The other day, the leader of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, after stepping down from the top post, was taken into custody by the Special Court in The Hague, as part of the proceedings into crimes against humanity.
In the 1990s, Hashim Thaci headed one of the armed units that took part in hostilities for the republic’s independence, before becoming one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army. For Serbia (and, de facto, Russia), Thaci is an enemy, and therefore, his arrest there was widely praised there, while some pundits branded it a manifestation of the West’s weakness.
In turn, Thaci’s act to surrender to law enforcement is not a manifestation of some weakness, but rather another slap in the face of both Russia and Serbia. After all, we’re seeing a country’s leader, internationally suspected of war crimes, voluntarily surrender, rather than hide for decades in some bunkers or sheds…
On the other hand, this event suspiciously coincided with the Vienna terrorist attack, which highlighted the Albanian trace (one of the attackers was an ethnic Albanian). This happened right on the eve of Thaci’s arrest.
In fact, this incident was supposed to make the “Albanian trace” very apparent, subconsciously setting the Europeans against Hashim Thaci. That is, the mastermind of the terrorist attack, killed two birds with one stone, creating another wave of anti-Muslim sentiments in the EU, and also handed down a moral verdict to someone who had not yet even been sat on the dock yet.
And wondering who this mastermind is, the answer is becoming clearer not only as the investigation starts identifying Russians with dual citizenship among those suspected of organizing the Vienna massacre”, but also as the curious ones delve deeper into the modern history of the Balkans.
In my recent article “Radical Refugees in Kremlin’s Service in Europe and Worldwide” I described in detail how Russia uses the factor of refugees and migrants to create a network of intelligence cells to perform certain tasks, including those of a terrorist nature.
But in the very concept of a Russian network of terrorist sleeper cells in Europe, the Balkans play a very important role as a supplier of weapons for terrorist attacks and as a resource base.
In 2017, when, through ISIS, Russian propaganda tried to shift the international community’s focus from the Afghan terrorist organization Taliban, trying to portray them as political actors, the Balkans played the role of a lightning rod for Moscow.
In the Balkans, the Russian GRU has traditionally had the most extensive human asset network, thanks to which Russian intelligence can easily use the region as its main base in the European underbelly. In recent years, one of the GRU’s main projects in the region was about cultivating an ethnic conflict with a religious component, into which Moscow has successfully integrated the ISIS narrative.
Back then, as well as now, in addition to officials, such as the chief of the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center, Police Colonel General Andriy Novikov, the Russian media and journalists, directly attached to the Russian GRU (including Alexander Kots) have joined the work to cultivate these narratives, spreading the word about radical Islamists combat-hardened in Iraq and Syria, flooding Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo.
Now these Russian propagandists are at the same time spinning the theme of the Vienna terrorist attack committed by the Albanian radical (the fact which the Russian “support group” completely ignores) and speeding up cultivation of certain narratives regarding the Hashim Thaci case.
The same template is being applied now in Vienna as it was in 2017, when along with the first defeats of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Russian propaganda started spreading the word about the consolidation of ISIS in Afghanistan and the Balkans, in order to present the Afghan Taliban as a lesser evil compared to ISIS, and provoke an explosion in the Balkans based on the Christian-Muslim conflict.
And what’s especially important to understand, that Alexander Kots guy recalled the issue of interreligious confrontation literally a month ago during his deployment in Nagorno-Karabakh, where through fake reports and manipulation, he promoted the narrative of some “Orthodox jihad” and “Muslim threat”.
In fact, the Balkans are becoming the most convenient platform for the Kremlin to destabilize Europe. In 2016, Moscow planned to seize control over Montenegro through a coup d’état. Last year, Russian agents through the criminal mobs in Serbia and Kosovo tried to destabilize the region, creating a precondition for interethnic conflict.
So far, the Russians have been failing their plans, but this year a number of events may play into the hands of the architects of chaos. This is a series of terrorist acts in Europe, the trial in The Hague, and even the death of the Metropolitan of Montenegro, the main promoter of Russian religious narratives in the region, Amfilohije (Risto Radovic). By the way, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church’s branch Onufriy actively helped Amfilohije in destabilizing Montenegro on religious grounds.
That is why Russia, which hasn’t abandoned its plans to destabilize Europe, can now apply, as never before, a wide range of plots, focusing precisely on the rather convenient “Albanian trail”.
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