When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke to press representatives at a media conference this week, he seemed tense. He gestures violently with a raised index finger, repeatedly opens his eyes wide, and appears serious. His country has been fighting against the aggressor from Russia since 633. But Zelensky is warning of a different war this time and is urging his partners to be more vigilant.
“If our partners do nothing now, there will be further escalations,” he says. “Pay attention to the Balkans,” warns Zelensky. Russia should now also seek war there “to provide a distraction,” according to Kiev. Ukraine has evidence of Russia’s intention to trigger a conflict between Balkan countries, he emphasized. Zelensky added: “Believe me, we are receiving information. Russia has a long-term plan.”
“No evidence, very limited plausibility”
That plan had already begun with the escalation in the Middle East conflict. “We are sure that Russia and Iran are behind Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel,” he said.
“However, there is no evidence of this and only very limited plausibility,” says FOCUS online Russia expert Gerhard Mangott. “Zelenskyj initially assumes that Russia incited Hamas to carry out the terrorist attack on Israel on October 7th.”
On the one hand, Hamas will not allow itself to be exploited by Russia, and on the other hand, it is by no means certain that Russia can benefit from the Middle East war. “This would only be the case if the war lasted a very long time or developed into a multi-front war,” said the expert.
Two possible conflicts in the Balkans
The President of the Republika Sprska in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, is a close confidant of Vladimir Putin. In January 2023, Dodik was awarded a medal by Putin. He also supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has recently been seen more frequently in Moscow. Dodik also called for Serbia to form a state comprising Serbia, Republika Sprska and Montenegro.
And in Kosovo, military tensions have increased again in recent months. The Kosovo government accused the Serbian army of preparing aggression in September. Serbia has deployed military and police units to 48 forward operating bases along the border with Kosovo. These could attack from “three different directions”. Air defense systems and heavy artillery were also positioned.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić denied any planned military action by his country to the Financial Times. Serbia will not destroy its own years-long efforts to join the EU. “Serbia doesn’t want war.
“Russia would undoubtedly benefit from this”
However, if there were a war between Serbia and Kosovo, Russia would undoubtedly benefit from it, Russia expert Mangott is convinced. However, he currently considers the probability of war to be manageable.
However, according to the Institute for the Study of War, Putin has already benefited from the shift in attention from the war in Ukraine to Israel. Since the outbreak of war in the Middle East, Western financial support and media coverage have shifted, at least in part, away from Ukraine and toward Israel.
In any case, Zelensky is firmly convinced that it would only benefit the Kremlin if military and financial aid had to be distributed across different conflicts. But these are not new problems, he warned at the press conference. There are ongoing conflicts, but they are largely ignored by the West. And that could take revenge.