The Kremlin and its “soft power” strategy in the Balkans

Posted on September 8, 2019 by Il Grido del Popolo©

Russian interests are advanced in several ways – due to the “humanitarian” component of Russian public diplomacy and due to the use of the aspirations of the countries of Central and Southeast Europe in a certain multi-vector nature in their foreign policy. The Russian policy towards the Balkan countries is especially active. Firstly, there is a “special relationship” between Russia and the Slavic peoples in the Balkans, based on long historical and cultural ties. Secondly, Russia uses, and in some Balkan societies positively perceive, anti-Western rhetoric, especially in the context of the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces in 1999. Thirdly, conspiracy theological myths about the hatred of the West towards the Orthodox Balkans are spreading (Serbs) and the cultural difference of the West from the Orthodox spreading yang, prevent Western societies understand Slavic feature. Russia is promoting a narrative of civilizational confrontation between the West and the Slavs, recently increasing its reminder of Russia’s veto in 2016. The draft UN Security Council resolution condemning the massacre in 1995 in Srebrenica as an act of genocide 366 and on the role of Russia in preventing Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO (Serbia protested against this in fact through non-recognition of Kosovo in general, and formally because of distrust of the ability of the Kosovo government to protect Orthodox Serbian monasteries located in that territory). According to the conclusion of Y. Vishnevskaya, an expert at the London School of Economic and Political Studies, the Western Balkans is a vivid example of how, with small external efforts, it has been possible for a long time to maintain deep contradictions between neighboring states and neighboring peoples. Starting January 1, 2015, Russia Today (RT / Sputnik Srbija), with approximately 30 employees, began broadcasting daily news in the Serbian language. A cheap but effective project that perfectly complemented the Russian presence in the print press market (Ruska Reč and Rusija i Srbija newspapers). Despite the fact that the presence of Russian media is quantitatively small, the effect of their activities is quite significant, so the Moscow project can be considered a success. Russia’s economic interests in the region are realized primarily in the energy sector.

In particular, the Russian Federation intends to use the transit potential of Serbia in the event of the implementation of plans to lay new routes for gas supplies to Europe from the Middle East (in particular, the continuation of the flow). Turkish is also  Gazprom has the largest power holding company in the country – Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS), and Lukoil – a network of gas stations and two petroleum storage depots. Russian companies have a quarter (and gradually increase their share), the largest petrochemical producer in Serbia, HIP Ptrohemija . With the help of Russian companies and Russian investments, the reconstruction of Serbian hydroelectric power stations, other energy facilities, and the railway is being carried out. Important for Russia is the use of the Balkan countries for the implementation of the project of the “Greater Eurasian Partnership”. For this, in particular, Russia is trying to promote the idea of creating a free trade zone between the EAEU and Serbia. Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov took this initiative at the Munich Conference 2017 and during a visit to the Republic of Slovenia and Serbia (February 21-22, 2018). The project provides for the development of multi-level integration cooperation (political, economic, security, humanitarian, etc.) between the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as the European Union and Union-Neutral Europe, holding you. Although this project looks dubious, but the policy to expand the integration associations in which Russia’s foreign policy and participates in Moscow which are considered as an alternative EU and NATO – is one of the strategic priorities of Russian foreign policy next year.

The traditional component of the spread of Russian influence in the Balkans is the use of common elements in history, culture and religion. Among active purely Russian organizations can recall the Foundation of St. Alexander Nevsky (Belgrade), media center ”Rucsky Express”, the Serbian branch of the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations , the Balkan st Cossack Host , With erbskoe branch of the Russian motorcycle club “Night Wolves” , ”Fort – Russ” etc . However, such “cultural cooperation” often goes beyond the humanitarian space and becomes a destabilizing political one. The Russian Federation seeks to create the image of the defender of all Slavic governments in the Balkans – in Belgrade (Serbia) Skopje (Macedonia) Banja Luka (Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina). At the same time, Moscow does not create any solid alternative to the EU – it simply criticizes Brussels policies, but does not promote the idea of the Eurasian Union as a possible alternative for the countries of the region. Russian propaganda makes good use of disagreements and disputes, nourishes anti-American and anti – European sentiments, strengthens polarization, but does not offer an appropriate alternative to the EU. Already in December 2018, the Moscow pro-government business elites act as the economic instruments of the Official Kremlin – on the “occupation protection” of Skopje integration into the EU and NATO. In particular, on 12.12.18 the owners of the Macedonian pharmaceuticals were officially invited to Moscow to the open Board of Directors of the largest pharmaceutical holding company PHARMSTANDART “ Alkaloid AD Skopje ” companies Zhivko Mukaetov and Victor Stoychevski. So, ostensibly under the government of the Russian program “Crisis of the Interstate Cooperation – 2018″, General Director – Grigory Potapov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Holding PHARMSTANDARD – Victor Haritonin during specified events agree with Mukaetov and Stoychevski about the sale of 80% of the control shares ”Alkaloid the AD Skopje” , expanding, thereby, its already – wide international influence, in return for the promise of investment support for the Macedonian industrial pharmacological infrastructure by 2019-2020.

