Vladimir Putin’s Meddling in the Balkans

People hold banners reading "Glory to Heroes" as they march during a protest against peace plan with Kosovo in Belgrade , Serbia, on March 17. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

A new round of reconciliation talks between Serbia and Kosovo is a chance for the West to solve a longstanding dispute in the Balkans and deprive the Kremlin of one of its last remaining European partners in one fell swoop. But Moscow’s meddling in Serbia threatens the process.

On Friday, thousands of protesters—some carrying Russian flags and others reportedly donning Wagner Group paraphernalia—marched through Serbia’s capital of Belgrade to oppose European Union-brokered efforts to normalize ties with Kosovo. The protest was just one in a string of rallies held by far-right and pro-Russian groups in Serbia’s capital since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. 

“This is not hybrid influence,” said Čedomir Stojković, a Belgrade-based attorney who tracks Russia’s proxies in Serbia. “It’s a hybrid occupation. Because it’s so strong that our government, basically, is not our government. They do not make decisions which are in the interests of our people.” 

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