10/15/2022: First convoys of Russian soldiers arrive in Belarus. – Alicia Tintelin –
Saturday, October 15, witnessed the arrival of the first convoys of Russian servicemen in Belarus. Eventually, 9,000 Russian soldiers are to be transferred as part of the new joint force between Moscow and Minsk, the creation of which was announced earlier this week by Presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin, as reported by the Russian website Gazeta. The day after the arrival of Russian soldiers, Russia also delivered fighter jets.
The Belarusian Ministry of Defense, by way of statement, explained that this initiative would only be defensive and would only serve to strengthen the security of the Belarusian borders. According to the Chief of General Staff of Belarus, Viktor Toumar, Minsk fears “the intense activity of Ukraine and NATO countries on the borders of Belarus” as well as “the growing threats to the security of the state of the Russian-Belarusian Union”.
So far, Belarus has not directly participated in the Russian-led fighting on Ukrainian territory. “No one is asking us to participate in the operation […] and we aren’t planning to get pulled into what’s going on over there. We have always said this and we are saying it now” said Alexander Lukashenko on October 14, in an interview with the American channel NBC. However, on February 24, the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Belarusian territory was the starting point for Russian troops who had tried to take the city of Kyiv. Belarus has also allowed Russia to fire missiles ans suicide bombers from its territory.
On Tuesday, October 11, at a G7 meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of “trying to directly draw Belarus into this war”.
10/16/2022 : The Czech EU Presidency urges Serbia to align its visa policy with that of the European Union. -Matisse Grenier-
According to the European media network EURACTIV, Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan told Czech television on Sunday October 16, that if “Serbia does not accept the harmonisation of visa policy with EU member states, we can consider reintroducing the visa requirement for Serbia”.
Belgrade’s visa policy came in for criticism at a meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday October 14. Serbia was criticised for having a more flexible visa-free policy than the European Union, which would encourage people to use the Western Balkans migration route to reach the EU. Serbia has announced that it will comply with EU policies by the end of the year.
The row comes as the Czech EU Presidency has advocated the concept of “flexible responsibility” as part of a new proposal on the reform of the EU’s migration and asylum policy, which aims to bring together different European sensitivities and include EU border countries in the new arrangements.
Furthermore, in an interview with EURACTIV Czech Republic in August 2022, the Czech ambassador in Sarajevo, Ivana Hlavsová, mentioned visa liberalisation for Kosovo as an objective of the Czech EU Presidency, which is not to Serbia’s liking.
10/17/2022 : The Serbian President announces an agreement with Hungary to build an oil pipeline from Hungary to Serbia. -Matisse Grenier-
According to Le Courrier des Balkans, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has formalised the Serbian-Hungarian agreement on the construction of a 128 kilometres pipeline linking Algyo in southern Hungary to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city in the North. This is actually an extension of the Druzhba pipeline (which means “Friendship” in Russian) carrying Russian oil to Germany via Ukraine and serving Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Indeed, Serbia is indirectly affected by the latest set of EU sanctions which target Russian oil imports by sea, including to third countries. Serbia was mainly supplied via a pipeline from Croatia, containing Russian oil imported by tanker to the Adriatic coast.
According to the Croatian daily Vecernji List, “Serbia was initially supposed to benefit from a derogation granted by the EU”, before this was withdrawn at Croatia’s initiative, which contributed to diplomatic tensions between the two Balkan neighbours.