foto: Center for russian internet propaganda in Olgino

In the military sphere, Russia openly agitates the Balkan countries against joining NATO and encourages them to cooperate closely with the CSTO. The Russian anti-NATO and anti-Western campaign in the Balkans could adversely affect the activities of the EU (EUFOR) and NATO (KFOR) peacekeeping missions. The situation in the Balkans also worsened because the EU did not pay enough attention to anti-Western Russian propaganda in the region. Russia feels quite confidently interfering in the politics of the Balkan countries. Its main goal today is to hinder the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans as much as possible . To this end, in addition to a powerful informational and discursive impact on Balkan societies, Russia has resorted to interfering in the country’s political life and, in some places, to provocations. In the Balkan region, the main country on the development of cooperation with which the Russian Federation relies is the Republic of Serbia. The strength of this union is due to the fact that the Kremlin managed to create a positive partnership narrative by promoting the thesis that Belgrade in Moscow is “listened to”, “respected” and “supported”. This paternalism is very different from the position of the EU, according to which the desire of Serbia to become part of the EU is supported by successes in reforms. In return, the EU could not create an alternative narrative for the Serbs, so its popularity is declining. Opinion polls from February 2019 show that 67.2% of Serbs maintain a close alliance with Russia, against it – 18.8%. Today, 50.9% are in favor of joining the EU, and 38.8% are against it. Attitudes toward NATO are even worse: only 10.5% of Serbs are for joining and 80% are against 370. Russia has created an extensive network of organizations that promote various aspects of Serbian-Russian relations. The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies in Belgrade has counted 109 such structures, including Russian foundations and pro-Russian deputies to the Serbian parliament 371.

Extremely important for Serbia is also Russia’s political support for the non-recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and the blocking of the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council in 2015, the resolution on recognizing the events in Serebrenitsa as a genocide of 1995, the Russian Federation offers its mediation services to resolve the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, which is the subject of special attention of Russian special services. An example of a provocation that Russian official services vividly commented on was the scandal with the train that read “Kosovo is Serbia,” which was made in Russia and which the Kosovo authorities did not let through to Kosovo and sent back to Serbia. Kosovo President Hashim Tashi accused Serb provocations and externally her policy on the preparation of the “Crimean Model” on the separation of the northern part of Kosovo, but the Serbian side said it was ready to consider the possibility to protect the right to freedom of movement. Russia took a pro – Serb position and accused Kosovo of not complying with the agreements between Belgrade and Pristina. At the same time, the Russian Federation is trying to use the situation around the unrecognized Republic of Kosovo in its interests – to maintain a Russian military (peacekeeping) presence in the Balkans. At the beginning of 2018, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN. Nebenzya defended the need to continue the UN mission in Kosovo. These initiatives were supported by the Republic of Serbia, China and the Republic of Kazakhstan. At the same time, the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Nicky Haley, expressed the position of the American side on the advisability of ending the UN mission in Kosovo in order to provide citizens of the region with the opportunity to solve their internal problems. The United States proposal was supported by Great Britain and France. Russia’s attempts to intensify recent cooperation with Belgrade specifically in the military sphere (the Serbian military participated in the Slavic Brotherhood military exercises with Russia and Belarus in June 2017), the acquisition by Serbia of Russian weapons (in particular, the purchase of MiG-29 fighters and the complex s-300) could not but cause concern in the EU and discontent from the United States. In the end, during a speech at the 17th Serbian Economic Summit, US Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian J said that Serbia should stop to balance between Russia and the West and make your VIB op . Russia’s attempts to influence the domestic policy of most Balkan countries are very active .

