Uros Prvulovic holding weapons with words: “Somewhere over there” on his Facebook. Photo: Facebook/Uros Prvulovic
The Russian wife of a Serbian fighter allegedly detained in eastern Ukraine says her husband has been missing since November last year, when breakaway pro-Russian authorities called him in for talks.
Elena Bondarenko says the military police in the city of Luhansk summoned Uros Prvulovic for talks on November 24, while he was fighting for pro-Russian forces in the area.
She accuses the authorities of the self-proclaimed Luhansk Republic, controlled by pro-Russian authorities, of holding him for no clear reason.
“He was called in for a ‘conversation’. After that, all connection with him disappeared,” Bondarenko told BIRN in a communication from Russia conducted via the Russian online social network VK.
Asked about the possible reasons for her husband’s detention, she said: “My husband has information about the illegal activities of some people.”
Serbia’s authorities and its diplomats in Kiev and Moscow say have no information of him even being in Ukraine, however. His last Facebook status update was in September last year.
A number of Serbian citizens have become involved in fighting for pro-Russian forces who reject the authority of Ukraine’s pro-Western government and seized a significant slice of territory in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Relations between Serbia and Ukraine have been badly damaged by the presence of Serbian fighters among pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine.
Ukrainian data estimate that about 300 Serbs are or have been fighting in the country. Ukraine’s ambassador to Serbia, Oleksandr Aleksandrovych, told BIRN in November 2017 that the Serbian authorities were ignoring the issue, which he believed had been complicated by Serbia’s close ties with Russia.
Elena Bondarenko and Uros Prvulovic. Courtesy of Bondarenko.
Bondarenko said Prvulovic went to fight in the Luhansk area in 2014 and joined the breakaway statelet’s Seventh Brigade.
Serbia has outlawed its nationals from fighting in foreign conflicts, and documents which BIRN obtained last December show courts in Serbia have convicted three Serbs of fighting for this unit.
The verdicts noted that the Serbs in this unit were given automatic rifles and tasked with securing buildings in the city of Donetsk in 2015.
Prvulovic’s name is not among them – but his wife insisted that “he can’t come back to Serbia”.
She admitted that she had not informed the Serbian authorities about Prvulovic’s absence and presumed detention.
As BIRN previously reported, since 2015 Serbian courts have convicted 29 Serbs of fighting with paramiiltary units in Ukraine. Another 16 accused of fighting in Ukraine are awaiting trial.
Serbia’s Foreign Ministry has meanwhile confirmed that the ministry and its embassies in Moscow and Kiev have no knowledge of Prvulovic.
“Serbian embassies in Moscow and Kiev will, in accordance with their competencies, request the competent Russian or Ukrainian authorities to provide possible information about this particular case,” a written answer said.