Thursday, November 13, 2014

Russia-Serbia military drills "under veil of secrecy"

BELGRADE -- Preparations for military drills by Russian and Serbian soldiers have been taking place during the past week on the Nikinci ranges "under a veil of secrecy."
Russian soldiers and military equipment are seen in Batajnica last week (Image made from RT video)
Russian soldiers and military equipment are seen in Batajnica last week (Image made from RT video)
This is according to the Belgrade-based daily Danas, which is reporting that "certain security structures" in the Serbian Army's General Staff thought that media exposure of the event would not be a good idea.
The reason is that "it could cause negative reactions from western countries, considering the Ukrainian crisis and the current conflict between the EU and Russia."

But, writes the paper, it seems this approach has achieved the opposite effect, "at least in part" - something its sources said "is also clear to the state leadership."

Since there is a longstanding practice of holding military exercises, "not only with the Russians" - had the conflict between the EU and Russia not worsened "this event would be held under normal circumstances, without any attempted to remove the public eye from it," said the daily.

"Military exercises of the Serbian army with certain representatives of (foreign) armed forces are a regular thing. We had two with Americans since the beginning of this year. The one with Russians was agreed on during the term of the former defense minister. However, since the situation is what it is, and Russian President Vladimir Putin visited us recently, someone in the General Staff figured it should be hidden from our media in order not to irritate the West," the paper quoted "well-informed sources close to the General Staff."

Thus the Serbian public learned from the Russian Ministry of Defense that Russian and Serbian special units had held the first joint exercise in Serbia in preparation for the tactical anti-terrorist SREM-2014 drills at Nikinci, north-west of Belgrade.

According a press release, members of the Russian Air Force's special unit carried out a reconnaissance mission on the ground and from the air, using drones. Also, the ministry stated that members of the two armies worked on blocking and destroying terrorist bases.

Through the Russian media, the Serbian public was informed that six Russian transport aircraft Ilyushin-76 had landed at Belgrade's Batajnica military airport, bringing the soldiers and their equipment. The Russian news agency TASS said that Russian and Serbian military units would take part in the tactical anti-terrorism exercise called SREM-2014.

The daily Danas also reported that Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić will on Thursday head straight from the monastery of Hilandar in Greece to Nikinci, to greet the Russian soldiers there. Nikolić has the role of supreme commander of the Serbian armed forces and has been kept informed of the details of the joint military exercises.

According to military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic, who spoke for Radio Free Europe, Russia wants to use the drills to show "more than mere military maneuvers."

"The political message is that Moscow has the power to be present where it is in its interest to be present. That it has enough friends to be able to be engaged together with them. And also, that it has enough military cooperation to engage along their armies in situations when it is carrying out some exercises. And these exercises, as any military display, carry a message of power. And that's about one dimension of it, but in itself , it is not tasked aggressively," said Stojadinović.

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