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“Ukraine attacks Russia!” was the headline of a February issue of Informer, the most popular tabloid in Serbia, whose owner and editor has been a confidant of President Aleksandar Vučić for decades. This surreal title is no exception in the media representation of the war in Ukraine. Rather, but is a stark expression of the Putinophilia that has reigned in Serbia for many years. Whereas the whole world has united in condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the media under the control of Aleksandar Vučić have turned to unfettered glorification of the crimes.
Tabloids, web portals, dailies, weeklies and nationwide television channels celebrate the destruction of Ukrainian cities and give wholehearted support to the Russian armed forces to persevere in the campaign against their neighbouring country. The editors and journalists of these disinformation media have fallen into a deep trance – the killing of civilians, levelling of cities and destruction of cultural monuments and churches fills them with enthusiasm and exuberance.
Whereas demonstrations in support of the Ukrainians have been held in numerous cities around the world, mass rallies were organised in Belgrade at which the crowd cheered Vladimir Putin and the letter Z – the symbol of the Russian "special military operation" – was drawn on the asphalt. The whole world shudders as it watches real-time coverage with corpses on the streets of Bucha, buildings on fire in Kyiv and Kharkiv , demolished hospitals and schools, burning cars, civilians sheltering from the Russian shells in underground stations and millions of refugees leaving their country, but the hearts of Serbian Putinophiles leap for joy. Instead of compassion towards the innocent victims, understanding for the criminals is widespread.
While his media lackeys celebrate death and destruction, Aleksandar Vučić feigns political neutrality. Serbia begrudgingly voted in favour of the UN General Assembly’s resolution that condemns Russia’s aggression in the strongest terms and demands that the Kremlin immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine, but it persistently refuses to impose sanctions against Russia. A multitude of European officials, American senators and diverse envoys flocked to see Vučić, making it clear to him that the time had come to choose: would Serbia be part of Europe or an ally of Russia? Despite all the pressure, Vučić keeps Serbia in limbo, neither in heaven nor on Earth. There can obviously be no neutrality in the case of Russia’s nefarious campaign against Ukraine. To be neutral while an executioner butchers a victim means to side with the executioner.
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Serbia’s specific attitude towards the war in Ukraine requires additional clarification. Whereas in other countries Sputnik and Russia Today are in charge of diffusing the Kremlin’s propaganda, in Serbia most of the domestic media act as if they were part of the Russian machinery under the direct command of Vladimir Putin and Roskomnadzor, the federal agency for media supervision and the monitoring of communications.
However, the problem is not only in the media sphere, which is already the product of disastrous policies. Serbia has never renounced the nationalist ideology of “Greater Serbia” that led to the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The only exception was the short premiership of Zoran Đinđić, but that attempt to return to civilisation was cut short by his murder on 12 March 2003. The assassination was carried out by the very same forces that waged the wars and sought to create a Greater Serbia.
Today’s political leaders were active participants in the joint criminal enterprise [the official ICTY term] in the wars of the 1990s. President Vučić was a high-ranking official of the Serbian Radical Party of convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj. His coalition partner Ivica Dačić, leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, was Slobodan Milošević’s spokesman during the war crimes and genocide. One of Vučić’s closest associates, the minister of police, Aleksandar Vulin, began his career as a functionary of the Yugoslav Left, the party founded by Milošević’s wife, Mirjana Marković. Today’s Minister of European Integration, Jadranka Joksimović, was editor of the Serbian Radical Party’s organ Velika Srbija (Greater Serbia), whose name speaks for itself.
No political official in Serbia has ever admitted that genocide was committed in Srebrenica. There has been no dealing with the past at the state level. On the contrary, al…
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