In pro-Russian Serbia, several Russians and Ukrainians unite to oppose war

BELGRADE: Every week about a dozen Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian emigrants oppose Russiathe invasion of Ukraine to meet local Serbs at a café in Belgrade to discuss the war and plan protest rallies.
SerbiaRussia’s open borders with Russia have turned the Balkan country into a destination for thousands of Russians, including some fleeing sanctions or military service and others who oppose the Moscow government. Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war also arrived.
Peter NikitinThe group’s Facebook founder, “Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Serbs Together Against the War,” said it began spontaneously on the day Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th.
“We went to the Russian embassy to protest and there we met several other Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians and … the same day we started this group on Facebook,” said Nikitin, 41, a Muscovite and translator who came to Belgrade at six . before years.
The group has so far organized about a dozen ranges, ranging from rallies attracting hundreds of people to smaller protests with just a handful of activists.
In Serbia, they are in the minority.
Most Serbs see Russia, another Orthodox Christian and Slavic nation, as an important military and trade partner.
In May, a survey by the Belgrade-based NSPM, a conservative think tank, found that 82.1% of Serbs were against sanctions against Russia. It also says 68.7% of respondents believe that NATO, which bombed Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo war, is the main responsibility for the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
“They’re not arresting you”
After the invasion, several rallies in support of Russia drew thousands of supporters, including many ultranationalist organizations, some waving Russian flags or wearing T-shirts with the pro-Russian Z logo.
The “Z” symbol also appeared in graffiti on walls in the Serbian capital, although a mural with the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the word “brother” has since been depersonalized with red spray paint.
Although Serbia has condemned the UN invasion of Ukraine, its conservative government has so far refused to impose sanctions on Russia.
But Nikitin said that despite pro-Russian sentiment and threats on social media, Serbian authorities have allowed the group to demonstrate, unlike Russia and its ally Belarus, where there has been repression of dissent.
“You are not beaten and arrested five minutes after you appear on the street, in fact the police in Belgrade are very professional … they did a great job defending us and preventing various provocations,” he said.
Sasha Seregina, 33, of the eastern Russian city of Samara, who administers the group’s Facebook page, said Ukrainian members were very supportive, but that real reconciliation between the two nations would be a difficult process.
“This is very important not only for our movement, but also for the future and for some potential reconciliation.”

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