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Posts tagged ‘Rascia Land of Serbia’

Serbia’s dethroned royals hold a wedding in Belgrade

October 07, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Although it’s not a kingdom now, Serbia has hosted a wedding for dethroned royals. Prince Philip Karadjordjevic, of the dethroned Serbian royals, married Danica Marinkovic on Saturday in a ceremony at Belgrade’s main cathedral.

The wedding was performed by the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, and attended by many public figures. Dozens gathered outside the church on a sunny but chilly autumn day. Philip is one of the sons of Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the heir to Serbia’s now-defunct throne. The royal family ruled Yugoslavia until communists took power after World War II and abolished the monarchy. Exiled during WWII, the family returned to Serbia after 2000.

Philip was born in Fairfax, Virginia, while his wife is the daughter of prominent Serbian painter Cile Marinkovic.

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Hundreds rally for free, fair elections in Serbian capital

October 06, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Several hundred people have gathered at an opposition protest demanding that an upcoming local election in the Serbian capital of Belgrade be free and fair. Opposition leaders have alleged that the ruling parties have been beefing up voters’ lists ahead of the ballot expected next spring. The authorities have denied this.

The Belgrade race is viewed as a test of President Aleksandar Vucic’s rule. Vucic swept the presidential elections earlier this year and his right-leaning coalition controls the government, but opposition parties are hoping to undermine his power in Belgrade.

Opposition leaders have accused Vucic of stifling democratic freedoms, exerting pressure on the media and threatening opponents. Protesters on Friday put forward a set of demands, including equal treatment in the media and international observers at the Belgrade vote.

Russia starts delivery of MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia

October 02, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Russia on Monday started delivering six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia, part of Moscow’s promised military hardware that could worsen tensions in the war-weary Balkans. Two of the warplanes were transported, disassembled, on a Russian cargo plane that landed at a military airport near Belgrade on Monday afternoon. All six are to arrive by Oct. 20, when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is expected in the Serbian capital.

Moscow is handing over the MiGs for free, but it’s estimated the overhaul of the secondhand aircraft will cost Serbia some 200 million euros ($235 million.) Russia has also promised the delivery of 30 battle tanks and 30 armored vehicles to Serbia, which was at war with its neighbors Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that in addition to the jets, the country will boost its anti-aircraft defense. It has been negotiating the purchase of the Russian-made S-300 systems. “We will continue to protect our freedom and independence,” Vucic said.

Serbia has been on the path to join the European Union, but under political and propaganda pressure from Moscow it has steadily slid toward the Kremlin and its goal of keeping Balkan countries out of NATO and other Western bodies.

Serbia is a member of the Western military alliance’s Partnership for Peace program. A NATO official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said “the defense equipment which NATO’s partners procure is a sovereign choice for those countries. There are no restrictions imposed by NATO.”

Serbia’s archrival, NATO-member Croatia, is shopping for a new fighter to replace the nation’s aging MiG-21s. The two leading contenders for the planned contract reportedly include Israeli version of American Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Swedish Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen.

AP Writer Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.

Ex-rebel Serb commander sentenced to 15 years in Croatia

September 26, 2017

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — A Croatian court on Tuesday sentenced a former Serb paramilitary commander and Australian citizen to 15 years in prison for war crimes in the 1990s, including the killing and torture of prisoners.

Judges at the municipal court in the coastal town of Split said that Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as Captain Dragan and Daniel Snedden, is guilty of war crimes committed while he commanded Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-95 war when Serbs took up arms against Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia.

The 62-year-old Vasiljkovic, who was born in Serbia, went to Australia as a teenager, but returned to the Balkans to train Croatian Serb rebels in 1991. In Australia, he was an army reservist and a golf instructor.

Vasiljkovic was extradited from Australia in July 2015 after a 10-year legal battle against being handed over to Croatia’s judiciary. He became Australia’s first extradited war crimes suspect. The three-judge Croatian court panel found Vasiljkovic guilty of two of the three charges, which included torturing and beating imprisoned Croatian police and army troops and commanding a special forces unit involved in the destruction of Croatian villages. He was found responsible for the death of at least two civilians.

“They were beating prisoners with their guns, … pushing gun barrels into their mouths,” judge Damir Romac said reading the verdict. “He (Vasiljkovic) did nothing to prevent this and punish the perpetrators.”

About 60 prosecution witnesses were questioned during the trial, including those who said they were tortured by Vasiljkovic. Vasiljkovic, who was widely believed during the war to be working for Serbia’s secret service, has claimed innocence throughout the one-year trial, saying the whole process was rigged.

“This is an oppressive fascist process,” Vasiljkovic said during his closing statements last week. “Not only did I not commit any crimes that I am charged with, I can only ask why I was brought here and charged in the first place.”

Serbia’s Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin blasted Vasiljkovic’s conviction as a “mockery of truth.” Vulin accused Croatia of fueling tensions in the Balkans with the ruling. The judges ruled that they will take into account the time Vasiljkovic served in detention in Australia and in a Croatian prison, meaning he has three-and-a-half years of his sentence remaining. His lawyers said they will appeal.

Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

Albania soccer federation fights fan’s extradition to Serbia

July 29, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s soccer federation is calling on Albanian authorities to stop the extradition to Serbia of a man who has claimed to have flown a drone carrying a nationalist banner over a stadium in Serbia, a display that prompted fan violence.

Ismail Morinaj was arrested in Croatia in June based on an arrest warrant from Serbia. A court in Dubrovnik agreed this week to extradite the 35-year-old Albanian to Belgrade. An Albanian Football Federation statement issued Saturday called on Albania’s government “to intervene within the legal context to stop extradition of Ismail Morinaj to Serbia.”

The federation assured Morinaj’s family it would keep fighting to prevent his extradition, saying it “is fully committed to exploiting all its institutional and diplomatic roads,” the statement said. Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has negotiated with Croatian authorities in the last two days “for the final solution of the process,” according to another statement from the federation.

Justice Minister Gazmend Bardhi also has formally asked Croatian authorities not to approve the Serbian request, arguing that “Albanian citizen Ismail Morina is endangered to suffer from politically motivated persecution or discrimination.”

A group of Albanian fans, Tifozet kuq e zi, (or Red and black fans, in English) has called for an evening rally in Albania’s capital, Tirana, to pressure the government to get involved. Morinaj, who is from the northeastern Kukes area but lives in Italy, has been a regular at the Albanian national team’s away matches.

His brother Xhevair complained to television station Report TV about the government’s lack of attention, saying Ismail’s life would be in danger in Serbia. “We call on the Albanian state to intervene and stop extradition to Serbia. We, as a family, would do something very radical which would surprise everyone,” he said without elaborating.

Violence interrupted an October 2014 European qualifying match between the Serbian and Albanian teams when a drone with an Albanian banner appeared over the pitch. The 0-0 game was suspended after Serbian fans injured some of the Albanian players who had tried rushing a Serbian player who pulled down the banner.

European soccer’s governing body ultimately awarded Albania the match victory, helping win the tiny western Balkan country a spot in the Euro 2016 finals, its first major tournament.

Serbia’s first gay PM- designate honored by nomination

June 16, 2017

VRNJACKA BANJA, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s Prime Minister-designate Ana Brnabic says it is an honor to serve the country and thanked the president for trusting her. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic nominated Brnabic as the conservative country’s first openly gay prime minister, a move which infuriated nationalists.

Brnabic said Friday: “I’m proud and still too emotional from all of this.” Her government needs formal approval by Serbia’s parliament next week for her to become the first female head of government in Serbia.

Brnabic’s nomination is considered part of Vucic’s tactics to please the West amid strong pressure from Moscow to maintain influence in the region and keep Serbia away from Western integration. Pro-Russian opposition official Bosko Obradovic says U.S.-educated Brnabic is “a foreign agent” who was nominated to the position by the West.

Conservative Serbia to get first openly gay prime minister

June 15, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president on Thursday nominated the highly conservative country’s first openly gay prime minister, a move likely to infuriate both the Christian Orthodox church and ultranationalists.

President Aleksandar Vucic announced that Ana Brnabic, 41, was nominated as the prime minister-designate, which could also make her the first female head of government in the country’s history. Her cabinet needs formal approval by parliament next week.

It was “a difficult decision reached in the interest of Serbia and its citizens,” said Vucic, a former extremist-turned-reformist who has promised to boost gay rights as part of efforts to move closer to European Union membership.

“If elected in parliament, I will run the government with dedication and responsibility and I will do my job honestly and with love,” Brnabic told state Tanjug news agency. Brnabic’s nomination is considered part of Vucic’s apparent turn toward the West despite strong pressure from Russia to maintain its influence in the region. The British-educated Brnabic, a marketing expert, had worked for U.S. companies before she assumed her Serbian government job.

“I believe she has professional skills and personal qualities,” Vucic said. “I’m convinced she will work hard.” Brnabic is currently Serbia’s minister of public administration and local government. She is not a member of Vucic’s ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party but is considered loyal to him.

Her appointment to the government last year — she was hand-picked by Vucic who was then prime minister — was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country whose gay community regularly faces discrimination, harassment and violence.

“Hopefully this will blow over in three or four days, and then I won’t be known as the gay minister,” she told the Associated Press at the time. Pro-Russian nationalists blasted the choice Thursday. The conservative opposition Dveri group, close to the Serbian Orthodox Church, said Brnabic was obviously appointed under Western pressure.

“Is it possible that the ruling majority has no other candidate for the prime minister-designate but the one imposed by the West, which dictates all the moves by this government?” the party asked. Vucic’s coalition partners were also infuriated.

“Ana Brnabic is not my prime minister,” nationalist official Dragan Markovic-Palma told the private Beta news agency. Earlier he said he would not approve anyone for the post who does not have at least two children.

Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, was expected to appoint a loyalist to maintain control of the government as he moved into the largely ceremonial presidential position.

Associated Press writer Jovana Gec contributed.

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