Several European Union member states blacklisted or expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats in the months that followed their aggressive invasion of Ukraine last year, citing the alleged espionage of the exiled envoys.
According to a lengthy investigation, at least three of these diplomats have since reappeared in Serbia as officially recognized Russian diplomats, including two with connections to Russian intelligence.
Two months after Finland declared it was expelling Russian diplomats in response to the invasion of Ukraine, a fourth diplomat who is now working at the Russian Embassy in Belgrade resigned from his position at Moscow’s mission in Helsinki.
An examination of diplomatic rosters maintained by the Serbian Foreign Ministry reveals that Russia has increased its diplomatic presence in Serbia since the wave of expulsions by EU nations last year, with a total of 62 authorized diplomats compared to 54 in March 2022.
Serbia, unlike the majority of European nations, has not placed sanctions on Moscow since Russian President Vladimir Putin started the war against Ukraine, which last month entered its second year.
The administration of President Aleksandar Vucic has worked to uphold Serbia’s long-standing relations with Russia, which shares its Orthodox Christian history and has supported Belgrade in numerous conflicts with the West, despite the country’s aspirations to join the European Union.
Russia is one of the nations that rejects Kosovo’s declaration of independence and has backed Serbia’s efforts to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations.
Now, at least one expelled Russian diplomat connected to a Federal Security Service (FSB) unit accused of hacking against the U.S. energy industry has been sent to Belgrade, and a second connected to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service has also done the same.