foto: Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vučić

Significant resonance was received by an unsuccessful attempt of a coup d’etat and attempted murder of high-ranking Montenegro. The Serbian nationalist mercenaries were used by the Kremlin in an attempt to organize an anti-government rebellion in Black -212 RII in 2016. The purpose of the rebellion was to destabilize the country to prevent its entry into NATO. The country’s prosecutor’s office filed documents demanding the extradition of E. Shishmakov , a Russian spy who is accused of organizing a coup. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia supports Milorad Dodik , President of Republika Srpska. Dodik is an odious figure, he called the US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina “a confirmed enemy” of the Serbian community and came under US sanctions for violating the Dayton Accords through the introduction of Bosnian Serb Independence Day. Moscow uses it as a convenient tool to deter Western influence in Bosnia and, quite possibly, to destroy this state as such. In Macedonia, Russia took advantage of the internal political conflict to strengthen the contradictions in the country. The domestic political conflict in Macedonia began in the spring of 2017 after the parliamentary elections held in late 2016, due to the reluctance of the ruling forces to lose power after almost 11 years of rule. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation made two statements, from March 2 and 3, on the political dispute in Macedonia. The statements stated that: 1) the Macedonian political crisis was provoked by external interference from Western countries; 2) they are trying to impose a “Albanian platform” on the Macedonians (the idea of Greater Albania, which provides for territorial claims regarding large areas of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece). In addition, concern was expressed about the involvement of Kosovo in crisis political processes and that the situation threatens Macedonian statehood and stability in the Balkans as a whole. In the summer of 2018 colleagues from the international consortium of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) handed me a complete information package, an investigation based on documents they received from a source in the Macedonian government. These documents talked about the practice of many years of Russian intelligence interfering in the domestic politics of Macedonia and other Balkan countries in order to prevent them from joining NATO and to advance Russia’s interests in the region. It is noted that Russian intelligence activity has intensified since Macedonia entered the status of candidate for NATO membership. Thus, the report addressed to Vladimir Atanasovski (head of the Security and Counterintelligence Service of Macedonia) says that over the past 9 years,

Macedonia has been “influenced by powerful and destructive propaganda, as well as the activities of intelligence services, which are carried out through the Russian Embassy.” Therefore, the conclusion is made: Russia uses soft power methods to isolate the Balkans from the West. In addition, Russian foreign policy is closely linked to the energy strategy, the purpose of which is to gain control over the country’s energy resources. The ultimate goal of this plan is to “make Macedonia completely dependent on Russian politics”. The activities of Russian intelligence and subversive network coordinated through the Russian Embassy in Skopje. Also referred to as a state agency TASS correspondent among Russian intelligence agents and representatives «Rossotrudnichestwa”. The secret documents dossier also contains recordings of conversations of VIA Serbian intelligence officers, which indicates the assistance of individual Serbian intelligence officers to their Russian colleagues. Russia supported the former ruling nationalist party of Macedonia VMRO-DPMNE and its leader Nikola Gruevski . At the same time, representatives of Russia offered cash rewards to the Macedonian media, which support the Albanian minority of the country. The joint actions of Russia and Serbia, according to the Macedonian counterintelligence, led to a political crisis in the country and, ultimately, to unrest in parliament. The Macedonian counterintelligence agents also referred to the cultural initiatives of the Russian Embassy in promoting the Pan-Slavic identity and the unified Orthodox faith as methods of “soft power”. At the initiative of the Russian Embassy in Macedonia, about 30 “friendship associations” have recently been opened . The embassy also sponsors the construction of Orthodox churches throughout the country. Thus, as formally not involved in the emergence of a political dispute in Macedonia, Russia uses the problems of the region, in particular the Albanian factor, to provoke and incite ethnic hatred in Macedonia in particular and in the region as a whole. Shattering the situation in the Balkans is necessary for Russia: in the case of dominance of moderate political forces of a liberal, not a nationalist-radical kind, the countries unambiguously adhere to the course of integration with the Western community and move away from Russia. However, it cannot be said that such tactics of the Russian Federation are a definite success. Pro-European sentiments in the Balkans clearly prevail and tend to strengthen. Even inside Russia’s most admirer of the Western Balkans – Serbia, the right-wing Serbian Radical Party (PSA) in the 2016 parliamentary elections took third place, and its leader Vojislav Seselj was the eighth in the 2017 presidential election.

