The Serbian Ministry of Defense has reportedly arrested two Americans from Florida for filming military facilities in Belgrade using a drone, Serbian television is reporting. Two women from Ukraine traveling with the men were released after being questioned.
The news follows several other security-related issues in Serbia involving foreigners. An American was reportedly arrested earlier this month in possession of a firearm, and “pro-government media alleged that he was a former Navy SEAL and had planned the assassination of unidentified Serbian officials,” per the AP.
The Ministry of Defense said the two Americans and two Ukrainians were detained on Sunday trying to film buildings that once housed the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Yugoslavia, until they were destroyed by NATO bombing in 1999. The Serbian Defense Minister said, “It is not a coincidence that such a large number of foreign citizens tried to bust into premises controlled by the Army of Serbia.”
The arrests come as Russia and the West are vying for influence in Serbia, the largest of the states to emerge from the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Orthodox Christian and Slavic, Serbia has close historical ties with Moscow, but President Aleksandar Vucic has made joining the European Union a priority.
Serbian broadcaster Pink reported Tuesday that the two Americans still being held by police are from Florida and claim they are working for a non-governmental organization.
The two Ukrainian women with the Americans have been released, with local media
they are from Luhansk, a city in the east of Ukraine, which is occupied by Russia.
There is still some confusion
the number of arrests, with Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin claiming that members of Military Police on Sunday and Monday detained a total of eight foreign nationals in connection with the incident.
Serbian security in the northern city of Novi Sad reported that a British and an Afghan national were detained after entering an unused military facility. Also, a couple with Spanish passports were also detained in the nearby holiday resort of Fruska Gora after attempting to walk into an army depot, another report said.
Why the Americans were there and why they were interested in a bombed out military building is bound to generate some questions. Not the least of which is why were two Ukrainian women with them.
There were some reports that the Serbian military has denied, that the site was radioactive, and workers feared working there in the cleanup.
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