Vudi Xhymshiti: Western diplomacy is playing Russian roulette with 'Serbian world'

Friendly Western ambassadors appease Slobodan Milosevic's heirs in Belgrade. 'Open Balkan' is another attempt to create Greater Serbia and an exit to the Adriatic. Western diplomats are behaving like spineless. I am afraid that some of them are so deeply corrupt that they are swimming or drowning in the kompromats of the Russian services.

This is what British-Kosovo journalist Vudi Xhymshiti told BGNES.

He mainly covers armed conflicts around the world and their impact on human rights, civil and political liberties for a number of Western media. In 2023 he founded The Frontliner magazine, based in London.

We spoke about the role of the Serbian World geopolitical project in the Balkans and the shocking links between former US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar and the state leadership in Belgrade. Escobar was dismissed following the publication of a major Frontliner investigation.

'Serbia has made a choice to retain its Slobodan Milosevic-era mentality. They play their games, manage to successfully evade responsibility, and continue to do what they want. Seven months after the start of Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine in February 2022, Serbia signed a foreign policy alignment agreement with Moscow in September of that year. And got away with it. No consequences, no repercussions. Some very friendly American diplomats continued to appease and empower Serbia in the hope that it would eventually break away from Russian influence,' Xhymshiti said.

The US State Department gives no explanation why it allows Serbia's political manoeuvres in the Balkans. Belgrade is the source of inter-ethnic tensions and all security problems in the region. To this day, the only way US diplomats refute the claims that they are appeasing Serbia is by denying the truth for everyone to see. They simply say, 'Oh, that is not true, we are not doing that'. Well, the evidence says otherwise, the reality says otherwise. And now it turns out that somebody has other problems and connections with Serbian funding sources.

Even Richard Grenell, the former U.S. Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration, has been implicated on numerous occasions of taking money that somehow came and was provided by the Kremlin.

'He has been found to have taken money from a foundation (Magyar) that is owned and funded by the Hungarian government. It is a publicly known fact that Hungary is a Russian outpost on the European continent. And it has been confirmed by numerous other individuals and sources, as well as by politicians and public figures in Serbia, that Grenell took money from the Republic of Serbia to lobby on their behalf. And even if he did not take money, even his political narrative, even just his tweets say that this man has lunch, breakfast and dinner in Belgrade,' the journalist explained.

Asked whether the West underestimates the destructive role of Serbian World, which essentially copies Russian World, Vudi Xhymshiti replied:

'I am afraid the West does not underestimate or overestimate. I fear that some Western politicians and diplomats are deeply, deeply corrupt, so much so that they are swimming or drowning in kompromat, probably of the Russian secret services, hence their silence in the face of such Russian geopolitical manoeuvres. Serbia is simply a puppet of Russia, seeking to exert influence in the heart of Europe and to reverse the direction from Western influence to the Moscow-controlled East.'

'We as journalists must investigate thoroughly and expose as much as possible. To find and call for accountability and someone to be held responsible for these revelations. This must stop before it is too late. We cannot expect, frankly we cannot rely on, the bankrupt morality of some of Europe's politicians,' the Frontliner founder emphasized.

Xhymshiti describes the Balkan policy of Berlin and Paris as "absolutely shameful":

It feels like these people are appointed by the Kremlin to do what the Kremlin wants. I am not suggesting that it is. All I'm saying is that these people are absolutely spineless, given how powerful they are, how much power they have in their hands to turn the table and move the political agenda of European Union member states in the interest of democracy, in the interest of protecting our national security from Russian influence. This is happening every day as we speak. And it needs to stop and people need to wake up.

Asked whether the crimes of the Belgrade regime of the 1990s must be repeated by the same players for the West to take action, Xhymshiti pointed out that "we must do everything we can to prevent this from happening. What we can see from the way Western politicians behave is that they are detached from reality and do not see it coming, but it is coming.

'We're talking about the same gang, the same group of people who were involved in the wars of the 1990s, which took ten years for the Western 'civilised' world to say to Serbia, 'OK, enough is enough, now we're going to have to bomb you because you don't seem to understand in civilised language that this has to stop, and you won't stop.' Serbia has not purged itself of this way of thinking, as it did in 1999. They are still in power and are working very hard to continue what they were aiming for before: an Adriatic Sea outlet, with a possible future of hosting a Russian navy,' the journalist warned, adding:

'This must be prevented at all costs and before it is too late. And I believe Western powers are in a much better position than ever to stop it because Serbia is surrounded by NATO member states.'

In this context, Xhymshiti also commented on the 'Open Balkan' project.

'This is another attempt by the Republic of Serbia to restore Yugoslavia, where it had privileges over all other nations. The aim is again to give Belgrade an extra advantage to try another manoeuvre to create the Greater Serbia it has always aspired to. All politicians who support Serbia's Open Balkan, which is also a Kremlin project, are either corrupt politicians or have compromises from the Russian secret services,' he insisted.

