Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Leave No One Behind: An American Gets Snared in the Balkan Knot
Leave No One Behind: An American Gets Snared in the Balkan Knot

Leave No One Behind: An American Gets Snared in the Balkan Knot

“We are trespassing on your hospitality.”

                                    – Eric Ambler, from his tale of Balkan intrigue, The Mask of Dimitrios

 “The only explicit training we receive in BUD/S is to look out for each other—leave no one behind.”
                                     – SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

                                   

 

The past several weeks have seen a peculiar set of events play out in Serbia that would make a plot worthy of any good espionage novel. It opened a rare window into an ordinarily opaque world. A former Navy SEAL who now works for a well-connected private military company, a Serbian arms dealer recently sanctioned by the United States government and seeking relief, purveyors of Washington money and influence, all find their way into the plot. Except here, the former Navy SEAL lands in a Belgrade jail and is held under a judicial detention order, while outside, he is daily tried in the virtual courtroom of the pro-Russia Serbian media, which hints (or declares outright) he is a professional assassin sent to kill Serbian leaders. Some go so far as to accuse him of the January assassination of a high profile Serbian political leader in neighboring Republika Srpska, where anti-Bosnian and secessionist sentiment runs high.

To start at the beginning, on February 4, Serbian Interior Ministry security forces raided a Belgrade apartment house and arrested an American identified as Daniel David Corbett. Serbian authorities allege Mr. Corbett at the time of his arrest was in possession of a Zastava CZ 99 semi-automatic pistol, which had been purposefully defaced to remove its identifying serial number. “This means that this weapon was stolen from a military or police warehouse. A man with such a weapon in his hand is not innocent,”[1] according to Darko Trifunović, a Serbian security studies scholar.

Multiple Balkan media outlets identified Mr. Corbett as a former Marine and Navy SEAL who is now employed by the United States-based security firm, Raven Military. Reports associated Mr. Corbett with this cryptic profile[2] on the Raven Military website, which some erroneously stated had been expunged soon after Mr. Corbett’s arrest.[3]

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić[4] said that while he had “some information” about the arrest, he “wasn’t sure it was anything serious,” deferring further comment until he received “the Serbian security service’s report.”[5] A February 5 Srbija Danas (“Serbia Today”) report quoted former Yugoslav intelligence officer Božidar Spasić[6] linking the date of Mr. Corbett’s arrival in Belgrade to an alleged (but non-existent) United States State Department travel alert.[7]

On February 6, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović confirmed details about the arrest of Mr. Corbett and two Serbian accomplices in Belgrade, an action Srbija Danas and other media portals attributed to information provided by confidential informers. Under the headline, “Did a soldier of fortune come to Belgrade with devilish plan?”[8] Srbija Danas quoted an anonymous Interior Ministry source, who said that Mr. Corbett’s Serbian accomplices (reported as either two or three persons[9]) recently purchased a “clean gun” (štek stanu) for him—the Serbian tabloid Informer called it the type of weapon “commonly used to commit mafia murders”[10]—which authorities linked to Mr. Corbett by forensic evidence. The report published by Informer—a daily tabloid closely aligned with the country’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka or “SNS”[11])—cited a source close to the Interior Ministry that “after his arrest, Corbett said he came to Belgrade as a security contractor and bought a pistol on the black market for personal safety,” an explanation dismissed by the tabloid Informer report as “a transparent and completely unconvincing explanation.”[12] The German Serbian-language newspaper Vesti reported another variant, that Mr. Corbett was arrested when he tried to purchase the weapon from a black market dealer.[13]

Informer—described (along with Alo! and Srpski Telegraf ) by no less than Russia’s Regnum news agency as “propaganda material serving the party[14] (ispol’zuyutsya v kachestve agitatsionnykh materialov, sluzhashchikh partii)—reported that “on the basis of evidence gathered so far, prosecutors and police have to reason to suspect” Mr. Corbett was in Belgrade “to liquidate a well-known and respected politician and businessman, which would then be used as a trigger to provoke unrest and destabilize” the Serbian government. Mr. Corbett, said Informer‘s Interior Ministry source, works for a “well-known international security agency owned by an Israeli who is close to Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj,” whom the report calls “the leaders of the fake state (lažne države) of Kosovo. Hashim Thaçi and Ramush Haradinaj are Kosovo Albanian political figures and, respectively, the president and the prime minister of the Republic of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in early 2008.

“The most likely scenario,” according to what Informer called its confidential source in the Serbian Interior Ministry, is that Mr. Corbett “arrived in Serbia on the orders of Albanian extremists (šiptarskih ekstremista) as part of a wider conspiracy involving both Albanian extremists and Western security services, whose aim was to provoke chaos in Serbia.”[15] “All the evidence suggests,” Informer quotes its Serbian Interior Ministry source as saying, “that the American was preparing ‘an important assassination.’”[16] The possibility cannot be ruled out, the report continued, “that the action planned in Belgrade has something to do with the recent murder of Oliver Ivanović in Mitrovica,” a Serb-controlled city in northern Kosovo.

Map of North Kosovo (Source: WikiMedia Commons)

On the morning of January 16, unknown assailants attacked the Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanović[17] in a drive-by shooting, hitting him six times in front of the office of his political party, which is known by its Serbian acronym SDP (Srbija, demokratija, pravda or “Serbia, democracy, justice”). Mr. Ivanović died shortly afterwards in a Mitrovica hospital. Police later found a torched car in the nearby town of Mali Zvečan that unidentified sources said was used by Ivanović’s assassins.[18] Ballistics tests identified the weapon used to assassinate Mr. Ivanović as a Zastava M70A semi-automatic pistol, originally produced en masse for Yugoslav security services and known today as a favorite weapon of regional organized crime.

