust them too much, but I did trust you from the international community”, he said, answering questions from the journalists in Prokuplje.

Vucic also recalled that Serbia fulfilled everything it signed.

“They [Kosovo Albanians] are your pet, you made them an independent state, you, the US and many European countries. How can you not persuade your pet to fulfill what it signed, and you are the guarantor of that”, he said.

Vucic said that he sees that they are not interested in this issue at all, and Albanians have certainly have never been interested in it.

“Only when there is a need to have the Serbs attacked, they are the champions”, the head of the Serbian state said adding that we are not completely without the means to oppose it.

He also said that he expect “absolutely nothing” from the Special Court for the KLA [“Kosovo Liberation Army / UCK].

He recalled that 14 years have passed since the terrible pogrom in Kosovo, killing, expulsion of Serbs and demolition of our churches, and that no one was held responsible for that.

Zuroff to Croatian President: Are you proud of Pavelic and Sakic?

The statement by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitanovic during her visit to Argentina, that Croats after World War II welcomed freedom in that country, has provoked vicious reactions in both Croatia and the world, writes Serbian daily “Vecernje Novosti”.

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Center Simon Wiesenthal, also reacted reminding that at that time the worst Ustasha criminals, such as Ante Pavelic, fled to Argentina in 1945.

On this occasion he sent a letter to the President Kitarovic, which was published on the portal

“Dear President Grabar-Kitarovic,

I am writing to you to express my horror and to protest against your statements during your visit to Argentina. According to Croatian portal, you said that you are ‘proud of all generations of Croats who came to Argentina’. If this is true, you are obviously proud of the notorious Ustasha war criminals such as Ante Pavelic, Eugen Dida Kvaternik, Dinko Sakic, Nada Sakic, Ivo Rojnica, Vinko Nikolic and Franja Nevistic, to name only some of the Ustashas who fled to Argentina to avoid punishment …

Such a statement is usually the disguise of the horrible crimes of the Ustasha regime in NDH and a terrible insult to the victims, their families and those who fought against it.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Efraim Zuroff.”

President Grabar-Kitarovic immediately sent a reply.

“I am rejecting your missed interpretations of my statement, and my opinion on NDH is well known. Only malicious commentators can read from my statement the glorification of a totalitarian regime”, she wrote in a reply to Dr. Zuroff and accused him of repeatedly trying to impose collective guilt on Croatia.

The Croatian opposition also reacted with a message to the President saying that it is better for her not to travel anywhere because she always compromises the country.

Joe Biden, John McCain, Mike Turner to receive medals from Montenegro

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic will next week present medals to the former US Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator John McCain and Congressman Mike Turner because, as he stated, “of contribution to promotion of Montenegrin interests and strengthening of bilateral relations and international reputation and status of Montenegro”.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Podgorica, the support of the aforementioned US officials to Montenegro during the entire process of Euro-Atlantic integration, and especially in the final phase of NATO accession, as one of its most important, if not the most important foreign policy interest, was of special importance and significance.

“Therefore, the visit of Minister Darmanovic will be an opportunity to show, in this way, sincere appreciation for the traditionally strong and continuous support of the USA to Montenegro in the past period”, the statement said.

Darmanovic will visit the US from March 19 to March 23.

Willy Wimmer: Serbian people are in the wrong place at the wrong time


In an exclusive interview with journalist D. Vujičić for Serbian daily “Vecernje Novosti” Willy Wimmer, German politician, spoke about Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence, bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, US – Russia and US – EU relationship and China.

Speaking for the daily, Wimmer said that the story about the year 2025 as the date for Serbia’s accession to the EU is running of Angela Merkel from her current office obligations. According to him, when one speaks about a problem being solved in 2025, it is clear that the person is not interesting in solving the problem.

Former spokesman of Merkel’s CDU and former vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) said that Germany these days has been in a madness and, in the interview for the daily, emphasizes that the Serbian people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also believes that Kosovo is a state whose foundations have been excavated on “living sand”, pointing that the way Yugoslavia was destroyed is still being used for the collapse of the international order created by the UN Statute, the Helsinki Charter…

Wimmer said that by the Paris Act of 1990 it was promised that there will be no war on the Old Continent, and then [Bill] Clinton and [Madeleine] Albright appeared in Europe because of the global interests of the United States. Now Europe is facing the “construction” of aggression against Russia.

