A Serbian ruling coalition politician and the Russian ambassador took part in the Immortal Regiment march, organized by the Russian embassy, through central Belgrade on Monday to mark VE day.
Minister without portfolio Nenad Popovic (Socialist People’s Party – SNP) marched at the head of the column with Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Harchenko behind a banner reading Immortal Regiment Belgrade. Some media reported seeing SrbijaGas CEO Dusan Bajatovic (Socialist Party of Serbia – SPS) in the crowd as well as at least one official of the Dveri nationalist movement. Members of the crowd carried the Z insignia used by Russian forces in Ukraine with some wearing vintage Russian military uniforms. Marchers traditionally carry pictures of relatives and ancestors who fought in World War 2.
Columnist Dejan Ilic told N1 that the event is a demonstration against the Serbian authorities, questioning why foreign ambassadors can call the local public to take to the streets and send a message.
The crowd marched from the Vukov Spomenik intersection to the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade where a large number of Red Army soldiers are buried.
Popovic is reported to have told the media that “Serbia and Russia have always been on the right side of history”. “Our grandparents won that war without our Russian brothers,” he added referring to the Red Army’s operation Belgrade (conducted by the Third Ukranian Front) to liberate what was Yugoslavia from the Nazis.
The Immortal Regiment event started in 2012 after Russian journalists decided to form an organization to commemorate the elderly veterans of the Great Patriotic War (World War 2). It spread to more than 40 countries, including the United States and Germany in 2015.
Russian flags and the Z insignia were also displayed at a VE Day gathering in the southern Serbia city of Nis which was attended by Mayor Dragan Sotirovski.