Within a fortnight of Mr. Corbett’s arrest, Mr. Vučić was quoted in multiple press reports identifying Mr. Corbett as “a former [United States] Marine and a member of the United States Navy [SEAL] Team 6” who “chased bin Laden” in Afghanistan.[19] Many featured lurid headlines like this one in in the tabloid Blic online, which reads, “Was he preparing an assassination?” (Spremao ubistvo?)

An American citizen arrested a few days ago in Belgrade is a former US Marine, a member of an elite SEAL unit, and an employee of Raven Military, whose co-owner, Jay Footlik, is a former Special Assistant to Bill Clinton.[20]

Other reports claimed Mr. Corbett was present in Belgrade on three separate occasions in January 2018 alone.[21] All of this is supported by “intelligence” (obaveštajni) according to former Yugoslav intelligence officer Božidar Spasić:

Intelligence suggests [Mr. Corbett] trained before going to Serbia in the ​​Chicago area, which has the largest expatriate Serbian community . . . and also spent time in Bosnia and other former Yugoslav republics where, it is known, he learned to assume a Serbian lifestyle. He intended to stay [in Serbia] long enough to organize a cabal that would set the American plan in motion to undercut Serbia’s leaders, as the Clintons sought. He aimed to fracture Serbia’s government and bring someone to power, who would very deftly recognize Kosovo’s independence. All this would come about by political assassinations or provoking chaos. We’re talking about a very serious geopolitical game played by the Clintons, who remain engaged in the region because their economic interests here are greater than ever.[22]

A commentary by Jelena Đondović concludes by going down the rabbit hole of a Soros-Clinton led deep-state conspiracy:

[Bill] Clinton’s most important interests are to stay in the Balkans and to remain a dominant force. The fact is Bill and Hillary Clinton and even their daughter have a presence in every hick town (selendra) in Kosovo. They have lucrative business interests from smuggling cigarettes, alcohol and other things. From Kosovo alone, they receive roughly $15 million every six months.[23]

“We can only conjecture about the details of the case, but it’s safe to assume he came here to carry out a subversive mission,” said Milan Mijalkovski, continuing, “He certainly didn’t come to Serbia for a vacation.”[24] News portals like Vestinet speculated wildly that Mr. Corbett “had been tasked with liquidating the ambassador of a Middle Eastern country (known to the editorial staff),” which it claimed to know from an “exclusive sources in the Serbian intelligence services”:

In this way, the Americans would kill two flies with one shot: they would cause chaos in Serbia and put our country into a state of permanent instability, since after the assassination of the ambassador it would be nearly impossible to avert retaliatory terror attacks by radical Islamists.[25]

Vestinet quotes Dževad Galijašević—once described as a “self-styled expert on terrorism and one of Dodik’s mercenaries,”[26] and dismissed derisively by the BiH-based Al Jazeera Balkans as “the Republika Srpska’s premier expert, who understands everything”[27]—speculating that Mr. Corbett’s intended target might be “a senior diplomat from Syria or Qatar, where American relations have cooled.” Mr. Galijašević accused the United Stares of trying “to intimidate Serbia to the hilt and make it an Islamist target, and ultimately, to separate it from Russia.”[28] A day earlier, the official Kremlin website ran a short report under the headline “Trying to draw Serbia into a war,” that reads in part “The job of CIA mercenary Daniel Corbett was to liquidate a Middle Eastern diplomat, after which Serbia would be drawn into a direct conflict with Islamists,” citing as its authority an earlier Srpski Telegraf report.[29]

For his part, Mr. Vučić said that while “today, unfortunately, I cannot speak openly about this” because it would “jeopardize Serbia’s position”:

Imagine finding a guy from Team 6, someone who chased bin Laden in Afghanistan, and you find him here with a gun, the serial number of which was recently filed off, and you find out the people here who gave him the gun have criminal links, and you arrest those Serbs who gave it to him but they won’t say what the gun was for. Well, it wasn’t to shoot fish in the Danube.[30]

Russian government-controlled agitprop outlets quickly disseminated the report, quoting other reports that Serbian state security forces arrested “eight foreigners in two days.”[31] Consider this from the Russian government-controlled German language media portal RT-Deutsche published under the headline “President Vučić suspects ‘destabilzation plan’ after former Navy Seal is arrested in Serbia”:

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović does not want to say anything about why the US citizen was arrested, the reason for which remains unclear. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said yesterday. “I’m not sure everyone favors regional stability here, and I believe there are foreign forces who don’t want stability,” Vučić said on the television show, Ćirilica. . . [T]he Serbian people are smart enough to know that someone who belonged to one of the best-known special forces units did not come “just like that” from San Diego to Serbia, said the Serbian president.[32]

The RT-Deutsche report was interspersed with links to other stories on the RT portal with such headlines as “Shadow War of the Special Forces: US Special Forces at the Russian border” and “Why is the US quadrupling the presence of special forces on the European border with Russia?”

Perhaps a more pertinent question was raised in an opinion column written by Jasmina Lukač, editor of the Belgrade daily Danas (“Today”), reflecting on upcoming Serbian parliamentary elections:

Why, then, in such circumstances, does the story of Daniel Corbett appear? Why did the Informer tabloid publish an incredible story about an arrested ex-marine, a specially trained fighter, who allegedly was sent to Belgrade on a security assignment by an unnamed Israeli company? And why did [Serbian Interior Minister] Nebojša Stefanović . . . confirm these facts for TV Pink, and claim that when [Mr. Corbett] was arrested, police found a pistol with a deleted serial number. There can be only one reason — these absurd stories are told to disguise the real story. And the real story is that this campaign continues to hide in the shadow of Oliver Ivanović’s assassination. [33]

