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News 21 Sep 17

Russia Accused of 'Interfering' With Serbian Declaration

A small opposition party in Serbia has said it will help NGOs draw up a 'declaration' on human rights in Russia – after the Kremlin expressed interest in Serbia's planned 'declaration' about its national identity.

Maja Zivanovic
Balkan Insight

Secretary General of Nova stranka, Djordje Nakic. Photo: Nova stranka

The secretary general of a small opposition liberal party in Serbia, Nova Stranka [New Party], Djordje Nakic, told BIRN that his party intends to help draw up a declaration on [the lack of] human rights in Russia – after Russia's ruling United Russia party announced it wished to help Serbs create a declaration on the preservation of Serbia's national identity.

“We think that if Russia is so concerned about us, we should be more concerned about Russia. This is called ‘diplomatic reciprocity,’” Nakic said.

He added that his party will help draw up the declaration on human rights in Russia in cooperation with international NGOs and some parties in Russia itself.

The argument comes after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the President of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, announced they will jointly draw up a  “declaration on the preservation of Serbian national identity”, whose apparent goal is to preserve the Serbian nation, language and culture from decay.

During a visit by a delegation of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party to Moscow on September 14, a senior official of United Russia, Sergei Zeleznjak, said President Vladimir Putin’s party wished to participate in developing the document in cooperation with colleagues from the Russian Duma and the parliaments of the Balkan states.

“We support the efforts of our Serbian colleagues in making this declaration. For our part, we are ready to do everything possible to provide party and political support, so that the contents of that document become known to the world,” Zeleznjak said, according to Serbian media.

However, Nakic accused Russia of interfering in the internal affairs of Serbia, sayimng it reminded him of the says of the Communist Information Bureau, or Cominform.

“The way things now work recalls the times of the Cominform, when smaller countries sent their leaders to Moscow to get its views,” Nakic said, referring to the infamous bureau set up by Stalin to ensure the Soviet Union's satellites in Eastern Europe towed the line.

Nakic also noted the poor human rights situation in Russia, saying Russia did not respect those rights, especially of vulnerable social groups.

According to the the rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, HRW, Russia is more repressive now than it has ever been, since the end of the Soviet era.

“The state has tightened control over free expression, assembly, and speech, aiming to silence independent critics, including online," HRW has said.

"With the crackdown on civil society growing increasingly vicious, Kremlin-controlled broadcasters portrayed Western democracies as working to destabilize Russia and the world, urged Russians to mobilize against this threat, and branded dissenting voices as paid agents of the West working against Russia,” HRW's website adds.

“If they try same in Serbia, there is a limit," Nakic warned, referring to the situation in Russia.

"Serbia is still based on law, and our constitution guarantees that the achieved level of human rights cannot be lowered below the level that has been reached.”

According to him, if Russia tries to influence the planned declaration on Serbian national identity, it would be “interference in Serbia's internal affairs”.

Nova Stranka is led by former Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Zivkovic, who led the government during the difficult year following the 2003 murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. It has two MPs in the Serbian parliament.

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