In Serbia, after an anti-government rally held on Wednesday, February 15, the leader of the far-right pro-Russian organization "People's Patrol" Damjan Knezhevich was arrested. The detention of Knezhevich and two more of his associates is reported on the organization's social media page.
Knezevic is known for his nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Western rhetoric, and in recent months has been actively promoting the image of the Wagner PMC in the Balkans.
At a protest rally organized by him in Belgrade, the People's Patrol demanded that the authorities abandon negotiations on the normalization of relations with the province of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The gendarmerie officers prevented the protesters from entering the building that houses the presidential office. Also, the protesters threw eggs at the building, shouting insults at President Aleksandar Vučić. On the clothes of some protesters, the letters “Z” were seen, which became a symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and “W”, which are used as patches by Wagner PMC.
Knezevic himself, who attached a St. George ribbon to his jacket, told the audience that no one in the ruling Serbian Progressive Party "can call himself a Serb." According to him, the protesters "prefer the Russian proposal" on Kosovo over the Franco-German one. However, there is no Russian plan to resolve the Kosovo problem. Moscow stands for the territorial integrity of Serbia and believes that any decision on Kosovo must be approved by the UN Security Council, where the country has a veto.
The Franco-German plan has been discussed in recent months with representatives from Belgrade and Pristina behind closed doors. The document, judging by media leaks, does not explicitly mention mutual recognition or membership of Kosovo in the UN. The dialogue on the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo under the auspices of the EU has been underway since 2011.
After the protest, Vučić said in an address on TV Pink that the state would not tolerate violence and would respond quickly and effectively. “The state will not allow thugs and extremists, with any outside help, from the West or the East, to threaten the constitutional order,” the president said.
Recently, Knezevic has attracted attention because of the graffiti in support of Wagner PMCs in Belgrade. In December, he visited the Wagner PMC Center in St. Petersburg, bringing a Serbian flag as a gift, which had previously been used in Belgrade during actions in support of the Russian “special operation”. Knezevic's tribune is also provided by the pro-Kremlin TV channel Russia Today, which is under EU sanctions due to propaganda that has intensified since the Russian invasion.