Pro-government Serbian media have relentlessly depicted Mr. Corbett as a hired assassin, in many instances citing information about him that, if true, could only have come from well informed intelligence sources. Published under the headline “An American Marine tasked with killing someone important had been in Belgrade since Christmas,” a Telegraf report alleged that Mr. Corbett “had prepared long and carefully”:

He entered Serbia perfectly legally, without any weapons with him at all. He played the part of the classic tourist, staying three days in his hotel before moving to the apartment safe-house. Police arrested him after they were tipped off that two Belgrade Serbs were hiding a stranger who “came to do an important job and then quickly disappear,” the story goes. [Corbett’s] first reaction after he was arrested was to tell the police unconvincingly that he was in Serbia to arrange a security job.[34]

Telegraf quoted a Serbian academic, Miroslav Bjegović,[35] who said this of Mr. Corbett:

According to our intelligence, he’s a CIA contractor who is particular specialty is “silent liquidation”. We can conclude, therefore, what he was supposed to be do here. The problem is who commissioned something like this. It’s symptomatic of anti-government forces in our country that for the sake of their own ambition and personal interest are prepared to do such a thing, even if it involves murdering some government officials.[36]

On February 2, reported the Serbian tabloid Alo!, a Belgrade court ordered the continued detention of Mr. Corbett as well as all three persons arrested with him:

[O]n suspicion that they committed the criminal offense of the illicit production, possession, carrying and trafficking of weapons and explosive materials, while N.A. [one of the alleged accomplices] is also suspected of unauthorized possession of narcotics.[37]

Alo! called Mr. Corbett a witting participant in an “operation involving certain US private security companies and Serbian domestic criminal circles . . . in which over $250,000 had so far been expended to exploit Oliver Ivanović’s murder and strike a decisive blow against peace in Serbia and the western Balkans”:

By monitoring known Serbian criminal elements involved in narcotics trafficking and close to violent Montenegron crime families, Serbian authorities were able to prevent a former Navy Seal, the most elite unit in the US military, from provoking chaos anew, this time in Belgrade.[38]

Asserting in an Alo! commentary that “an American special forces operator came to Belgrade to kill prominent Serbian official,” Jelena Đondović alleged Mr. Corbett is connected to former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through a senior Raven Military executive, Jay Footlik, who was a presidential special assistant during the second Clinton administration (1994-1997).[39] The Clinton talking point is pivotal in the conspiracy narrative promoted by Mr. Bjegović[40] and others.

According to Milan Ivanović of the Serbian National Council of North Kosovo,[41] “the murder of a well-known Serb has caused great anxiety and fear among people in the KiM and consequently destabilized the political situation, risking a mass exodus [of ethnic Serbs] from the area.”[42]

According to all available information, [Corbett’s] goal either was to kill or to lay the groundwork for the liquidation of a Serbian businessman or politician, in order to further destabilize Serbia and its government. The liquidation plan was modeled on the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, which was so professionally executed that the perpetrators left no traces. This moment was selected because Serbia is caught up in pre-election fever, so another murder would likely ignite a powder keg in the Balkans.[43]

There is nothing novel about such dire warnings in the world of Balkan-focused Russian agitprop:

In the last few years, there have been lots of “warnings” from “well informed” Russian intelligence sources about plans to foment chaos in Serbia and the Balkans . . . [D]espite representations that these stories are wrapped in a cloak of secrecy, they regularly find their way to domestic audiences [inside Serbia] through newspapers like Informer and Serbian Telegraph (Srpski Telegraf).[44]

Case in point, a June 2016 Informer story published under the headline, “Dramatic Warning To Serbia: NATO secret plan to provoke chaos and unrest!” designed “to shake the Serbia from the ground up and restore it as the West’s obedient servant”:

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly at the end of May made emergency military and economic assistance to Serbia one of his new foreign policy priorities. The immediate reason for this sudden decision by the most powerful man of the world was intelligence collected by Russian security services that NATO is preparing to cause disorder across Serbia and the region. Russian security services provided the Kremlin with the Western Alliance’s secret plan to provoke political chaos inside Serbia that would lead to widespread disorder and political turmoil.”[45]

The Informer story was dutifully reprinted by sympathetic media portals such as Srbija Danas[46] and Pravda[47] and by regional ones such as Croatia’s Dnevni Žurnal[48] (“Daily Journal”). Informer doubled-down a few weeks hence and reported that Russian intelligence officials delivered a “dramatic warning” to the Serbian government about a secret plan hatched by NATO and “the Ustaše regime.”[49] Under the pretense of a terrorist attack, NATO would intervene militarily in neighboring Republika Srpska, an ethnic Serbian-dominated constituent entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).[50] In November 2017, Informer reported another alleged Western conspiracy against the Serbian government:

The US Central Intelligence Agency last month organized a meeting of heads of the Montenegrin, Macedonian, Albanian, Kosovo, Bosnian and Croatian secret services, held at the Podgorica Hotel in Montenegro’s capital . . . We learned that the gathering of regional intelligence officers was held 23-25 October, during which “radical measures” against the Serbian leadership and a strike on the Security and Information Agency were proposed and adopted. According well-informed diplomatic sources, Serbia was labeled a “dangerous Russian base in the Balkans,” one through which Vladimir Putin is trying to destabilize the entire region.”[51]

“What is behind these stories,” reads a Vesti commentary written a few weeks after Mr. Corbett’s arrest in Belgrade, “and whether Serbian government leaders are in actual danger or it is instead an attempt to cause public panic to score political points, remains unclear at the moment.”