Reminded that back in 2000, in a letter to Gerhard Schröder after the NATO summit in Bratislava, he warned that Serbia was bombed in 1999 for the purpose of establishing US bases on its territory, Wimmer said:

“When it comes to global US policy towards Russia and others, the Serbian people are in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He further said that Belgrade was the first “hot spot” of a great rivalry, orchestrated by the US. The 1999 war had much to do with US’ idea of destroying Russian influence in the Balkans, he said.

“By establishing the ‘Bondstill’ base the US want to control the oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea and to rule the road and rail system in the region.”

He further said that the EU wanted to have the road corridors to be in the north-south direction, and the US in the east-west direction. He added that the issue of Kosovo was and still is topic of a discussion between Israel and its neighbors about the future of the Middle East.

Speaking about Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence Wimmer said that the declaration is against all related UN documents. This is why five members of the EU does not recognize this “independence”. If they would do it, they would face the same result in their own country, which can be seen today in Catalonia, he said.

“Why would anyone legalize an illegal declaration? Kosovo as a state exists only as a result of the US intentions,” he said.

When asked about repeating that NATO collapsed the international legal order in Yugoslavia in 1999, Wimmer said that Russia is successful in Syria because it acts within the global legal system. In Syria and the region between Afghanistan and Libya, the US and its “coalition of common war friends”, such as London and Paris, are doing everything in their power to destroy the international legal order. They want to do what they want, he said, and to be in a position to make their own decisions about war and peace on a global level. According to Wimmer, the war in Syria now is underway to help the international legal order survive in order to prevent a future global conflict.

Asked about whether those who see possible “war” of Brussels with Moscow are right, Wimmer said:

“Joe Biden, former US Vice President, was very clear and specific when he asked and received European support for sanctions against Russia. The US then showed who has control over ‘Western alliance’, that is, Europe is more or less the area of colonialism with a modern look, where the domination of Washington is unquestionable.”

All European economies are suffering from sanctions to Russia, he said. However, according to him, there is no chance that EU leaders will again try to work normally with Russia – without the risk of “not surviving” in the political sense.

Speaking about Merkel and Macron’s recent announcement of a new independent European policy in relation to the US, Wimmer said that it is funny, because Trump is the one who maintains global peace, intact, or whatever it is.

“He is the US President who has not received his ‘war’, which has been ‘normal’ in 200 years of the history of that country.”

Further, he said that Europeans who welcomed all US wars since the one against Yugoslavia in 1999, were hostile to new US President for one reason – he “threatened” that he will be constructive and friendly when it comes to US-Russian relations.

“Trump is different. He does not belong to the political system of the US which failed at the polls in the last elections. That is why he was elected – said Wimmer. “Classic” Democrats and Republicans were unable to prevent the collapse of the US system through the failed infrastructure, corpses of soldiers returning from the Middle East.

Nevertheless, he said, a time when Trump is fighting for political survival in the White House, some kind of military government, a system of “top military commanders”, has global control over the world.

Speaking about financial crisis in 2007, Wimmer said for “Vecernje Novosti” that one should not forget that it was China who saved all from that crisis.

“We received financial support from Beijing, which allowed us to survive the blow from the other side of the Atlantic, which also had a goal to destroy euro. One also should not forget that China still does not have the chance that the money is being returned to it.”

According to him, things on the field look like this: every week trains from Shanghai come to Duisburg, Europe’s largest internal port. These trains, he said, connect the largest industrial zone in the world with the largest consumer market in the world. But the goal of the Chinese trains is not Duisburg but London. It is the ultimate Chinese financial destination, Wimmer concluded.

Montenegro “Especially Vulnerable to Russian Cyber Attacks”

Photo: MoD of Montenegro

Montenegro and some other Balkan countries fear meddling from Moscow in what they believe is an expansion of Russian foreign policy, according to the report by RFE/RL.

Officials in Podgorica feel their country is especially vulnerable. Over the last two years, authorities in Montenegro have recorded a sharp rise in cyberattacks, mostly targeting state institutions and media outlets in that aspiring EU state on the Adriatic, RFE/RL reports.

“We are doing everything to be prepared the best we can,” Milica Jankovic, the head of the Directorate for Electronic Administration and Information Security at the Public Administration Ministry, told RFE/RL.

“We are organizing prevention and monitoring systematically, and we will try to recognize the attacks and predict them before they arise.”

Jankovic said cyberattacks in 2017 totaled around 700, a 20-fold increase over previous years.

Montenegro’s leaders also say Moscow tried to interfere in the country’s 2016 general elections, a charge that Russian officials have denied. Adding to that, the authorities and ruling parties claim that Russia sponsored a coup attempt on election day during that vote.