foto: Milorad Dodik and Vladimir Putin

In the Eastern Balkans, threatening RF trends are also gradually increasing. Even in such a country, traditionally very friendly to Russia, as the Republic of Bulgaria, anti-Russian sentiments have recently been growing. This is connected not only with the EU and NATO policies, but also with pressure from Russia itself and the openly neglected attitude of Russians towards the Slavic nations, they are considered in the context of the “younger brothers” who are “to blame” for Russia – for liberation from the Ottoman Empire, Nazi Germany, economic and political support and the like. The behavior of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill during a visit to Bulgaria on March 2-5, 2019 , his remarks to the president of the country and statements about the gap between the leadership of the Republic and the Bulgarian people – all this is not an excess of an individual, but fully reflects the opinion of the Russian authorities and society. However, pressure creates opposition. The reaction in Bulgaria to the rude behavior of the Russian patriarch and the xenophobic anti – Bulgarian statements on state Russian television channels was very acute. If we talk about the countries of Central Europe, then the situation here is fundamentally different in that these countries have long been members of NATO and the EU. At the same time, the processes that are taking place in some of them (especially in Poland and Hungary) create favorable conditions for the implementation of the Kremlin’s traditional policy of supporting various radical social movements within the country in order to worsen its relations with Brussels, as well as neighboring countries (like Ukraine), and, consequently, of general regional destabilization in Europe. However, here the prospects for Russia are doubtful. First of all, due to the strong anti-Russian sentiments in the societies of Central European countries, as well as the powerful influence in the EU region (primarily Germany) and Western European capital (with which the Russian Federation can not compete), as well as Washington. Even the optimistic perception in the Kremlin at the beginning of 2017 of the possibility of developing cooperation with Hungary (Putin met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban several times during 201 8 ), the conclusion of several intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in the energy sector, and “pleasant” criticism for Russians from B The organ of EU policy towards Russia – Hungary did not become a Russian “breakthrough” in Central Europe, and, in principle, Putin’s efforts have not changed anything. The Hungarian government did not go further than criticizing the anti-Russian sanctions, and the conflicts of Budapest with Brussels remained an internal affair of the EU. If, on the whole, the peculiarity of the Russian “political image” is evaluated, its main drawback is that the Russian Federation does not consider the countries of Southeast and Central Europe as full-fledged subjects of international relations and despises their sovereignty.

This not only prevents Russians from understanding the interests of other nations, but also leads to the fact that the Russian Federation is gradually losing its position even in such traditionally friendly countries as Bulgaria and Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. The participation of such countries as Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia (which are interpreted and reported in the media as allied inside the Russian media) in expelling Russian diplomats in solidarity with Great Britain because of the “Skrip La affair” was quite indicative . Failure to compete in the region with the EU and NATO leaves Russia with a very limited resource of influence, which focuses mainly on energy cooperation and domestic disruption.H Asha network known another interesting fact about the used agents of influence of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation – in the Balkans – Joaquin Flores is, he is a member of the Chilean Secondary Club (branch) “Greater political club Illuminati”, which was founded in 1970 in Washington, watered-economist and anti-communist ideologist Anthony Cyril Sutton in Washington. Subsidiary organization of ”Greater political club Illuminati” is Placed and also managed in Belgrade Joaquin Flores  “Center Sinkerticheskih Studies“, which is seated on the base project, ”Fort Russ” . B Azov starter in the amount of 87 million euro under which was founded in 2012 at the urgent request of the Information and Analytical Institute under the Security Council of the Russian Federation – the assets of a subsidiary of the United company Rusal (UC Rusal ) , owned by V. Vekselberg – the Cyprus company Winterlux Limited . So in this character and his about lectures in Serbia – financial flows of Washington and Moscow are transparently interlocking.
Joaquin Flores is a business associate and close associate of the oligarch and first assistant to President Putin. Joaquin Flores grew up and lives in Russia, the son of the former attache of the Chilean Embassy in Russia, David Alvaro Flores , a young political activist and leader of the Chilean National Youth Front under Pinochet. The Flores family actively adheres to the Chilean Frente Nacionalista Patria y Libertad and adheres to Pinochet’s ideology – nationalist liberal comparativeism. Joaquin himself, apparently, was recruited by the SVR in his early youth, knows several languages, lived in several countries of Eastern Europe, organizing trade missions of Chile. Having built up capital. In 2012, he returned to Moscow, where he met with the team of Vladislav Surkov, at the suggestion of Surkov, temporarily headed his institute of Putin’s ideology Strategic Creative Group of Vladislav Surkov “RUSSIA-2020 “, and already in 2013 he moved to Belgrade with the finished project ”FortRuss”.

