At the end of September of this year, a number of new problematic factors emerged in the process of development of the situation in the Balkans, which could significantly complicate the situation in the peninsula. First of all, it is about another aggravation of relations between Serbia and the Kosovo region due to a number of questionable actions from both sides. For example, on September 25, Serbian Presidents A. Vucich and Kosovo's head H. Tachy made a joint statement on the possible change of the border (exchange of border areas mainly populated by ethnic Serbs and Albanians) to “achieve a historic peace settlement.”

Kosovo's opponents of any compromises with Serbia, led by the radical left-nationalist party Vetëvendosje, immediately responded to these plans with mass protests in Pristina. In addition, on September 29, Tachy, accompanied by a Kosovo special forces unit, visited the northern districts of the region in order to find out how the local Serb population perceives the idea of exchanging territories. In particular, he visited the sensitive for Serbia zone of the mountain reservoir of Gazivoda, which is located on the territory of self-proclaimed Kosovo and is part of the Serbian water supply system. 

At the same time, Serbia's leadership treated this visit negatively. Thus, Serbian President Vucich described Tachy’s trip with his guards to the north of Kosovo as a “gang attack by the Kosovo security forces on the Serbian population of the region,” during which they conducted a clean-up operation of adjacent roads and the groundless arrest of local citizens, so as took control on power plant facilities together with the Gazivoda vater reservoir.

Referring to such allegations, Serbia's president accused Tachy of deliberate provocation and violation of UN Security Council Resolution #1244, which allows Kosovo’s security forces to remain in the northern regions of the province only with the permission of NATO and the full consent of the local Serb community. Therefore, he ordered to increase the combat readiness of the armed forces of Serbia. In turn, following instructions from Belgrade, the Serbian population of the border areas of Kosovo and Serbia held a series of protests, simultaneously blocking transport communications.

In this way, Belgrade created an official background to ask Russia for military support. This question, among others, was raised by the Serbian side at an urgent meeting between Vucich and Putin on October 2 in Moscow, where, according to an official report, prospects for the development of Russian-Serbian relations were discussed, as well as topical issues of international politics and the particular situation in the Balkans, and especially in Kosovo. At the same time, V. Putin promised to provide full support to Serbia, including in the matter of ensuring its security.

Another negative factor in the development of the situation in the Balkans is the failure of referendum on September 30 to change the country's name. Another negative factor in the development of the situation in the Balkans is the failure of referendum on September 30 to change the country's name, through which Macedonia's authorities are tyring to resolve long-term contradictions with Greece. 39.6% of the population took part in the voting, 91.5% of this number voted in support of the change of the name “Macedonia” to “Northern Macedonia”. As is known, the referendum was declared invalid, since under Macedonian law, voter turnout should be at least 50% ...

From a legal point of view, the nature of the referendum was purely advisory. But the fact that it did not take place can be considered a serious political collision. So, in the framework of the vote, the citizens of Macedonia were simply to confirm the European and Euro-Atlantic choice of the country. But, obviously, this didn't happen. Now the Macedonian parliament must decide on this issue. At the same time, for this, the ruling parliamentary coalition does not have enough votes. And if the required number of mandates is not reached, then the ruling coalition will in fact be forced to announce early parliamentary elections, which will necessarily affect the distribution of political forces in the country.

At the same time, some facts are known that indicate Russia's involvement in the failure of the referendum. Thus, the main non-political force opposing Macedonia’s membership in NATO so as its European geoplitical course is a ultras movement, fan-organisation of the Vardar football club, that is owned by Russian oligarch S. Samsonenko. It was on their initiative the day before, and during the referendum, mass youth rallies were gathered calling for Macedonians to vote against the Western course of the country. They even called upon people to support Russia and Putin personally. The Macedonian Orthodox Church also indirectly opposes the country's entry into NATO and the EU. Quite possible, that the recent visits of the Russian World ideologists - A. Dugin in particular - to Makedonia were also scheduled due to the upcoming referendum.

Despite the allegedly different reasons and content of such events, they are united by a single factor, namely, the interests of Russia. In particular, at this stage Russia intends to:

first, to disperse the efforts of the West, to divert their attention from the conflict in Ukraine and tension in Baltics by provoking conflicts in other regions, including in the Balkans. At the same time, Russia, aggravating the situation, may contribute to outbreak of an armed conflict, which will allow it to deploy its troops on the Balkan Peninsula under the pretext of helping Serbia to ensure its security;

secondly, to force the West to resume cooperation with Russia, including with the help of powerful levers of pressure, based on joint actions to stabilize the situation in Europe and Balkans in particular. In this regard, Russia is trying to bet on the critical nature of this issue for Europe, since the emergence of a new armed conflict in the Balkans will be a much bigger problem for Europe than the armed confrontation in Syria;

thirdly, to prevent the accession of the Western Balkan countries to NATO and the EU. In particular, in October 2016, Russia, with the assistance of Serbia's government, already tried to carry out a military coup in Montenegro, thus blocking its accession to the Alliance. In turn, in such same strategy against Macedonia, Russia uses Greece (as well as Hungary against Ukraine).

At the moment, all these issues are of particular importance for the Kremlin, which is explained by the US sanctions measures against Russia. In particular, the United States has taken such steps since April of this year within the framework of the law “On Counteracting America’s Opponents through Sanctions.” In addition, on August 27, the United States introduced a new package of sanctions against Russia in connection with the so-called Skrypal case, promising Moscow to expand them substantially if the Russian side refuses to provide guarantees that it will not use chemical weapons in the future, and will not give consent to the "local inspections" by UN specialists.

Russia has begun the implementation of its plan to destabilize the situation in the Balkans with commencement of work of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. On August 21, Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov on a working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met with regional leaders. In fact, it was after this that the supporters of Russia in the Balkans began to take active steps to provoke the aforementioned events on the peninsula.

Russia has begun the implementation of its plan to destabilize the situation in the Balkans with commencement of work of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. On August 21, Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov on a working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met with regional leaders. It is possible that we will soon witness another conflict situation in the Balkans, namely in the Republika Srpska (RS) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latest visit of RS President M. Dodik to Russia on September 30 can be concidered as a precursor of this. President Vladimir Putin hosted the guest in Sochi, where they possibly could discuss a scenario of exacerbation of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular through returning the issue of the withdrawal of the Republika Srpska from BiH and its accession to Serbia on the agenda. By the way, in 2017 M. Dodik already voiced it.

As always, all of Russia's efforts to provoke tensions in some region are accompanied by a demonstration of force. So, on October 1 the joint Russian-Serbian air-tactical military exercises “BARS-2018” started in the territory of Serbia with the participation of MiG-29 jets and Mi-8 helicopters. During this year's exricises the skills on intercepting air targets, attacking of  ground targets and disembarking airborne troops are being worked out. By the way, similar exercises "BARS-2016" were held in parallel with the attempt to organize a military coup in Montenegro.

Considering the situation in Balkans, we once again can see, that Russia has been considering the constantly troubled region as a lever of pressure to the West and keeps investing funds in keeping a special political situation in the peninsula.

by Ivan Sichen', InfoResist,