Thu, 12 Dec 2019

Serbia says it is investigating reports of an alleged spying incident involving Russia after a video was posted on social media apparently showing a Russian diplomat bribing a person said to be a senior member of Serbia's security service.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on November 20 that the military intelligence agency has been instructed to look into claims that the man filmed handing out the alleged bribe is a Russian military intelligence agent.

The video was posted on YouTube on November 17 by a YouTube account named 'Kdjuey Lskduf' and described as 'Russian Intelligence Officer Meeting Serbian Spy.'

'I am expecting new information,' said Brnabic. 'I am in contact with President [Aleksandar Vucic]. If true, it is a serious problem.'

The video purportedly shows the Russian diplomat giving the Serbian agent a plastic bag during a meeting in Belgrade. Later, the Serbian takes out an envelope with money from what appears to be the same bag.

Serbian public television reported that the country's State Security Intelligence Agency has confirmed the authenticity of the video. Relja Zeljski, an analyst at the agency, told the broadcaster that it has been confirmed that a Russian agent is featured in the video.

Zeljski, however, declined to elaborate on the identity of the other person, whose face is blurred in the footage. Officials said more information would be available after a meeting on November 21 of Serbia's top security body, the National Security Council.

Also on November 21, Vucic will reportedly meet Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Bocan Harchenko.

Christo Grozev, a member of the British-based open-source investigation group Bellingcat, identified one of the people shown in the video as Russian deputy military attache Georgy Kleban.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry has said Kleban held the position of Assistant Defense Envoy at the Russian Embassy in Belgrade until June 2019.

RFE/RL has asked Russia's embassy in Belgrade whether it confirms the person on the video is Kleban and what is his current status. The embassy has yet to respond.

Serbia's Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said the affair might be linked to Belgrade's remaining militarily neutral despite many countries in the Balkan region joining NATO. Vulin told the Tanjug news agency that the 'situation is very serious.'

Serbia is seeking EU membership but has remained a close ally of Moscow, and has vowed to remain militarily neutral, despite most countries in the Balkans joining NATO.

Belgrade has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

With reporting by AP and Balkan Insight

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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