“Attacks with a political background are most commonly occurring in the organization of states, and malicious programs distributed in the service of states are the most massive weapons used by states in the pursuit of their political goals,” said Adis Balota, dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at the Mediterranean University in Podgorica.

“Montenegro before every election cycle or change, and not only Montenegro, but also the region — Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The activity of such attacks or attempts to attack a certain state infrastructure is always increasing,” Balota added.

Montenegro’s government has stopped short of officially pinning the attacks on Russian sources.

But IT security firms such as FirstEye and Trend Micro say they have seen evidence tying many of them to APT28, a Russian hacker group also known as Fancy Bear and a half dozen other sobriquets, which has been tied by U.S. intelligence services and private cybersecurity analysts to the Russian military intelligence service, GRU.

Fancy Bear has been accused of attempted election interference and cyberattacks on NATO, the White House, and possibly a handful of German government institutions.

The EU’s Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has said Montenegrin infrastructure has been targeted by Fancy Bear.

Russia “is likely to continue using cyber capabilities to undermine Montenegro’s smooth integration into the alliance,” according to Tony Cole, vice president and chief technology officer for global government at FireEye.

The Kremlin has strongly denied any role in the attacks on governments, media, or elections worldwide.

Hoxhaj: FYROM asked Kosovo’s assistance to apply Albanian language law

Deputy Prime Minister of the so-called Republic of Kosovo, Enver Hoxhaj, during Government’s meeting on Friday, said that the Government of FYROM (Macedonia) has asked Kosovo’s support to assist in implementation of bilingualism in institutions of Macedonia, after Parliament in Skopje has approved on Wednesday the law allowing for the wider use of the Albanian language.

Hoxhaj said that the Government of FYROM made the request “based on the good experience of Kosovo in applying bilingualism – Albanian and Serbian – as two official languages in Kosovo,” GazetaExpress reports.

“At the request of the Government of Macedonia, now after approval of the Law on use of Albanian language, it was requested the support of the Government of Kosovo to assist in order to apply bilingualism in institutions, materials and other levels in Macedonia considering Kosovo’s good experience,” said Hoxhaj.

He said that the Government of Kosovo can offer such a support and there is a political willingness to offer the support of the neighbouring Macedonia.

Albania Arrests 39 for Smuggling People Into UK, US, Canada

Albanian police arrested 39 people on Saturday, including four police officers, on charges of having smuggled 1,000 Albanians to Britain, the United States and Canada, and they were looking for a dozen others, including two Bulgarians.

Since Albania embraced democracy in 1990, many Albanians have chosen to migrate for a better life, even paying hefty sums to smugglers. Now they can travel freely in and out of the European Union’s Schengen zone, but still need visas for Britain and North America.

National police chief Ardi Veliu said seven criminal groups operating in Albania, Bulgaria, Spain, France, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada had smuggled 1,000 people to Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

“Every person paid at least 7,000 pounds ($9,764) to get to the United Kingdom and from $24,000 to $30,000 to reach the U.S. and Canada,” Veliu told reporters.

He said the group had forged passports for those traveling and had helped them reach their destinations by traveling via other European countries, or through the Dominican Republic or other countries in South America.

Veliu said Albanian police had worked with U.S. colleagues and European agencies as well as with Interpol and EUROPOL.

In a drive to convince the European Union to agree to start accession negotiations this June, Albania has stepped up its fight against crime and has lately seized 613 kilos of cocaine and busted a large cannabis smuggling group.

Former CIA director to US President: You will take your rightful place as disgraced demagogue in dustbin of history

AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

Lawmakers and former federal officials weighed in Saturday on the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe late Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under former President Barack Obama, tweeted “this is dangerous” when referring to McCabe’s ouster.

“Analyze McCabe firing on two levels: the substance and the timing. We don’t know enough about the substance yet. The timing appears cruel and a cave [capitulation] that compromised DOJ [Department of Justice] independence, to please an increasingly erratic President who should’ve played no role here,” Holder said on Twitter Saturday.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who also served under Obama and has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration, aimed his Twitter remarks directly at President Donald Trump: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,” he said. “America will triumph over you.”

A former FBI agent who worked closely with McCabe before his own retirement two years ago, Frank Montoya Jr., told Business Insider: “This is a political assassination on a good man and public servant. It is also a savage broadside on the institution he served.”

Montoya also questioned the timing of McCabe’s firing.