Recently, not a single important political event is complete without Milorad Dodik. Either he gives a speech in Aleksinac at an event in memory of the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces, then he is in Zrenjanin , then at least once a week in Belgrade. At the same time, Dodik very often meets with Vučić. Why is Dodik constantly in Serbia?
Dodik appears in Belgrade every time he wants to make meaningless public statements, as if he is a local politician and lives here. I think that in fact Vučić uses Dodik, which he needs in the context of resolving the issue of the status of Kosovo. The environment of Vučić (I mean the nationalist intellectual elite and part of his party and government) insists that the Republika Srpska should become a kind of compensation for the loss of Kosovo, and in this regard, rapprochement with Dodik is in the hands of Vučić.
Dodik is not only a representative of the Bosnian Serbs – he is also a citizen of Serbia , Belgrade. This, of course, is possible only in caricature politics and the caricature system. He took upon himself all that nationalism, all that nationalist rhetoric that Mr. Vučić has not been able to use recently. In Serbia, the Republika Srpska is considered a territorial appendage of the Serbian state. In Serbia, there is an opinion that after the recognition of Kosovo, the Republika Srpska should become the western Serbian region, as they like to say. Dodik need Vucic for propaganda purposes, as part of a populist stories, which operates in Serbia. Dodik is the mascot of Vučić, which he protects. But we must not forget that Milorad Dodik both literally and figuratively saved many Serbian leaders, starting with Milosevic and beyond.
Vučić is cautious and never comments on Dodik ’s remarks about the referendum, the secession of the Republika Srpska and others. P ozitsiya Vucic is more complicated. Friendship does not bind him to Dodik. Much closer relationship connected Dodik with Boris Tadic , not to mention Tomislav Nikolic . In my opinion, Dodik in a sense is a threat to Vučić. If someone in the Balakan has a close relationship with the Russians, it’s Milorad Dodik. In October 2018, Advisor to the AP of the Russian Federation Sergey Ivanov solemnly elected Milorad Dodik – “an honorary member of the coordination council of the Izborsk Club”. Meeting with Vladimir Putin, Dodik sends a hidden message to Vucic every time . Let’s not forget that Putin adopted Dodik on the eve of the Republika Srpska Day referendum. And recently, Putin’s bikers drove through the Balkans and arrived in the Republika Srpska with the words that the Balkans are Russian. In addition, I believe that relations between Vučić and Dodik should be evaluated in the context of geostrategic goals and policies in the Balkans.

We detect Russian “soft power” in the Balkans everywhere around us. It is carried out by various founding foundations, organizations and associations. Therefore, we mention the Gorchakov Foundation and the Russkiy Mir Foundation, whose task is to geopolitical restriction sovereignty. The Gorchakov Foundation was created by Presidential Decree on February 2, 2010 by then President Dmitriy Medvedev. Officially, the Foundation’s mission is to promote the development of Russian diplomacy abroad, under the direct administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. However, in practice it is something completely different, so its activities are recorded during the propaganda propaganda of Russian politics in Europe. Thus, the expenses of the Gorchakov Foundation for this purpose in 2018 reach 86 647 000 rubles, while those of the Russkiy Mir Foundation even a dizzying 532 900 000 rubles. Among the most prominent representatives of the Gorchakov Foundation are people like Alekperov, Ivanov, Karelin, Kerimov, Kosachev, Lavrov, Mordashov, Ordzhonikadze, Primakov, Prihodko, Prokhorov, Usmanov, Ushakov… Gazprom, a Kremlin-controlled company, is also an important instrument of Russian influence and a source of funding for promoting the “Russian world” abroad, something that can be defined as subversive activity, and all this cannot go without the knowledge of Konstantin Zatulin, a member of the State Duma from the ruling United Russia party.
foto: Konstantin Malofeyev