Xhymshiti reminded that Serbia hosts a Russian spy centre in Nis and the so-called "Cultural Centre" of Wagner in Belgrade, which mainly works to recruit human resources for the mercenary armed group.

'Serbia hosts a significant, huge number of Russians who have successfully managed to circumvent or avoid the effects of Western-imposed sanctions on Russian businesses. In a sense, Serbia is Moscow's beachhead in continental Europe, helping the survival and resurgence of Putin's war machine with weapons, money, manpower, information warfare and political power and influence,' he said.

In March, Frontliner magazine published a major investigation questioning the integrity of U.S. special envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar. The investigation detailed financial ties between Escobar's family and Serbian government authorities, suggesting his neutrality in the sensitive dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has been compromised.

Xhymshiti also uncovered financial ties between Escobar's (Serbian) wife and Serbia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These ties cast a shadow over the diplomat's expected neutrality and impartiality and raise doubts about his actions during critical diplomatic events, such as the crisis in the northern Kosovo region of Mitrovica in June-August 2023 and the attempted annexation of northern Kosovo by Serbian paramilitaries in September of that year.

The Frontliner also uncovered a contract between the law firm McGinnis Lochridge LLP and the government of Republika Srpska dated 23 December 2019, headed by pro-Russian President Milorad Dodik. That contract provides for monthly payments of $80,000 to the law firm for advising and representing Republika Srpska on international legal matters. The document shows an alleged family relationship between Manuel Escobar, a partner in the law firm, and Gabriel Escobar.

In May this year, the US State Department announced Escobar's withdrawal from his position, but called it a 'regular rotation' rather than a dismissal.

Vudi Xhymshiti describes the subsequent massive smear campaign against him, which he says was orchestrated by media close to the US embassy in Pristina.

'We became interested in Escobar's origins and potential connections after many interesting statements and political narratives he made that were essentially intended to undermine the democratic processes and the position of the Kosovo leadership on their legitimate right to defend their territorial and constitutional order against aggression financed and organized by Belgrade. We were very curious to try to find out what Escobar's motives might be for acting as if he wanted to organise the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Kosovo while meeting with the opposition political parties that were ousted from power in the last elections. Mr Escobar's wife is Serbian, she is involved in all sorts of interesting Serbian activities that are in one way or another financed by the Republic of Serbia,' the journalist explained.

'Escobar often made statements like that if the Kosovo government led by Albin Kuti does not want to establish the Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, there are alternative parties that would like to do so. Belgrade has been involved in paramilitary actions, for example the attack in the village of Banska, northern Kosovo, in September. It was aimed at annexing northern Kosovo in the same style as Russia annexed Crimea. Although this happened despite a thorough investigation, Escobar, it seems to me, has reassured Vucic: "You can do whatever you want and you can get away with anything,' Xhymshiti further said.

He drew attention to another statement by Escobar - just a few days before the Banska attack, the diplomat said that 'if Kosovo continues to reject the establishment of the Association of Serbian Municipalities, there will be serious security problems'. His statement was followed precisely by the Serbian terrorist attack.

'My question to Escobar and the State Department is, 'Did the State Department know that Serbia was involved in orchestrating the attack in Banjska?' Mr Escobar, were you aware and were you involved in orchestrating the Banska attack in the Republic of Kosovo?" I am not surprised that Mr Escobar and the US Embassy in the Republic of Kosovo have managed to get away with the many scandals they have made. This is a clear sign that they are not interested in a stable democracy developing in the country. Can you believe that the US Ambassador invites the editors-in-chief of the media in the Republic of Kosovo to have dinner with him and work, have lunch and have afternoon tea - this is ridiculous to the point of outrageousness! I have come across the activities of the American Ambassador, Jeffrey M. Hovenier, who even gives out awards to journalists. An embassy that hands out awards to journalists? What are you? The Pulitzer Center for crisis reporting? Reporters Without Borders? The committee to protect journalists? These are practices that autocracies like the Kremlin employ. Vladimir Putin awarded 300 journalists in Russia for friendly and motherly coverage of Russian geopolitics,' Xhymshiti explained.

He also sent a message to independent journalists, especially in the Balkans:

Don't let yourself be bought out by anybody. Stand your ground. Regardless of who is attacking you, regardless of the powerhouse they're coming from, stand your ground. If your findings are based on facts, then you are not at fault, you have found and exposed someone's crimes. Those who have committed those crimes, they are the ones that have to be held accountable, not us that are exposing them. We are only the messengers, and we have to do our job necessarily at any cost, because it is important that we keep those checks and balances in place. And we continue to push forward to make sure our spotlight is going to be shed into the darkness of that information so that people will know and will make a choice to do what they feel is the right thing to do. I BGNES


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