“One does not get fired one day before one is eligible” for retirement, he said. “I’ve never heard of that happening before in 26 years of service.”

Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, however, issued a statement Saturday that said McCabe’s actions had “tarnished” the FBI’s reputation.

“I applaud Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking action and firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe prior to his scheduled retirement,” said Goodlatte, head of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker, who retired in 2006, said in a commentary for Fox News that McCabe’s firing “was justified because the FBI has a [sic] zero tolerance for lying under oath.”

“In fact,” he said, “there are many examples of the rank and file in the FBI losing their jobs and retirement benefits for violating these high standards.”

Russians vote in presidential election across 11 time zones

Russians eligible to vote in the presidential elections have headed to cast their ballots, as polls first opened in the Far East regions of Kamchatka and Chukotka. Eight candidates are vying for the government’s top position.

The vote will last for a total of 22 hours, as Russians across all the country’s 11 time zones, spanning from Kamchatka and Chukotka in the East to the westernmost enclave of Kaliningrad, will be heading to polls on Sunday.

First polling stations welcomed early voters at 8:00 am local time [20:00 GMT] on Saturday in Kamchatka and Chukotka regions, followed by the island of Sakhalin an hour later.

In Moscow, the voting will start nine hours later, at 5:00 am GMT, and proceed until the polls close at 8:00 pm [17:00 GMT].

First results will be announced no sooner than 9:00 pm Moscow time [18:00 GMT], after the voting ends in Kaliningrad, which is an hour behind Moscow time. RT will bring special coverage of the elections starting at that time on Sunday.

Overall, 97,000 polling stations, 400 of them located abroad, are hosting the elections. Over 108 million citizens in Russia and nearly 2 million outside are eligible to take part in the vote.

Some 30,000 Russians have already cast an early ballot vote from abroad, Russia’s Electoral Commission said. It is expected that the majority of those who live in foreign countries or happened to be outside Russia on the day of the presidential ballot will be able to vote on Sunday.

This is not the case in Ukraine, as it has barred Russian citizens from voting in the Russian diplomatic missions on its territory for what Kiev claims are “illegal” elections in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, that reunited with Russia in wake of a popular referendum in March 2014.

Otherwise, Russians will have to pick one of the eight candidates on Sunday: Pavel Grudinin (Communist Party of the Russian Federation), Vladimir Putin (independent), Ksenia Sobchak (Civic Initiative), Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), Sergey Baburin (All-People’s Union), Maxim Suraykin (Communists of Russia), Boris Titov (Party of Growth) and Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko).

The elections, preliminary results of which will be announced on Monday, will determine who will serve as Russia’s president for the next six years.


Analysts: Rating agencies use double standards, unfairly keep US ratings high


Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Group are often accused of using double standards when assessing countries, companies and financial instruments. RT has talked to experts about this bias.

“It is absurd when Russia, a country with the fifth-largest reserves of physical gold, and with gold reserves of $450 billion, had a rating lower than the investment grade and close to the junk status of some Latin American countries with a much less reliable level of protection of the financial system,” analyst at TeleTrade Petr Pushkarev told RT.

Another example of unfair ratings is Brazil, according to Pushkarev. “The credit rating of such a huge and rich country like Brazil is BB-, according to two of the ‘big three’ – the same as back in 2001. The country has undergone a lot of development during this time, and the whole BRICS community has become much more united, stronger,” he said. Despite this, Brazil has the same rating as Bangladesh, the analyst notes.

Not all investors are following the advice of the ‘big three,’ and those who invested in the Russian or Brazilian economy have enjoyed the strengthening of the rouble and Brazilian real, said Pushkarev. However, hedge funds, pension funds and many investors are still looking at the ratings by the ‘big three’ when making investments, and developing countries are losing money.

Pushkarev said that when S&P was forced to downgrade America’s rating from AAA to AA+, “the indignation and pressure from the US government was so great that then, despite the growth of public debt and budget deficits, there were no new revisions of US ratings, and the other agencies didn’t downgrade the US.”

Vladimir Rozhankovsky, Global FX Investment analyst, said it is very difficult to prove that the ‘big three’ agencies are biased in their ratings. There have been many trials against these companies, but their bias hasn’t been proved yet.

“The agencies are using internal scoring models, which are their own methods and, for this reason, they are not obliged to disclose information about these,” the analyst told RT. Moreover, the agencies are claiming that if you don’t like their ratings, then don’t use them, he said.

