In May this year, the media in Albania and Kosovo published several articles claiming that Serbian children are being trained by Russian forces, based on a video shared on Twitter by security expert Agim Musliu. Even the event of May 3rd, where a 13-year-old killed 8 minors in a school in Belgrade, was claimed to be due to the influence of such training on children. However, a verification by Faktoje shows that the video dates back 5 years ago. Currently, the private Russian company E.N.O.T, which dealt with the training of children in case of war, does not operate in Serbia.
In May of this year, portals in Albania and Kosovo published an article referring to a post on Twitter by security expert and director of the “Octopus” Institute, Agim Musliu. The published video says that Serbian children are being trained by Russian soldiers. In addition, according to the media, this is also why children in Serbia are so familiar with weapons and violence, associating this with the serious event that took place in Belgrade on May 3, where a 13-year-old shot dead 8 students.
Post on Twitter by Agim Musliu
Portals have massively published the news, without checking when the video was made and what exactly this training is. The articles distributed in the online media emphasize that “Serbia is training children for war”.
Source: Tema newspaper
The article published by “Gazeta Tema” raises a concern about children in Serbia being trained by Russian troops already in its very first lines.
The same article was also distributed by other media, with many associating such training with the May massacre at a school in Belgrade, although there is no connection whatsoever between the two events.
Even the online media, “Balkanweb”, has dedicated an article to the publication of Mr. Musliu, noting: “Children are being trained by the Russians”.
The same news has also been distributed by Kosovo media, with most of which using “bombastic” headlines, as some “horror” happening in this Balkan state.
Source: Bota Sot
But, what is the truth behind this video? Faktoje contacted first Mr. Agim Musliu, to ask him where and when the video came from. The security expert admits that the footage belongs to 2017, when 30 children from Serbia were trained by the Russians.
“In 2017, thirty children from Serbia went to the International Military-Patriotic Camp in Russia, where they underwent training similar to that of special forces – with the use of cold weapons and replicas of automatic weapons and bombs. Russian organization E.N.O.T. The corps that conducts military training for children does not hide the fact that this is turning them into future soldiers”, Musliu told Faktoje.
Even in an interview for “Euronews Albania”, the expert gave details about this video.
“All that we are seeing in this shooting is not new, but it is a doctrine that is repeated because in Serbian society, or in any political government in Serbia, the mindset is to educate or train a new generation for war. This filming is old, several years old, and it was done in a location in Serbia, within Serbia, with Russian instructors,” he said.
We did some further research on this footage, where a documentary made in 2018 by Radio Free Europe reported on the military training of children from the ‘E.N.O.T’ group. RFE emphasized that most of the young participants are children of Serbian veterans.
“30 teenagers from Serbia traveled to Russia to participate in the International Patriotic Military Youth Camp. The camp is run by an ultra nationalist group called E.N.O.T. Corp, whose military trainers teach children how to find their way in the woods, carry weapons and prepare for any possible war,” RFE writes.
In cooperation with the fact-checking colleagues of ” Istinomer ” in Serbia, we managed to translate some videos in the Serbian language, showing children participating in military training.
One of RFE’s Serbian-language reports describes in details what happens at the training camp. In the RFE documentary, it is explained that the project is not supported by the Serbian state.
“This is a report of Radio Free Europe about the participation of 30 Serbian children in the international military-patriotic camp organized in 2017 in Moscow by E.N.O.T corp. Participants from Serbia were the children of Serbian war veterans and the one leading was the chairman of this organization. They learned how to use knives, bombs and automatic weapons. Valery Shambarov from ENOT corp explained that the camp participants come from Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Canada, and Italy and learn how to become soldiers. He explained that their project is neither financed nor supported by the state”, our colleagues from ” Istinomer ” clarify.
Another video circulating online, showing young people training, dates back to 2014. We learned that training in this case is organized by the church, and children are taught to use plastic weapons.
“This is a TV report about a children’s camp organized by the non-canonical Orthodox church based in eastern Serbia (near the city of Bor). Church representatives explained that the children used plastic weapons and that the camp was similar to Boy Scout camps. They refused to say who the teachers/educators in the camp were”, told us our fact-checking colleagues, referring to the published images.
But who trained these young men? According to our online search, E.N.O.T is a private Russian company, founded in 2011 by Igor Mangushev. According to foreign media, their actions were so aggressive that the Serbian authorities requested their departure from the country in the summer of 2018.
In 2021, the funder of E.N.O.T, Vladimir Morozov, was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for extortion, while a year later, the leader of the organization, Roman Telenkevich, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for organizing a criminal community, extortion, and threatening to kill or cause serious bodily harm. According to the BBC, the notorious Russian nationalist Igor Mangushev was shot dead in Ukraine in February this year.
Currently, there is no information on the fate of this company and whether it continues to exercise its influence.
*This article was produced as part of the regional initiative the Center Against Disinformation of the Western Balkans