By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade
Alexander Zaharchenko, “prime minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said that 14 new volunteers from Serbia have joined pro-Russian rebels in this territory on the east of Ukraine. “All the men we got, are all volunteers. For instance, 14 Serbian volunteers have joined us today”, Zaharchenko said at the media conference in Donetsk, Russian NTV reported on Monday.
According to media accounts, dozens of Serbian volunteers have joined pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine since the violence erupted earlier this year.
Belgrade’s “Vecernje novosti” daily reported today that Serbian volunteer Dejan Beric has been freed from imprisonment of the Ukrainian army. Beric is, however, still in Ukraine. “He has been released in the exchange of prisoners between Russian movement Self-defense from Donetsk and the forces of the official regime in Kiev”, “Vecernje novosti” claimed. Before joining pro-Russian rebels as sniper, Beric has worked in Sochi and Adler, Black Sea resort. He gained military experience in 1999, during NATO bombardment of Serbia and Montenegro.
Beric’s family confirmed to Belgrade’s daily that he went to Ukraine. However, they rebuffed claims he is mercenary. “That is not truth, he is not mercenary. He is volunteer”, Beric’s unnamed member of family was quoted as saying.
Rasim Ljajic, Serbian deputy prime minister, said that his Social-democrat Party of Serbia proposes tougher regulations in order to prevent Serbian nationals from going to war in other countries. “Those who mobilize people for battlefields should be faced with 12 years imprisonment, and five years for individuals”, Ljajic told Radio-Television of Serbia (RTS). He explained there is no official statistics on number of Serbian nationals who went to participate in armed conflicts abroad.
Since the war in Syria begun in 2011, media reported that some Serbian nationals of Muslim religion have joined forces which have launched the rebellion against president Bashar al-Assad. Some of them have been killed.
Publicist Dragoslav Bokan, who recently became the head of “Donetsk People’s Republic” branch in Serbia, categorically denied his involvement in organizing volunteers to join pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
“I do not organize, encourage or work by any other means on sending Serbian volunteers to any place in the world including Novorossiya”, (self-proclaimed confederation of “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic”) Bokan recently stated on his Facebook profile. “However, anyone of us has the right on this honorable, fraternal and generous mission”, he added.
“Vecernje novosti” reported that there was no “official confirmation” that any Serbian national has joined Ukrainian army. “There are rumors that they are mercenaries who fight for the money on Kiev’s side”, daily stated.