Rozhankovsky said that poor assessment of synthetic collateralized debt obligations (SCDOs) led to the most large-scale global crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.

Despite the accusations of having triggered the crisis, S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch have done close to nothing to change their assessment criteria, he added.


Nearly half of US citizens will retire broke – report

Some 42 percent of elderly US citizens have less than $10,000 put aside for their golden years, according to the report by a personal finance resource GoBankingRates, which polled over 1,000 adults last month.

The survey, carried out for the third consecutive year, suggests that a lack of planning and savings, along with a longer life expectancy, may shatter people’s retirement dreams. The California-based financial advisor also found out that the percentage of Americans with no savings at all had increased from 2016 through 2017.

Low salaries or lack of opportunities to earn more is identified as the key factor for 40.1 percent of the surveyed, while 24.9 percent told the personal finance site that they were already struggling to pay bills. Adults 65 and older annually spend almost $46,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 10.3 percent do not stash away money, as they don’t need any retirement savings.

The researcher commonly polls American adults, which are roughly divided into three groups: millennials, Generation X and baby boomers. The respondents are required to answer how much money they may save for retirement by their best estimate, choosing one of the suggested answers.

The latest poll reveals that at least 18 percent of millennials aged 18 to 34 have zero savings for retirement. Another 39 percent of respondents in this age group have less than $10,000 put aside.

However, the total number of millennials with nothing or less than $10,000 saved has reportedly dropped to 57 percent this year, from 71 percent in 2017. The percentage of this generation with $300,000 or more saved has increased to nine percent from five percent last year.

Respondents at the age of 55 or over comprise the highest percentage of those who have saved more than $300,000— 23 percent, but about one-third of them have less than $10,000 in savings. At the same time, Gen Xers, aged 35 to 44, are less likely to save, while people over 65 are the most likely to say they don’t have retirement savings because they used the money for an emergency.


FYROM President Refuses Again To Sign Bill Boosting Albanian Language

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev (left) meets with President Gjorge Ivanov on February 27. - Photo: MIA

Macedonian (FYROM) President Gjorge Ivanov has refused for a second time to sign legislation passed by the parliament to expand official use of the Albanian language, in a move that could set off a renewed political crisis in the small Balkan nation.

The parliament was forced to approve the legislation for a second time on March 14, in the face of protests both inside and outside the building, because Ivanov refused to sign it in January.

“The constitution and my conscience do not permit me to sign a decree approving such a law,” Ivanov, a close ally of the conservative opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, said in a video distributed after the parliamentary vote late on March 14.

“The law on languages is unjust and repressive, and it favors only one language,” he said. “A law that had no debate on amendments…cannot be considered an expression of democracy,” he said.

The bill was approved with 64 out of 120 parliament members voting for it, after the parliamentary speaker rejected a motion for debate on amendments by the opposition.

Lawmakers from the opposition party offered 35 amendments to the bill and staged protests, warning that the measure would put the Balkan country’s national unity in jeopardy.

Parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian, dismissed the amendments and ordered the vote to proceed.

At one point, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the leader of the VMRO, and other opposition lawmakers tried to prevent Xhaferi from speaking by pulling away his microphone. Eventually, with the help of security guards, the voting procedure went ahead.

Outside the parliament building, several hundred protestors demonstrated against the measure without incident.

The tumult inside the parliament building during the vote came nearly a year after opposition nationalists stormed the building and assaulted Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in a protest against the election of Xhaferi as speaker.

Ivanov had been expected to sign the measure after the second vote of approval in parliament. It was unclear whether the bill would take effect without Ivanov’s signature.

His refusal to sign could plunge Macedonia back into political turmoil. The small Balkan nation has experienced several political crises in the past three years.

The language measure carries out a critical pledge made by the ruling Social Democrats to win the support of ethnic Albanian parties for a new coalition government last year.

Ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of Macedonia’s two million people. Under the legislation, Macedonian would continue to be the primary official language.

But Albanian, which has until now been an official language only in areas where the minority makes up at least 20 percent of the population, would be used more widely under the legislation.

The measure would boost the use of Albanian at a national level, including in administrative, health, judicial, police, and other official matters. It could also be used in parliament by the ethnic Albanians’ elected representatives.

Ethnic Albanian rebels waged an insurgency against Macedonian authorities in 2001. More than 100 people were killed in the insurgency, which ended with an agreement providing greater rights for the minority.