What is known, and what was confirmed yesterday, is that two Americans and two Ukrainians were arrested while [attempting to launch a video surveillance drone] near the old General Staff building in downtown Belgrade. Tabloids close to the authorities proclaimed the four are dangerous spies because they were attempting to record video of the building in which the Military Intelligence Agency and the Military Security Agency are located, and where Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin often works . . . [T]he Defense Ministry confirmed reports of the unauthorized recording and said military police captured the aforementioned persons.[52]

According to Pravda, Serbian authorities released the two Ukrainian nationals without filing criminal charges.[53] Other media reports said the two were “women from Luhans’k,”[54] one of whom is said now to reside in Ohio and the other in California.[55] The two reportedly are employed by an unidentified California-based non-governmental organization, and claimed upon arrest that they were “filming a documentary about the consequences of American air strikes.”[56]

The Serbian service of the Russian media portal News Front had this to say about the arrests of Mr. Corbett and the unnamed American drone operators:

Judging by the news, Belgrade this month has become a scene of spy games of the sort not seen since the days of the Cold War. First, former US Special Forces officer Daniel David Corbett, who was found with unmarked weapons, was arrested at the beginning of February, while two Americans caught launching surveillance drones were arrested yesterday at the old General Staff building in Belgrade.[57]

So, why is it that Mr. Corbett “came to Belgrade with another [unnamed] American”? Vesti offers this explanation:

[Mr. Corbett] is a director of the American company Raven Military, which recruits former military specialists to provide security services around the world, but also deals in arms trafficking. We have knowledge that he came to Belgrade with another American. The reason why [Mr. Corbett came to Belgrade] is still being investigated, but we have information that he intended to meet Slobodan Tešić, the well-known arms dealer. [Mr. Tešić] is willing to pay several million dollars to get off the American blacklist or to ensure the sanctions against him are not extended. [Mr. Corbett] and the unnamed American intended to leverage their connections in the United States government, and then collaborate with Tešić on weapons sales around the world, according to our security sources.[58]

Politico reported in late February that the Washington law firm Venable LLP:

[R]etained SPG to help get one of its clients, Slobodan Tešić, removed from a list of foreign nationals sanctioned by the Treasury Department, according to a letter signed by Tešić’s lawyer, D.E. Wilson Jr. The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Tešić late last year.[59]

This is the referenced letter:

SPG is an acronym for the Sonoran Policy Group, a Washington lobbying firm whose founder, Robert Stryk, was profiled by The New York Times in August 2017.[60] According to the firm’s website, SPG is:

[A] team of experts who in 2001 joined forces to create a full-service government relations and geopolitical advisory firm to assist clients in identifying opportunities, managing risk, and providing innovative solutions to complex challenges. We deliver a highly experienced team of professionals with robust relationships within the United States & foreign governments, Fortune 50 companies, and disruptive global networks.[61]

Returning to the Vesti report that Mr. Corbett came to “Belgrade with another American,” an obscure Russian language weblog published by a Moscow-based think tank, the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST),[62] quoted an Intelligence Online report that identified the “other American” as SPG’s Mr. Stryker. Intelligence Online identified a third person who accompanied Mr. Stryk to Belgrade, Abraham Golan, whom it called “a long-standing friend of [Slobodan] Tesic”[63]:

According to Intelligence Online’s sources, Golan and Stryk’s initiative went down badly in Moscow. Tesic is a key player in Russian clandestine diplomacy and the sanctions place him firmly in Moscow’s camp. Corbett, a member of their security team, was arrested by the Serbian security services shortly after Golan and Stryk left the country.[64]

Intelligence Online’s claim about Kremlin displeasure aligns with, for example, a report in the Serbian language service of Sputnik,[65] the Russian government-controlled media portal, in which Mr. Corbett was identified by name and connected to Mr. Golan through Raven Military. Sputnik also associated Mr. Golan with Raven’s Mr. Footlik through their mutual involvement in a Serbian-registered company, Crno Jezero Group. That company, Sputnik reports accurately, is listed as a “strategic partner” on the Raven Military website. Sputnik and like reports in Novosti,[66] Informax,[67] and elsewhere played up Mr. Footlik’s former role as a special adviser to then-President Clinton.

                                   

One might think a narrative that could readily anchor the next season of Homeland would receive wide attention, but in truth, it has received almost no coverage whatsoever beyond Serbia, even in Russia where it has received almost none. The intensity of that coverage has nonetheless been a propaganda coup for Russian efforts to push, pull, or prod the Serbian government away from the West.

At one level, the narrative illustrates how the Western Balkans is today’s ground zero in Russia’s effort to halt the westward drift of nations where its geopolitical interests and cultural ties run deep. Russian efforts to subvert Balkan governments are well established. So, too, Russia actively foments ethnic Serbian agitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which threatens to split in half. There and elsewhere, Russian interests studiously follow a longstanding playbook, contriving border conflicts and breakaway enclaves and exploiting them instrumentally to forestall further NATO and EU accessions. That the United States has seemingly elected to cede the playing field in the Balkan culture wars to Russian agitprop is both troubling and short sighted. What also troubles is the absence of any counter-narrative to Russian-leaning Serbians’ gleeful portrayal of Mr. Corbett as a political assassin. Where, today, in the nation that practically invented digital marketing, is Frank Wisner’s “mighty Wurlitzer . . . capable of playing any propaganda tune he desired?”

In the meantime, an American citizen, who served his country with honor and distinction, languishes in a Belgrade detention cell where he will remain for at least the next several weeks, and no one seems to care.


The translation of all source material is by the author unless noted otherwise. Author’s note: Linguists recognize “Serbian” and “Bosnian” as, in fact, different dialects of one common or polycentric language. It is the practice sometimes to identify the language of source-material as “Serbian” or “Bosnian” based on whether the Cyrillic or the Latin alphabet is used. The author has instead elected to identify Latin alphabet source-material as Serbian, since almost all of the sources in question are Serbian media portals.

