2 Americans, 6 others arrested in Serbia

Dusan Stojanovic
Associated Press

Belgrade, Serbia – Eight foreign citizens, including two Americans and two Ukrainians, have been arrested in Serbia on suspicion that they tried to photograph and enter military facilities without authorization, officials said on Monday.

State TV said the U.S. and Ukrainian citizens allegedly tried to take shots of the military security headquarters in downtown Belgrade with a drone. The report did not identify them or give details, saying only that the Ukrainians are women and that they are all in police custody.

Announcing the arrest of eight foreigners, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said he does not want to prejudge the case that is under investigation, but added: “It is not a coincidence that such a large number of foreign citizens tried to bust into premises controlled by the Army of Serbia.”

Another American was arrested in Serbia earlier this month for possession of an unmarked gun. Pro-government media alleged that he was a former Navy SEAL and had planned the assassination of unidentified Serbian officials.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday mentioned the arrest of a “group” of foreigners, but added that their case is “nothing especially serious.”

There is a mounting anti-Western media campaign in Serbia, which formally wants to join the European Union but is experiencing increasing pro-Russian propaganda.

Meanwhile, Serbian authorities have threatened Philippe Bertinchamps, a Belgrade-based Belgian freelance reporter, with expulsion for an alleged breach of “public order and national security.” He was initially refused his temporary residence permit without explanation, but after an outcry by international reporters groups, his visa was extended for a year.

“Given the extremely worrying situation of media freedom in Serbia, where independent journalists are nowadays the targets of physical and verbal violence and even hate campaigns by pro-government media, we believe that this case must, as a matter of urgency, be drawn to the attention of the Serbian, European and international public,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.