Recruited in Athens, Thessaloniki and Belgrade, about 100 Greeks have fought in a “guard of volunteers” based in Vlasenica, in central Bosnia. Greek intelligence service was in touch with the volunteers.
The Greeks and the Serbs have a lot in common — beyond just geographic proximity. The vast majority of both peoples are orthodox Christians, for whom religion plays a crucial role in everyday life. But more importantly, the two countries have repeatedly supported each other throughout modern history. The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 were an important manifestation of this alliance.
Apart from this shared history, some Greeks may be considered to share responsibility with the Serb Bosnian army for the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995. A few weeks ago, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general who commanded the army’s ranks in Srebrenica and Sarajevo, was sentenced to life after being convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Mladic’s political supervisor — and then President of the Republika Srpska (the Serb Republic in Bosnia) — Radovan Karadzic, was found guilty of the same crimes and was sentenced in March 2016 to 40 years imprisonment.
In March 1995, the Greek Volunteer Guard (GVG) was formed at the request of Ratko Mladic himself. The unit consisted of around 100 militarily trained Greeks who decided to support their Serb “orthodox brothers” — as Greeks and Serbs often call one another, in their war against the Muslim community of Bosnia. Some were mercenaries but others went to Bosnia to propagate their ideology and political agenda. Many held — and still hold — ties to Golden Dawn. In the words of GVG member Michalis Mavrogiannakis, “I, like many other Greek volunteers, belong to a political ideology and specifically to Golden Dawn — and this is why we went up there [Bosnia].”
The political world was no less supportive of the Serbs. Afraid of the Yugoslav wars expanding to Greece, Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis (New Democracy) and Andreas Papandreou (PASOK) kept close ties with Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and reportedly sent artillery and goods to Serbia and Montenegro, thus violating the 1992 UN embargo. Moreover, Greece was the only EU country to vote against NATO air strikes on Serbian positions in 1994 and refused to send Greek troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. When Milosevic visited Athens in December 1994, Papandreou expressed his support of Belgrade’s claims in Bosnia.
Many nationalist Greek volunteers fought with the Serbs in the Bosnian War under the effect of how the Bosnian War were depicted in Greek Media. Some of them were also present in Srebrenica Massacre. Even though they were not stationed in Srebrenica itself, several reports agree that 10 to 12 members of the GVG were present in the tragedy-stricken town when the massacre took place. In a telecommunication intercepted from the Bosnian Serb army, Mladic is heard ordering troops to raise a Greek flag on Srebrenica to honour “the brave Greeks fighting on our side.” One of the volunteers, Vasilis Schizas, posted a picture of himself on his Facebook account holding a pig’s head with “Sebrenica [sic] 1995” as a description. The pig’s head is regularly used as a threat to Muslims, referring to the forbidden consumption of pork in Islam. The Greek presence in Srebrenica is further proven by the commander of the Drina Corps, Zvonko Bajagic, in his testimony during Karadzic’s trial in ICTY. However, this testimony was never reported by Greek media.
Today there is an inreasing call in Greece for bringing the former militiamen to justice.