[1] “Zastrašujuće! Američki Specijalac Koji Je Uhapšen u Beogradu Je Ubica Bin Ladena: Kriminalci ga naoružali brušenim pištoljem!.” Kurir [published online in Serbian 20 February 2018]. https://www.kurir.rs/crna-hronika/2999043/zastrasujuce-americki-specijalac-koji-je-uhapsen-u-beogradu-je-ubica-bin-ladena-kriminalci-ga-naoruzali-brusenim-pistoljem-citajte-u-kuriru. Last accessed 23 February 2018.

[2] Informer, a Serbian tabloid, published what is clearly a photoshopped image [left, below] purporting to show Mr. Corbett [on the left] next to his Belgrade detention center cellmate, Zoran Marjanović, who was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife, the singer Jelena Marjanovic, in April 2016. See: “Zoran Marjanović ćeliju deli sa marincem koji je trebalo da ubije “veliku zverku” u Beogradu!” Informer [published online in Serbian 17 February 2018]. https://informer.rs/vesti/hronika/370101/cimer-iz-nocne-more-zoran-marjanovic-celiju-deli-sa-marincem-koji-je-trebalo-da-ubije-veliku-zverku-u-beogradu. Last accessed 22 February 2018. Alo! published the image [right, below] that was photoshopped into the Informer photo, which it credited to Mr. Corbett’s Facebook page. That person appears similar to the one in the Raven Military profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[3] See, for example: “Vodio akcije od velike važnosti. Što je radio u Beogradu?” Jutarnji Vijesti (published online in Serbian 13 February 2018). https://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/svijet/sto-je-radio-u-beogradu-misterij-uhicenja-covjeka-koji-je-bio-jedan-od-najelitnijih-marinacatvrtka-u-kojoj-je-zaposlen-naglo-nestala-s-interneta/7026675/. Last accessed 20 February 2018.

[4] Mr. Vučić, who became Serbian president on May 31, 2017, first rose to prominence in 1998 as Information Minister under Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, who died while being tried in The Hague for war crimes. Mr. Vučić served as Serbian Defense Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister before being elected Prime Minister in 2014 and again in 2016.

[5] “Vučić: Uhapšena grupa Amerikanaca.” N1 [published online in Serbian 18 February 2018]. https://ba.n1info.com/a244210/Svijet/Svijet/Vucic-U-Srbiji-uhapsena-grupa-Amerikanaca.html. Last accessed 20 February 2018.

[6] Mr. Spasić is the former head of a special counterterrorism team within the SDB (Služba državne bezbednosti), a short-lived (1991-2002) security agency within the Yugoslav Interior ministry. In November 2016, a Belgian court convicted Mr. Spasić in absentia for the 1990 murder of Kosovo political activist Enver Hadri in Brussels, for which the Belgian court sentenced Mr. Spasić and two Serbian accomplices to life in prison. See: “Božidar Spasić osuđen za naručivanje ubistva.” Krik [published online in Serbian 23 November 2016.] https://www.krik.rs/bozidar-spasic-osuden-za-narucivanje-ubistva/. Last accessed 22 February 2018. Mr. Spasić acknowledged his role in organizing the murder of Mr. Hadri, whom he called a “terrorist,” in his 2000 book Lasica koja govori, but in a November 2016 KRIK interview called his own story ”a fairytale.” See: Božidar Spasić o ubistvu Envera Hadrija (KRIK intervju) published 25 November 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0LsMj4eV_A&t=19s. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[7] “UBICU u Beograd poslali Tači i Haradinaj: Američki specijalac hteo da LIKVIDIRA visokog državnika Srbije.” Srbija Danas [published online in Serbian 5 February 2018]. https://www.srbijadanas.com/vesti/hronika/ubicu-u-beograd-poslali-taci-i-haradinaj-americki-specijalac-hteo-da-likvidira-visokog-drzavnika-2018-02-05. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[8] “Stefanović potvrdio hapšenje bivšeg marinca: Plaćenik došao u Beograd sa paklenim planom?.” Srbija Danas [published online in Serbian 6 February 2018]. https://www.srbijadanas.com/vesti/hronika/stefanovic-potvrdio-hapsenje-bivseg-marinca-placenik-dosao-u-beograd-sa-paklenim-planom-2018-02-06. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[9] For example, Srbija Danas reported Mr. Corbett has two Serbian accomplices, while Alo! put the number at three and gave their initials as “N.V, N.P., and N.A.”. Alo! also reported that a Belgrade judge ordered that Mr. Corbett and his three accomplices be held in detention for up to three months, after which he would review the detention order every 30 days to assess whether it should be extended or terminated. See: “O tri meseca pritvor marincu koji je hteo da ubije srpskog zvaničnika!” Alo! [published online in Serbian 12 February 2018]. https://www.alo.rs/odreden-pritvor-bivsem-americkom-marincu/145959. Last accessed 23 February 2018.

[10] “Uhapšeni bivši marinac Korbet D. radi za izraelsku agenciju za obezbeđenje čiji je vlasnik blizak sa čelnicima lažne države Kosovo.” Informer [published online in Serbian 6 February 2018]. https://informer.rs/vesti/politika/368625/ubicu-u-beograd-poslali-siptari-novi-detalji-afere-amerikanac-ukazuju-da-se-spremalo-krupno-ubistvo-1517945753. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[11] Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka or “SNS”) is a populist rightwing political party formed in 2008 by former members of the Serbian Radical Party (Srpska radikalna stranka or “SRS”), a nationalist political party.

[12] Informer, 6 February 2018, op cit.

[13]Vesti saznaju: Trgovac oružjem postao ‘ubica’.” Vesti [published online in Serbian 7 February 2018]. https://vesti-online.com/Vesti/Hronika/685951/Vesti-saznaju-Trgovac-oruzjem-postao-ubica. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[14] “Pervyy shag k novoy Serbii.” Regnum [published online in Russian 6 February 2018]. https://regnum.ru/news/2376925.html. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[15] Informer, 6 February 2018, op cit.