FYROM Passes Law Boosting Albanian Language Status

Macedonia’s (FYROM) parliament has passed a law extending the official use of the Albanian language, despite protests from the right-wing opposition who say the decision will put the Balkan country’s national unity in jeopardy.

Sixty-four lawmakers in the 120-member parliament voted to adopt the law on March 14, without a debate requested by the opposition.

Lawmakers from the right-wing opposition party, the VMRO-DPMNE, staged protests against the measure — which had already been passed in January, but was again put up for a vote after conservative President Gjorge Ivanov vetoed it.

The president must sign it into law following the new vote.

Outside the parliament building, several hundred protesters demonstrated against the law, but the protests passed without incident.

Macedonian is the primary official language, but ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of Macedonia’s two million people.

Albanian has until now been an official language only in areas where the minority makes up at least 20 percent of the population.

The new law will boost the use of Albanian at a national level, including in administrative, health, judicial, police, and other official matters.

It can also be used in parliament by the ethnic Albanians’ elected representatives.

The adoption of the law was a demand of Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian parties before they agreed to join a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats last year.

Ethnic Albanian rebels waged an insurgency against Macedonian authorities in 2001. More than 100 people were killed in the insurgency, which ended with an agreement providing greater rights for the minority.

Vucic: Serbia Ready For Compromise Over Kosovo

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on March 14 that Serbia is ready for a compromise over dispute with Kosovo, which is key to Serbia’s bid to join the European Union.

The EU insists that the normalization of ties between Belgrade and Pristina is a key condition they both must meet in order to join the bloc.

“For us, the most difficult obstacle on the road to Europe is indeed the situation over Kosovo, and because of that, Serbia is …. ready to talk about possible compromises,” Vucic told reporters.

He spoke after meeting with Wess Mitchell, the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

Mitchell is on a tour of the region that has already taken him to Kosovo and Macedonia.

“We can accept only a compromise … but not a humiliation of our own people,” Vucic said.

Vucic and Mitchell expressed deep disagreement over the establishment of Kosovo’s armed forces.

Mitchell insisted that Kosovo had a “legitimate right” to form a professional army that would include ethnic Serbs, and said such a force does not present a threat for Serbia.

“Serbia is against it,” Vucic said, arguing there was no legally-binding document that would give Pristina the right for such a move.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci has repeatedly said Kosovo would form an army.

US: Kosovo has the right to form a professional force

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wess Mitchell, said in Belgrade that Kosovo has the right to form a professional force to deal with security, GazetaExpress reported.

During a joint press conference with Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, the U.S. diplomat said Kosovo army would not be a threat to Serbia and Serbs and the U.S. supported that right of Kosovo.

Mitchell urged Kosovo and Serbia to fulfil their obligations under the Brussels agreement, and said that his primary message was that the US was committed to partnership with Serbia. He said that the conversation with Serbian president Vucic was “open and very good” and that they discussed Kosovo, security of the region and economic cooperation, and that the United States was “committed to finding a solution in the dialogue and ready to listen and help.”

Mithcell said that Kosovo has the right to form a professional force to deal with security and that it would not be a threat to Serbia and Serbs – while the United States supported that right of Kosovo – but also stressed that a change of the constitution was needed for this to take place. Mitchell said this requires a lot of work, and that the United States was engaging “very closely with people in Pristina about that.”

Vucic, said that Serbia and the US do not agree on “the security forces in Kosovo” – but do about “peace and dialogue in Brussels under the auspices of the EU.”

During the press conference, Vucic repeatedly pointed out that he had an “open conversation with Mitchell” and stressed that he was very grateful to him. Asked if they had discussed the issue of the possible formation of an army in Kosovo , Vucic said: “I urge everyone to find one single paper, one single letter in some international act that says that is allowed. According to the military-technical agreement signed in Kumanovo, no Kosovo forces can exist – there may be KFOR and no one else. According to (UN Security Council) Resolution 1244, as a general legal act, Albanian forces are not envisaged, instead the return of Serbian forces to Kosovo is. A Kosovo army goes against all international acts.”

Mitchell is visiting Belgrade after his Monday’s visit to Kosovo when he said that no one has the right to veto Kosovo security force.

Putin most trusted foreign leader in Serbia

The most recent opinion polls suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin is the most trusted foreign leader for the Serbian nationals, gaining support from 58% of the polled Serbs, the iPolitika newspaper said on Wednesday.

