Serbian authorities have allowed into the country a Russian antiwar activist who was previously denied entry and had spent more than one day at the Belgrade airport
ByJOVANA GEC Associated Press
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian authorities on Friday allowed into the country a Russian antiwar activist who was previously denied entry and had spent more than one day at the Belgrade airport.
Peter Nikitin said he received no explanation from the authorities for what happened. A fierce critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Nikitin told Serbian media he believed Moscow was behind his ordeal.
“I have no idea how I became persona non grata. The only explanation is that this was done on Putin’s order,” he said. “This is an illustration how big an influence Russian regime holds here.”
Though it formally seeks European Union membership and has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Serbia has maintained friendly relations with Moscow and refused to impose Western-backed sanctions over the aggression.
Serbia’s pro-Russian intelligence chief Aleksandar Vulin this week was sanctioned by the United States for alleged crime and corruption and for aiding “Russian malign influence.” Serbian media have reported that Vulin wiretapped a Russian opposition meeting in Belgrade in 2021, which he has denied.
Nikitin holds both Russian and Dutch citizenship and has a residence permit for Serbia, where he and his family have lived for years.
He was turned back early on Thursday upon returning from a trip abroad and told to return to Frankfurt, Germany, from where he had flown in. Nikitin refused this and stayed at the Belgrade airport until he was allowed into the country on Friday.
Nikitin is well known as an outspoken critic of Putin and of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was one of the organizers of antiwar and pro-democracy protests in Serbia called for by Russians and Ukrainians living in the country.
Some 200,000 Russian citizens have moved to Serbia since the start of the war in Ukraine as the Balkan country requires no entry visas for Russians and is a fellow-Slavic nation. Many have fled being drafted into the army or moved their businesses to a sanctions-free country.