[16] Ibid.

[17] In January 2016, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo sentenced Mr. Ivanović to nine years in jail for war crimes, but an appeals court annulled the verdict thirteen months later and ordered a new trial.

[18] https://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovo-serb-leader-killed-in-north-kosovo-01-16-2018. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[19] See, for example: “Serbia: presidente Vucic su marine arrestato a Belgrado, esistono fattori esterni che non vogliono regione stabile.” Agenzia Nova [published online in Italian 20 February 2018].

[20] “SPREMAO UBISTVO? Bivši američki marinac koji je naoružan uhapšen u štek stanu u Beogradu je saradnik Klintonovog asistenta.” Blic online [pubo=ished online in Serbian 11 February 2018]. https://www.blic.rs/vesti/hronika/spremao-ubistvo-bivsi-americki-marinac-koji-je-naoruzan-uhapsen-u-stek-stanu-u/mhrzq5q. Last accessed March 1, 2018. According to published reports, Mr. Footlik’s co-principle at Raven Military is Abraham Golan. According to a May 2012 recruitment advertisement by a private security company, Blacksand Group US, in which Mr. Golan was a principle, he “was an officer in the French Foreign Legion and within Israeli Special Forces, with more than twenty years experience in the Middle East and Africa.” See: https://gallantfew.org/blacksand-group-seeks-rangersof/. Last accessed 2 March 2018. Messrs. Footlik and Golan are also listed in public directors as directors of a Serbian limited liability company, Crno Jezero Group DOO Belgrade, which was organized in April 2016 and liquidated in September 2017. The Raven Military website lists Crno Jezero Group as a “strategic partner”.

[21] “Insajder: Uhapšeni specijalac u Beogradu u januaru tri puta.” N1 [published online in Serbian 11 February 2018]. https://rs.n1info.com/a363656/Vesti/Vesti/Insajder-Uhapseni-specijalac-u-Beogradu-u-januaru-tri-puta.html. Last accessed 2 March 2018.

[22] “OTKRIVAMO! Hilarin prijatelj poslao ubicu u Srbiju!.” Alo! [published online in Serbian 11 February 2018]. https://www.alo.rs/hilarin-prijatelj-poslao-ubicu-u-srbiju/145651. Last accessed 2 March 2018.

[23] Ibid.

[24] “Uhapšenom Amerikancu tri meseca pritvora zbog oružja.” Politika [published online in Serbian 12 February 2018]. Uhapšenom Amerikancu tri meseca pritvora zbog oružja . Last accessed 1 March 2018. Colonel Mijalkovski is the retired chair of Advanced Security and Defense studies at Serbia’s National Defense Academy.

[25] “KAKO JE JEDAN AMERIČKI MARINAC UČINIO DA SE SRBIJA SUOČI SA BEZBEDNOSNIM IZAZOVIMA NAJVIŠE KATEGORIJE! OVO JE BIO ZADATAK DANIJELA KORBETA!” Vestinet [published online in Serbian 24 February 2018]. https://www.vestinet.rs/tema-dana/kako-je-jedan-americki-marinac-ucinio-da-se-srbija-suoci-sa-bezbednosnim-izazovima-najvise-kategorije-ovo-je-bio-zadatak-danijela-korbeta. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[26] “Dodikov plaćenik Galijašević napao Vučića da je izabrao SAD i ‘muslimansku stranu’.” Patria [published online in Serbian 15 October 2016]. https://www.nap.ba/new/vijest.php?id=29807. Last accessed 1 March 2018. Milorad Dodik is President of the Republika Srpska. Later in the article, Mr. Galijašević was quoted accusing Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić of “cowardly turning tail and choosing the American and Muslim side” in Serbia.

[27] “Desetogodišnji ‘mudžahedin’ Dragana Mektića.” Al Jazeera Balkans [published online in Bosnian 23 July 2017]. https://balkans.aljazeera.net/vijesti/desetogodisnji-mudzahedin-dragana-mektica. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[28] Vestinet, 24 February 2018, op cit.

[29] “HTEO SRBIJU DA UVUČE U RAT! Amerikanac došao u Beograd da ubije ambasadora!.” Kremlin website [published online in Russian 23 February 2018]. https://kremlin.rs/2018/02/23/хтео-србију-да-увуче-у-рат-американац-д/. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[30] “Istraga o namerama američkog specijalca: Svedoci ispitani, čeka se veštačenje…” Insajder [published online in Serbian 22 February 2018]. https://insajder.net/sr/sajt/tema/10131/. Last accessed 2 March 2018.

[31] “Američki specijalac, uhapšen u Beogradu, bio u potrazi za Bin Ladenom.” RTRS [published online in Serbian 20 February 2018]. https://www.rtrs.tv/vijesti/vijest.php?id=289975. Last accessed 20 February 2018.

[32] “Nach Festnahme von Ex-Navy Seal in Serbien: Staatschef Vučić vermutet ‘Destabilisierungs-Plan.” RT Deutsch [published online in German 21 February 2018]. https://deutsch.rt.com/europa/65498-serbischer-staatschef-vucic-verhafteter-jagte-bin-laden-nun-serbien/. Last accessed 21 February 2018.

[33] “Korbet D.: Aleksandar Vučić tehnički gledano kampanju vodi perfektno.”Danas [published online in Serbian 7 February 2018]. https://www.danas.rs/dijalog/licni-stavovi/korbet-d/. Last Accessed 28 February 2018. Danas (“Today”) is a Belgrade-based daily newspaper with a social democratic, pro-European integration editorial orientation. TV Pink is reputedly Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s favored media platform according to BIRN, which reported “He is one of the more frequent guests on the station’s shows hosted by Dragan Vučićević, editor-in-chief of tabloid newspaper Informer.” See: https://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/pro-govt-media-keeps-right-wing-serbs-onside-08-30-2016. Last accessed 28 February 2018. It is so closely aligned editorially with the ruling Serbian Progressive Party that Russia’s REGNUM News Agency calls it “practically a party channel”.