Politika and the survey research agency Faktor Plus carried out two independent opinion polls between March 9 and 13. Those surveyed were asked to choose several foreign leader they trust most of all in the descending order – from the most trusted to the least. The results of both surveys were the same – the level of support for the Russian president was 58% German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the second most trusted foreign leader gaining support of 42% of the surveyed Serbian citizens.

Chinese President Xi Jinping came third, gaining support from 34% of those polled, followed by US President Donald Trump (22%). Next came British Prime Minister Theresa May (16%), French President Emmanuel Macron (16%) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (7%).

The newspaper noted that Putin’s approval rating in Serbia practically matched the level of his popularity in Russia, where he is supported by 57.7% of the polled Russian nationals according to the most recent survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

Putin’s approval ratings have remained very high in Serbia for years, no matter what methods of survey research were used. The newspaper also said that when the polled Serbian nationals were asked to choose only one candidate, support for the Russian leader surged to more than 70%.

Donald Trump Dumps Rex Tillerson

US President Donald Trump citing policy differences fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo – a move which drew applause and criticism from lawmakers and rights groups.

Tilleron’s ouster, announced by Trump in a Twitter post on Tuesday, ends a relationship that was from the beginning marked by conflicting positions on a number of foreign policy issues including Iran and North Korea, among others.

“Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!” Trump said in a twitter post. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!”

Trump, later in the day, revealed to reporters the main thrust behind the decision to terminate Tillerson, who lasted just over 400 days in his position as Secretary of State.

“We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible, I guess he thinks it was okay,” Trump said. “We wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same.”

A White House official said Trump wanted to make a change at the State Department ahead of the expected talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.
The ouster was made even more controversial when the White House fired Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein for suggesting that Tillerson did not find out about his fate until Trump’s tweet on Tuesday.

Goldstein’s account contradicted White House officials, who said Chief of Staff John Kelly informed Tillerson on Friday, according to CNN.

The manner in which Trump terminated Tillerson drew the ire of lawmakers including Senator Patrick Leahy, who blasted the president for running the US government and foreign policy like “an erratic ratings-driven TV impresario” which was inimical to American interests.

“Firing a Secretary of State by Twitter may make for great drama and instant TV ratings, but this, and countless other instances like this, produce undiluted instability that damages the nation and the office of the presidency at just about every level,” Leahy said in a statement.

In a press release on Tuesday, US Senator Dianne Feinstein said that Trump has exhibited “a pattern and practice to dismiss anyone with whom this president has a policy difference, and that appears to be the case with Secretary Tillerson.”

Tillerson delivered a sobering final address at the State Department just hours after his dismissal.

During the press conference, the former Exxon Mobil chief told reporters that he would be handing the department over to the care of Deputy Secretary John Sullivan by end of day Tuesday, and that his last official day on the job will be March 31.

Tillerson said much more needed to be done to achieve peace in Syria, stabilize Iraq and continue the global campaign to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (banned in Russia).

During the farewell speech, Tillerson warned that Russia’s actions have put the country on a path to isolation.

“Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and of the world more broadly,” Tillerson said. “Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation that is not in anyone’s interest.”

The United States also has much work ahead to establish a clear view of the nature of its future relation with China, Tillerson said. He also said that the US global campaign of putting maximum pressure on North Korea “exceeded expectations.”
Tillerson’s strong words about Russia in his exit speech did not impress critics such as Senator Chuck Schumer, who said via Twitter he hopes Pompeo would take a tougher line with Moscow.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez said in a statement that Tillerson’s firing highlights Trump’s lack of understanding of how the State Department promotes US interests and advances national security.

US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts paved a new course in countering the Iran threat and applying maximum pressure on North Korea. Royce said that Tillerson’s successor will face many serious challenges ahead.

Some lawmakers welcomed the news that Pompeo was picked to be the next Secretary of State, especially given hopes he would be tougher on Russia, while others questioned whether he possessed the diplomatic acumen to succeed.

Trump in the same farewell tweet storm to Tillerson, announced that deputy director Gina Haspel would replace Pompeo. Haspel would be the first woman to ever run the spy agency yet her selection raised concerns given her connections with the CIA torture program.

Haspel oversaw the interrogation of a detainee who was waterboarded 83 times in a single month before the agency concluded the suspect had no useful information. Subsequently, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights urged German authorities on July 7, 2017 to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel for her role in the torture program.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a press release urged the US Senate to reject both candidates given “the potential for Pompeo and Haspel to endorse abusive practices and lend support for their use abroad.”
Feinstein said Pompeo’s role as CIA Director had little to do with diplomacy and his new role as top diplomat will require patience and diligence.