However, one of the most important names of Russian propaganda propagated through cultural hegemony in the world is that of billionaire Konstantin Malofeyev. In October 2014, Sergei Pravosudov, editor-in-chief of Gazprom magazine and director of the National Institute, drew up an analytical report outlining his vision of Russia’s “soft power” in Serbia and Bulgaria. That is why we have to emphasize here the Serbian political party Dveri, which supports Serbia’s integration into the Eurasian Union. The request for 2 615 000 rubles from the Gorchakov Foundation for the creation of a center of Russian language and political culture in Belgrade certainly comes into play. Konstantin Malofeyev financed destabilization activities in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary and in some Balkan countries. Russian billionaire Malofeyev is, among other things, the first man of the investment group Marshall Capital Partners, as well as the charitable foundation St. Basil the Great. He is also a member of the board of directors of International Katechon, a right-wing research center globally, which includes people like declared fascist Alexander Dugin in his ranks. However, it is also important to note that Malofeyev is a member of the Supervisory Board of the Safe Internet League nonprofit partnership, a Russian NGO created to censor Internet data (draft law created) but also to engage in subversive activities in some Balkan countries, for which he was banned from entering the country for ten years by the Bulgarian government. The Bulgarian government said in an official statement that Malafeyev was engaged in illicit activities in the country, with which he wanted to turn Bulgaria away from its pro-Western orientation and direct it to Moscow. It is also a public secret that Malofeyev is close to the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in the Kremlin (RIIR), chaired by former KGB general Leonid Reshetnikov. Malofeyev’s ties reach deep into many politicians in Europe, such as Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the French National Front, Marine Le Pen, and Austria’s first right-hand man, Heinz-Christian Strache. However, there are certainly politicians in the Balkan right-wing milieu, such as Bulgaria’s first-person Ataka party, Volen Sidorov, or Milorad Dodik in Republika Srpska, as well as some politicians in Serbia and Montenegro. That the activities of Malafeyev in the Balkans and beyond must be taken seriously is also evidenced by the recent creation of the Orthodox Christian Troll Farm, which will compete with the Internet Research Agency known as Glavset, or the Olgino Troll Center in Saint Petersburg, managed by one of the closest people to President Putin’s trust, billionaire and oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, owner of the private army Wagner Group, led by former Spetsnaz GRU Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Utkin.
foto: Viktor Vekselberg

When Russian (Putin’s) propaganda runs out in the Balkans, we have to note two other important people, representatives of the Russian business milieu, who operate in Greece and Macedonia. They are billionaire Ivan Savvidis and the less financially wealthy Sergey Samsonenko, otherwise the two come from the city of Rostov-on-Don. The former is a much more influential ex-MP of the Russian Duma, who currently resides in Greece, and is, among other things, the majority owner of shares in the tobacco industry, but also to a lesser extent in the media sector. He is also present in the real estate market as well as in sports, when in 2015 he became the owner of a football club from Thessaloniki, PAOK. For which he repaid all club debts to the Greek state in the amount of 10.88 million euros. However, what is related to this controversial tycoon is in addition to the uncontrolled outburst of publicity when, on March 11, 2018 during the PAOK – AEK football game, when he finally burst into the field with a gun andcluberrupted the game, after which he earned a three-year suspension since entering the football stadiums by the Greek Football Federation, his alleged activities have been linked to the neighboring country of Macedonia. Specifically, it is about the alleged involvement of Macedonia’s interior when accused of supporting anti-government protests in that country, according to some sources for paying opposition politicians, radical nationalist parties and football hooligans to the Vardar sports club in Skopje. Such accusations by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev come on the basis of a report by the country’s interior ministry, following the confession of some hooligans of Komiti group who admitted to receiving money from Russia businessman, to initiate political violence in the country after signing a political agreement with Greece over the use of Macedonia’s name. Savvidis’ legal team has denied the allegations and announced lawsuits against the media who wrote about it.
foto: Ivan Savvidis

The other, Sergey Samsonenko mentioned is a Russian financier who has lived in Macedonia in the capital, Skopje, for years. He owns the Vardar football and handball club from that city, but also a man who associates with the VMRO-DPMNE opposition party, which has had a number of political affairs and got involved in business scandals during her 11-year rule. Thus, in addition to investing in sports, we also record investments in the construction sector and the real estate market, but also in other sectors. The interests of this Russian magnate also include joint ventures with Macedonian oligarch Orce Kamchev, one of the richest men in the country, a man who associates with the former ruling right-wing party in some financial affairs, including one prosecuted by the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office in Skopje. Samsonenko and Kamchev linked to joint venture into “Zdravje Radovo” dairy industry in Macedonia, but Russian oligarch, owned by more than 500 bookmakers across Russia and other former Soviet republics, plans to invest in dairy industry with Russia along with Macedonian tycoon, but and the medical sector, where he plans to build a state-of-the-art clinical center in his hometown of Rostov-on-Don, along with Macedonian oligarch Orce Kamchev, who owns the largest private clinic in the Balkans, Sistina Acibadem. Also important to note are the business interests of a Russian tycoon with former Macedonian top secret services man Sasho Miyalkov, who was also part of a political andscandals during the rule of the authoritarian regime of his cousin and former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Hungary to face countless allegations of abuse of office.
foto: Sergey Samsonenko

As we can see, there is almost no country in the Balkans where the Russian lobby is not involved, due to the different effects of the special psychological war and the permanent state of the political crisis.

The text written by Alyona Ageeva and Gordan Stošević