[34] “Američki marinac koji je imao zadatak da ubije nekog važnog u Beogradu bio još od Božića.” Telegraf [published online in Serbian 6 February 2018]. https://www.telegraf.rs/vesti/hronika/2933284-imao-je-samo-jedan-zadatak-posle-koga-je-trebalo-da-nestane-uhapsen-bivsi-marinac-u-beogradu-cuvala-ga-dva-srbina. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[35] Miroslav Bjegović is the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Security at the Univerzitet Educons in Sremska Kamenica, Serbia. He is described on the university’s website as “a specialist in counterterrorism and organized crime.” See: https://educons.edu.rs/terorizam-gostovanje-na-tv-pinku-dekana-prof-dr-sci-miroslava-bjegovica/. Last accessed 22 February 2018.

[36] Telegraf, 6 February 2018, op cit.

[37] “O tri meseca pritvor marincu koji je hteo da ubije srpskog zvaničnika!” Alo! [published online in Serbian 12 February 2018]. https://www.alo.rs/odreden-pritvor-bivsem-americkom-marincu/145959. Last accessed 23 February 2018.

[38] Ibid.

[39] “OTKRIVAMO! Hilarin prijatelj poslao ubicu u Srbiju!.” Alo! [published online in Serbian 11 February 2018]. https://www.alo.rs/hilarin-prijatelj-poslao-ubicu-u-srbiju/145651. Last accessed 4 March 2018.

[40] See, for example, Mr. Bjegović’s 11 February Novo jutro interview broadcast on Pink-TV. https://wap.pink.rs/politika/57890/strucnjaci-za-novo-jutro-amerikanac-uhapsen-u-beogradu-strucnjak-sa-tihe-likvidacije-sa-tajnim-zadatkom-video

[41] The Serbian National Council of North Kosovo (Srpsko nacionalno Veće Kosova i Metohije or “SNV KiM”) is the elected representative body of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. Its president, Milan Ivanović, is Director of the Clinical and Hospital Center of Kosovska Mitrovica (KBC u Kosovskoj Mitrovici), where the injured Mr. Ivanović was brought and later succumbed to his wounds.

[42] “Milan Ivanović: Atentat na Olivera ima više motiva i ciljeva.” Alo! [published online in Serbian 21 January 2018]. https://www.alo.rs/atentat-na-olivera-ima-vise-motiva-i-ciljeva/141950. Last accesed 23 February 2018. His reference to “people in the KiM” is to Serbs in Kosovo, known officially as Kosovo & Metohija or “KiM.”

[43] Alo! 12 February 2018, op cit.

[44] “Na šta nas sve upozorava Rusija.” N1 [published online in Serbian 2 February 2018]. https://rs.n1info.com/a361627/Vesti/Vesti/Istinomer-tajmlajn-Na-sta-nas-sve-upozorava-Rusija.html. Last accessed 28 February 2018. The story was published on the internet portal of the regional television network N1, which is known for its independent political stance.

[45] “STIGLO DRAMATIČNO UPOZORENJE SRBIJI OD RUSIJE: NATO pravi tajni plan” Srbin [published online in Serbian 6 June 2016]. https://srbin.info/2016/06/06/stiglo-dramaticno-upozorenje-srbiji-od-rusije-nato-pravi-tajni-plan/. Last accessed 28 February 2018.

[46] https://www.srbijadanas.com/clanak/stiglo-dramaticno-upozorenje-srbiji-od-rusije-nato-pravi-tajni-plan-koji-ce-izazvati-haBoth were said to be os-i. Last accessed 27 February 2018.

[47] https://www.pravda.rs/lat/2016/06/06/stiglo-dramaticno-upozorenje-srbiji-od-rusije-nato-pravi-tajni-plan-koji-ce-izazvati-haos-i-nemire/. Last accessed 27 February 2018.

[48] https://dnevnizurnal.com/stiglo-dramaticno-upozorenje-srbiji-od-rusije-nato-pravi-tajni-plan-koji-ce-izazvati-haos-nemire/. Last accessed 28 February 2018.

[49] The term “Ustaše regime” is a derogatory reference to the Croatian government. The Ustaše were a fascist terrorist group c.1929-1945 that openly collaborated with Italian and Nazi occupation forces during World War 2. “DRAMATIČNO UPOZORENJE PUTINOVIH OBAVEŠTAJACA: Ustaški režim u saradnji sa NATO sprema ‘OLUJU 2’?!” Informer [published online in Serbian 30 August 2016]. https://informer.rs/vesti/politika/286676/dramaticno-upozorenje-putinovih-obavestajaca-ustaski-rezim-u-saradnji-sa-nato-sprema-oluju-2. Last accessed 27 February 2018.

[50] The other constituent entity is the predominantly Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), known in Bosnian and Serbian as Federacija Bosna i Hercegovina (FBiH) and in Croatian as Federacija Bosna i Hercegovina (FBiH).

[51] Serbia’s Security Intelligence Agency is known by its Serbian acronym “BIA” (Bezbednosno-informativna agencija). See: “CIA UDARA NA SRBIJU! OTKRIVAMO ŠPIJUNSKU AFERU: Na sastanku u Podgorici dogovorene ‘radikalne mere’ PROTIV BIA I VLASTI U SRBIJI!” Informer [published online in Serbian 16 November 2017]. https://informer.rs/vesti/politika/357416/cia-udara-na-srbiju-otkrivamo-spijunsku-aferu-na-sastanku-u-podgorici-dogovorene-radikalne-mere-protiv-bia-i-vlasti-u-srbiji. Last accessed 28 February 2018.