US House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that Pompeo possesses the proper experience to serve as the next top US diplomat.

The Russian government is ready to begin working with Pompeo but is under no illusion that relations with Washington will improve, Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy chair of the Russian upper house’s defense and security committee, said.

“Russia will cooperate with all those appointed to this or another post in the Trump administration. We are pursuing the course on reducing tensions in relations between our countries, but our partners apparently do not share this aspiration,” Serebrennikov said.

Former Syrian Diplomat Bassam Barabandi told Sputnik on Tuesday that Tillerson’s departure is unlikely to change US policy on Syria.

Germany: Angela Merkel reelected as Chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel grimaces as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The German Bundestag has re-elected Angela Merkel as the country’s chancellor on Wednesday. She received 364 out of 688 valid votes in the 709-member Bundestag.

Since the parties comprising the coalition government – the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) – have 399 seats in the Bundestag, Merkel was sure to be re-elected as she needed to gain 355 votes.

“Do you accept the vote?” Bundestag Speaker Wolfgang Schauble asked Merkel after the results had been announced. “Yes, I accept the vote,” she answered. Schauble wished the newly elected chancellor “success and luck in resolving serious issues.”

At 12:30 local time, Merkel will travel to Schloss Bellevue to receive a letter of appointment from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then will return to the Bundestag to take the oath of office.

Almost six months after the parliamentary election, Germany will finally have a new government, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting at 17:00 local time on Wednesday.

Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

CC BY 2.0 / Lwp Kommunikáció / Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, a scientist and a science popularizer, died at the age of 76.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” says the statement released by the scientist’s family. The statement has been published early Wednesday.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” the statement reads. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.”

Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. His scientific works include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation.

Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He is a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Hawking had a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. Hawking surprised doctors around the world, as he lived on despite the disease which usually leads to death within years.

The ALS gradually disabled Hawking’s body, forcing him to use a wheelchair and his trademark voice synthesizer, which he controlled using his cheek’s movement.

Despite being paralyzed, Hawking continued to do science, speak before audience and write books that popularized science among wide audience.

Croatia Charges 22 Serbs For War Crimes

Croatian prosecutors announced that they have charged 22 ethnic Serbs with war crimes committed during the conflict in the 1990s.

The Zagreb Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement on March 10 that the 22 Croatian Serbs were accused of killing 20 civilians and two policemen being held prisoner in three areas in the east of the country in 1991.

The Serbs belonged to a paramilitary group operating in the east, during the 1991-95 war between Croat and Belgrade-backed Serb forces that claimed some 20,000 lives.

The prosecutor’s office said eight of the suspects ordered the 14 others to “molest, beat, and murder” Croat civilians and to “illegally take [the civilians] hostage.”

The charges also claim that the eight ordered the others to “torture and kill prisoners of war” and burn and destroy their homes and businesses.

The charges claim that the suspects were also responsible for large-scale shelling that killed civilians and destroyed their property.

The alleged crimes were committed in the villages of Cetekovac, Balinci, and Cojlug in Croatia’s eastern region of Slavonia in September 1991.

Serbia Blasts Top NATO General

Serbia’s defense minister blasted NATO’s top general on Monday for saying that one of the biggest threats for Europe is increasing Russian influence in the Balkans, and the biggest problem are Serbs.

Aleksandar Vulin said that U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti’s statement last week during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing represents the most “dangerous” anti-Serb statement since the Western military alliance bombed the country in 1999.

The American general said he has seen an increase in Russian influence over his year-and-a-half as supreme NATO commander in Europe and that he sees it as more threatening than in the Baltics, former Russian satellites Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Scaparrotti said that while the Baltic region in the north of Europe is crucial, those nations are now part of NATO and have a more stable position on the continent. He said he was more concerned with the support of Serbian people within the Balkans who are more susceptible to Russian influence.

Vulin responded by saying: “Since 1999, there has not been a more irresponsible statement. By saying that the whole (Serbian) nation represents a danger for the Balkans is a call for the unification of all (Balkan people) against the Serbs.”

“There’s no Russian influence in Serbia,” Vulin said. “Serbia is an independent nation that chooses its own friends.”

Scaparrotti said during the Senate hearing that “Russia’s at work in the Balkans. I think we’ve kind of taken our eye off the area.”

Serbia formally wants to join the EU, but its leaders have been intensively working with Moscow in fostering both military and political ties despite calls from the bloc that the Balkan state should align its foreign policies if it really wants to be a member.

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