The Russian paramilitary group “Wagner” announced on December 7 that it had created a cultural and information center in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, according to the organization’s Telegram message, widely cited by Serbian media.
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The group has been described as the private army of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close associate of the president nicknamed “Putin’s chef”.
“We eagerly present to you the new office of the PMC of the Wagner Center – the Russian-Serbian Cultural and Information Center of Friendship and Cooperation ANO, Orly,” Wagner said on the Telegram platform, reports the Serbian daily newspaper Danas.
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The mission of the center team is to implement public diplomacy, the purpose of which is to strengthen and develop friendly relations between Russia and Serbia with the help of “soft power”.
News of the center’s opening comes amid heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, after a series of new rules by Pristina on license plates sparked a mass exodus of Serbs from Kosovo’s state institutions.
The head of the new center is Oleksandr Lisov, who was banned from entering Kosovo.
Russia, as one of Serbia’s biggest allies, refuses to recognize the Serbian former province of Kosovo as a separate country and considers it a part of Serbia. Serbia, on the other hand, is under intense pressure from the West to join the US and the EU in imposing sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine, but it refuses to do so.