[52] “Vulina lovili dronom?!” Vesti-online [published online in Serbian 7 February 2017]. https://vesti-online.com/Vesti/Hronika/685951/Vesti-saznaju-Trgovac-oruzjem-postao-ubica. Last accessed 1 March 2018. The Military Intelligence Agency (Vojnoobaveštajna Agencija or “VOA”) is the Serbian Defense Ministry’s military intelligence agency. The Military Security Agency (Vojnobezbednosna Agencija, or “VBA”) is the Serbian Defense Ministry’s security and counterintelligence agency.

[53] “”STVARANJE HAOSA I NEMIRA U SRBIJI”: Vulina lovili dronom?!” Pravda [published ionline in Serbian 20 February 2018]. https://www.pravda.rs/lat/2018/02/20/stvaranje-haosa-i-nemira-u-srbiji-vulina-lovili-dronom/. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[54] “Serbia’s Defense Ministry confirms arrest of U.S., Ukrainian citizens.” Unian [published online 19 February 2018]. https://www.unian.info/politics/10013339-serbia-s-defense-ministry-confirms-arrest-of-u-s-ukrainian-citizens-media.html. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[55] “U Belhradi zatrymaly dvokh meshkanok Luhansʹka, yaki fotohrafuvaly Henshtab.” Glavcom [published online in Ukrainian 19 February 2018]. https://glavcom.ua/news/u-belgradi-zatrimali-dvoh-meshkanok-luganska-yaki-fotografuvali-genshtab–474802.html. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[56] “U Serbiyi zvilʹnyly dvokh zatrymanykh za shpyhunstvo ukrayinok.” Novoho Vremeny [published online in Ukrainian 20 February 2018]. . Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[57] “OPASAN ŠPIJUNSKI RAT: ŠTA JE CILJ INVAZIJE AMERIČKIH KRTICA NA SRBIJU.” News Front Serbia [published online in Serbian 20 February 2018]. https://srb.news-front.info/2018/02/20/opasan-shpijunski-rat-shta-je-tsil-invazije-americhkih-krtitsa-na-srbiju/. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[58] Vesti 7 February 2018, op cit. On 21 December 2017, the United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions to freeze the assets of Mr. Tešić and 12 other “serious human rights abusers and corrupt actors” under authority of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (GLOMAG). The Treasury Department’s press release announcing the action included the following statement:

“Slobodan Tesic (Tesic) is among the biggest dealers of arms and munitions in the Balkans; he spent nearly a decade on the United Nations (UN) Travel Ban List for violating UN sanctions against arms exports to Liberia. In order to secure arms contracts with various countries, Tesic would directly or indirectly provide bribes and financial assistance to officials. Tesic also took potential clients on high-value vacations, paid for their children’s education at western schools or universities, and used large bribes to secure contracts. Tesic owns or controls two Serbian companies, Partizan Tech and Technoglobal Systems DOO Beograd, and two Cyprus-based companies, Grawit Limited and Charso Limited. Tesic negotiates the sale of weapons via Charso Limited and used Grawit Limited as a mechanism to fund politicians. In a related action, OFAC designated Preduzece Za Trgovinu Na Veliko I Malo Partizan Tech DOO Beograd-Savski Venac (‘Partizan Tech’), Charso Limited, Grawit Limited, and Technoglobal Systems DOO Beograd.”

See: United States Treasury Department (2017). United States Sanctions Human Rights Abusers and Corrupt Actors Across the Globe. Press Release dated 21 December 2017. https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0243. Last accessed 1 March 2018.

[59] Theodoric Meyer & Marianne Levine (2018). “SPG signs DRC, will open London office.” Politico [published online 20 February 2018]. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/politico-influence/2018/02/20/spg-signs-drc-will-open-london-office-111295. Last accessed 2 March 2018. The referenced “letter” is a Foreign Agent Registration Act registration, which can be viewed here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4384976-6399-Exhibit-AB-20180216-15.html.

[60] “How to Get Rich in Trump’s Washington.” The New York Times [published online 30 August 2017]. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/magazine/how-to-get-rich-in-trumps-washington.html. Last accessed 2 March 2018.

[61] See: https://robertstryk.com. Last accessed 2 March 2018.

[62] The Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies also known by its English language acronym CAST (Tsentra analiza strategiy i tekhnologiy or Tsentr AST) is a well-regarded, Moscow-based independent think tank founded in 1997 by Ruslan Pukhov and Konstantin Makienko. CAST focuses for the most part on Russian defense matters and has significant connections within the Russian defense community. One of its co-founders, Mr. Pukhov, has advised both the Russian Defense Ministry and the Duma.

[63] “Turf wars over Serbian arms dealer Tesic.” Intelligence Online [published online 14 February 2018]. https://www.intelligenceonline.com/government-intelligence/2018/02/14/turf-war-over-serbian-arms-dealer-tesic,108294106-art. Last accessed 4 March 2018.

[64] Ibid.

[65] “Propadnik specijalnih snaga SAD – FokeFoka u šteku — Insajder: U Beogradu uhapšen američki specijalac, saradnik Bila Klintona.” Sputnik [published online in Serbian 10 February 2018]. https://rs.sputniknews.com/politika/201802101114499631-foka-hapsenje-beograd-insajder/. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[66] https://www.novosti.rs/вести/насловна/хроника.405.html:710990-Insajder-Uhapseni-marinac-saradnik-Klintonovog-asistenta. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

[67] https://infomax.mk/wp/фирма-блиска-до-клинтон-го-испратила-с/. Last accessed 3 March 2018.

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