Russian paramilitary group Wagner reportedly opens 'cultural centre' in Belgrade
Russian paramilitary group Wagner announced on December 7 it has set up a cultural and information centre in the Serbian capital Belgrade, according to Telegram messages from the organisation widely quoted by Serbian media.
The group has been described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private army. It is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close associate of the president, nicknamed ‘Putin’s chef’.
“We are impatient to present to you the new office of the PMC Wagner Center — ANO Russian-Serbian Cultural and Information Centre of Friendship and Cooperation, Orly,” Wagner said on the Telegram platform, according to Serbian daily Danas.
The centre's team calls its mission the implementation of public diplomacy, the aim of which is to strengthen and develop friendly relations between Russia and Serbia with the help of "soft power”.
News of the centre’s opening comes amid heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, after a row over Pristina’s new rules on car number plates sparked a mass walkout by Serbs from Kosovan state institutions.
The head of the new centre is Alexander Lisov, who has been banned from entering Kosovo.
Russia, as one of the biggest allies of Serbia, refuses to recognise Serbian former province Kosovo as a separate country and considers it as part of Serbia. On the other hand, Serbia is under heavy Western pressure to join the US and EU in imposing sanctions to Moscow due to its war in Ukraine, but it is refusing to do so.
The Wagner Group is a paramilitary organisation disguised as a “private military company” responsible for extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, looting and the attempted assassination of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The group fought in Ukraine in 2014, where it participated in the annexation of Crimea. It became known globally during the war in Donbas in Ukraine, where it helped separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics in the period 2014-2015.
The British legal firm McCue Jury & Partners has launched a claim against the Wagner Group on behalf of Ukrainian refugees undergoing psychiatric care in the United Kingdom
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has subtly rejected an offer from Kyiv for a meeting between President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, according to first commentaries after the news broke on December 7.
On same day, official warns Ankara to dial down the abrasive rhetoric, saying: "You are completely isolated. The only real friend you have is Azerbaijan."
European Commission warns cabinet to wait before going ahead with controversial changes in the legal system.
Half of the cross-border banking groups active in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe say they want to “selectively expand” in the region, shows the latest EIB survey.
All the suspects for the brutal murders of a 14-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man are members of the extremist, pro-Russia Desna party.
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