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Knives and guns: Serb-Russian youth camp closed after outcry

August 17, 2018
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In this Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. file photo, a man waves a flag showing support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in front of the monument of late Serbian Duke Mihailo Obrenovic, in Republika Srpska, in Belgrade, Serbia. After a public outcry, police on Friday Aug. 17, 2018, closed a summer youth camp on a mountain in western Serbia organized by Russian and Serbian far-right groups. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — After a public outcry, police on Friday closed a summer youth camp on a mountain in western Serbia organized by Russian and Serbian far-right groups.

The camp on Mount Zlatibor included children as young as 12 dressed in military uniforms who were being trained by Russian and Serbian instructors on how to use guns and knives. A similar exercise was undertaken last year in Russia.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the camp was dismantled “because of possible abuse of children” and the participants were sent home.

Rights groups and many others were outraged after a video was published showing young people going through military-style drills in the camp decorated with Russian and Serbian flags.

The organizers of the “Patriotic Youth” camp claim its intention is to teach children self-defense skills, first aid and develop traditional Serb-Russian friendship.

“When we see children in military uniforms, when we see that military drill that they pass through, it is clear this is not the Boy Scouts, but an ideological indoctrination,” Isidora Stakic of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy was quoted as saying by N1 television.

Serbia, which formally wants to join the European Union, has been under strong Russian propaganda pressure to shelve its pro-Western course.

Serbia, which remains the only Russian ally in the Balkans, has refused to join Western sanctions against the Kremlin over its role in fighting in eastern Ukraine. Serbia has also been developing close military ties with Moscow.

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