Serbia is celebrating Belgrade’s WWII Liberation Day on Friday with a military display featuring Russian jets, which Russia’s defence minister will attend.
Maja Zivanovic BIRN Belgrade
Actors dressed in soldiers’ costumes in Belgrade on Thursday ahead of the main event. Photo: Milan Obradovic
Serbia is marking the anniversary of the liberation of its capital, Belgrade, in 1944 from Nazi German occupation on Friday with a military exercise displaying Russian MIG fighter jets, the Serbian Defence Ministry has announced.
The ministry said that for the first time the public will be able to see the six MiG-29 jets that Russia has donated to Serbia. The planes arrived in a dis-assembled state in Serbia on October 2.
Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said then that new planes would be presented at the official ceremonies on October 20, and invited citizens to mark Belgrade Liberation Day “to show a free, brave, and proud Serbia, but also a strong army without which there would not be a free and brave Serbia.
“We decide today who our friends are and who our enemies are. Today, we decide in which direction we will develop the country and in what direction we will lead it. We can do this because they [the liberating soldiers] won us a place on the better side of the world,” Vulin added.
On October 20, 1944, the city was liberated following the Belgrade Offensive in which about 3,000 Yugoslav fighters and 960 Soviet Red Army soldiers were killed.
Vulin’s ministry announced on October 16 that the airforce will take part in the aviation part of the ceremony, adding that at the end of the event visitors can watch the performance of the avio-acrobatic Russian group, Strizi.
“The presentation of the capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces will be attended by the highest state and military leadership led by the President of the Republic of Serbia,” the ministry press release noted.
Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoygu will also be there. The two defence ministers will during the day lay wreaths at the Monument to the Liberators of Belgrade and the Monument to Soviet soldiers. Shoygu and Vulin will later meet Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej.
Traffic in the capital will be under a special regime, while city authorities have laid on extra buses, which will take people to the military airport at Batajnica, where the Freedom 2017 events will take place.
On Thursday, Vulin in Belgrade opened the youth forum of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, CSTO, in which Serbia has observer status. “You have come to a land of free people,” he said.
CSTO representative Yuri Grigorievich Khachaturov thanked Serbia for the event and his “friend” Vulin. “The CSTO has good intentions and… does not have the right to interfere with the internal affairs of the member states, unless they themselves express such a desire, and if they do not have enough strength to solve their own problems,” he said.
The Serbian daily Alo, citing sources “close to Russian and Serbian security services”, said that Serbian and Russian military representatives will talk also about closer co-operation in the military-intelligence sphere.