Analysis of the News “Apples, oranges, “New York Times”, Vučić and Veljko Belivuk and, of course, Putin”

May 2023.

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

Apples, oranges, “New York Times”, Vučić and Veljko Belivuk, of course,  Putin

The portal of the Russian state media in Serbian “Russia Today – Balkans“, which is banned in the rest of Europe, joined the first “battle lines” to defend the President of Serbia, after an article was published in the New York Times about the connection of Aleksandar Vučić with the criminal clan of Veljko Belivuk. . RT Balkan wonders what is the motive and what is the goal of the New York Times about the president of Serbia and the arrested head of the bloodthirsty criminal clan.

The portal writes that the text is “literally apples and oranges mixed up”. After retelling the text of the American journalist Robert F. Worth, RT Balkan presents the connection between Belivuk and the American FBI service. The portal writes that Veljko Belivuk’s criminal clan grew stronger during the time of the police minister “who at one time referred to the American FBI as a guarantor of his independence, while it was broken up only after he was appointed to that position, to whom the New York Times reckons that he “regularly complains about the persecution of ethnic Serbs in other Balkan countries”.

Furthermore, the Russian portal states that Veljko Belivuk was born out of a conflict between two Montenegrin cocaine clans – Kavački and Škaljar, which the New York Times “drops out of sight, and does not even mention.”

“And since there is no organized crime without the help of the state, it is clear that it could not have happened without the direct support of the Montenegrin authorities. Which is a member of NATO. And as such under the complete control of the US intelligence agencies,” writes RT Balkan. At this point, RT Balkan does not cite any evidence that any NATO member is under the control of American intelligence agencies.

The third “important detail” that RT Balkan claims was missed in the New York Times text is that “OCCRP, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project is affirmatively cited… But one interesting detail, important for understanding this explanation, is not mentioned – that OCCRP cooperates with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). RT Balkan sees proof that the CIA manages OCCRP in the press briefing transcript, in which such claims are not mentioned.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project was founded in 2006 as a consortium of think tanks, media and journalists operating in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Central America. It is the only permanent research centre dealing with organized crime and corruption. They publish their stories through local media. In cooperation with that network, the Serbian investigative portal KRIK has been publishing various stories for years that show the connection of the Serbian authorities with criminal clans, as well as with the clan of Veljko Belivuk. In the text of the New York Times, the author refers to the knowledge obtained by this network.

In the article, RT Balkan defends the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and instead of the connection of the Serbian authorities with Veljko Belivuk, he states that the clan was under the control of the American services, which was through the Minister of Internal Affairs during whose mandate the clan grew, which through claims that Montenegro, where the members of the Kavac and Skaljar clans are from, under the control of the American services.

What RT Balkan does not mention in the text is that the then Minister of Internal Affairs, whose name RT does not mention, and it is Nebojša Stefanović, was the closest associate of the Serbian president and a high-ranking official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Also, the fact that they are the Kavački and Skaljar criminal clans, from whose confrontation Veljko Belivuk emerged as the new leader and controller of the cocaine market in Serbia, is not mentioned. RT also does not say that the clashes between the two clans mainly occurred in Serbia and that Veljko Belivuk has nothing to do with Montenegro..

In the end, instead of the Serbian president’s ties to organized crime, RT concludes that Vučić is a target of the American media because of the situation in Kosovo and his ties to Russia. Similar arguments were presented by the President of Serbia, commenting on an article in the New York Times. Vučić said that such a text could not be published just like that but that it should be known who decides on it, adding that the text was written from Serbia and that “the author had his own reasons and needs concerning Russia and Kosovo and Metohija”.

“I’m not particularly fascinated by their research either, I’m even less fascinated by the fear they wanted to instil in my bones and to take into account how I will behave regarding Kosovo and Metohija and Russia in the future. They do their job; we do our job. I understood the message very well, I understood who it was coming from, you can’t publish it in the New York Times just like that, you know who decides about it and who I’m bothering,” concluded Vučić.

Author: Sofija Popović