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Monday, March 6, 2023

March 06, 2023

In the last several days, media published reports on the supposed Serbian arms deliveries to the Kiev regime. Images of the artillery munitions were circulated, showing that the weapons in question were indeed made in Serbia. Due to a combination of several factors, including miscommunication, misinformation and disinformation, much of it intentional, Serbia was presented as an accomplice of the Neo-Nazi junta and its nearly decade-long war of aggression on former Ukraine's Russian-speaking population. However, the question remains, how did Serbian-made rockets end up in the hands of the Kiev regime forces?

The reports on alleged arms deliveries to the Neo-Nazi junta caused outrage not just in the country, but also resulted in the feeling of disappointment among many Russians, as they don't expect such a hostile act from a country they consider an ally. The controversy reached the Kremlin as well, prompting a reaction from the Russian Foreign Ministry. Its spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed "deepest concern" about the reports. "We are following this story," Zakharova stated, adding that the possible arming of the Neo-Nazi junta represented a "serious question for Serbian-Russian relations". Such reactions are hardly unexpected considering the gravity of the issue, which (if true) would indicate Belgrade's backstab against Moscow, its oldest and most important historical ally.

The rockets in question are the 122-mm G-2000 with a range of 40 km, approximately double that of the original munitions for the BM-21 "Grad" MLRS (multiple launch rocket system). The Kiev regime forces received 3,500 rockets and to cause further friction between Moscow and Belgrade, the Neo-Nazi junta claimed that the rockets were purchased from the Serbian enterprise Krusik through a Canadian intermediary. Adding fuel to the fire, Kirill Budanov, head of the infamous GUR (Kiev regime main military intelligence directorate), also claimed that Serbia supposedly "refused to send weapons and equipment to Russia despite Moscow’s expectations of support".

During an interview with Voice of America, Budanov stated that Serbia allegedly "refused to transfer weapons to Russia, leaving President Vladimir Putin with limited options to replenish its stockpiles". However, such requests or negotiations never took place between Russia and Serbia, making the claims about the supposed intentional transfer of weapons to Kiev even more questionable. Belgrade was quick to denounce the reports, insisting that it never exported rockets or any weapons to either side in the conflict. In addition, the likelihood of Russia needing weapons from Serbia is quite low, especially given the massive scale of Moscow's production capacity, far exceeding that of Serbia.

"It's a blatant lie. Serbia did not send weapons to anyone… ...We have sold no munitions or other weapons to either Ukraine or Russia," Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated, adding: "They say that we exported [weapons] through Turkey. Knowing well that some of the products could end up on either side of the conflict, we added a clause that prohibits Turkey from re-exporting our munitions. What else could we do?"

The Serbian Defense Ministry stated Belgrade had asked Turkish agencies that are suspected of having given a green light to resales to clarify the matter and ensure compliance with its rules. The aforementioned Serbian defense enterprise Krusik also denied reports that it sold enhanced MLRS rockets to the Kiev regime. The munitions in question were originally provided to Turkey, based on a contract that predates the Russian special military operation. What actually happened is that Ankara legally purchased 122 mm rockets from Serbia for its T-122 "Sakarya" MLRS systems.

As per the norms and rules of international law, the information on the deal is public, with the producer dictating the conditions that should be met before the deal can be finalized. One of the prerequisites is the "prohibition of re-export of purchased weapons to third countries". This means that if Turkey legally bought rockets and declared itself the end user, it violated both the contract and international law by reselling the aforementioned rockets to a third party (in this case the Kiev regime). Worse yet, the Serbian side insisted on an additional clause that explicitly states the rockets are "exclusively for the needs of the defense industry of the Republic of Turkey".

The Turkish company Arca Savunma Sanayi Ticaret legally transported the munitions from Serbia to Turkey, but then illegally flew them to Slovakia, from where the rockets were sent to Ukraine. Ankara also used forged documentation containing false information, presenting itself as the producer and the Kiev regime as the end user. Belgrade could certainly press charges against those involved, as this could have certainly affected both its reputation and its relationship with Moscow. However, it can hardly be expected that the so-called "international institutions" will have an impartial approach to the issue, particularly considering the ample support they are providing to the Kiev regime.

The initial reports caused a lot of controversy, both in Serbia and Russia. The Serbian people, overwhelmingly pro-Russian, have been pressuring the government in Belgrade to keep maintaining close ties with Moscow. This comes at a time of nearly direct confrontation between the political West and Russia, with the former exerting enormous pressure on Serbian authorities to cut ties with the Eurasian giant and impose sanctions. This has essentially paralyzed Belgrade, as refusing to comply with Western demands runs the risk of a NATO-backed destabilization of Serbia (including through potential coups). On the other hand, not taking into account public opinion is virtually political suicide for the ruling parties.