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News 07 Mar 14

Serb Fighters in Crimea Deserve Jail, Minister Says

Pro-Russian volunteers who have gone to fight in the Crimea should face penalties on their return home, a Serbian government minister said.


A Serbian minister said volunteers from Serbia who have joined pro-Russian self-defence groups in the disputed Ukrainian region of Crimea should face jail terms.

A small group of five Serbian volunteers on Friday sent an open statement on arriving in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, declaring that their role was “to patrol roads and control vehicles and passengers at checkpoints”.

The group said that two Russians had come from the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod to join the Serbian group - the first of many expected additions.

“More and more volunteers are showing interest in joining us. Slowly but surely our group is becoming a unit,” the group announced.

Njegos Popovic, from the Chetnik movement, told the Serbian daily newspaper Politika that the group had not gone to Crimea to fight but to offer ethnic Russians there moral support.

However, Rasim Ljajic, a deputy prime minister, said if Serbs went to the Crimea, it would impact on Serbia's diplomatic position and such behaviour should be sanctioned.

“The departure of our citizens for wars in other countries or to join foreign military forces should be to sanctioned, and we should amend criminal code to allow that,” Ljajic said.

He said people organising volunteers to join foreign military forces should face sentences of up to 12 years' imprisonment, while the sentence for volunteers or mercenaries should be up to five years.

One volunteer, Milutin Malisic, earlier said that the group had arrived in Crimea on the invitation of Russian fighters - and they wished to repay the Russians for their support for Serbia in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

The Crimea, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, is currently the subject of a stand-off between Russia and Ukraine, which accuses Russia of occupying the region.

Most locals in Crimea are ethnic Russians, and many say it was wrong of the former Soviet authorities to transfer Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.



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