7 March 2014
A group of Serbian volunteers, self-styled members of the Chetnik movement, has arrived in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on a mission to support the Russian side in the disputed Ukrainian region.
“Our aim is to support the Russian people in the name of the Serbian people,” a Serbian volunteer named Milutin Malisic said.
“We are representing Chetnik movement, which is similar to the Russian Cossacks,” he told the Russian agency Itar Tass.
Malisic, who says his particular group of fighters is called "the Wolves", says they arrived in Crimea on the invitation of Russian fighters - and wanted to repay the Russians for their support for Serbia in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
“During the wars in Yugoslavia, a lot of volunteers fought on the Serbian side, so we, as their brothers, have decided to help them. That is why we are here,” Malisic continued.
It is not clear how many Serbs have headed for Crimea.
In a YouTube video the Serb fighter in traditional furry hat and beard can be seen addressing a crowd of supporters in Crimea with the aid of a Russian translator, talking of their common Slavic blood and Orthodox faith.
Serbian and Russian nationalists are closely allied - bound by a common Orthodox faith and a similar anti-Western outlook.
Serbian nationalists are not the only ones heading for Crimea in support of the Russian cause, however. Both tend to see the EU, NATO and the US and hostile to their national interests.
All over Russia itself volunteers are being recruited via social media. A group called the "Civil Defence of Ukraine" is asking all men aged 18-45 who are ready to travel to Ukraine to volunteer through VKontakte, the main Russian-language social network.
The page was set up just over a week ago and has more than 7,000 followers. It includes an online form calling for recruits and urges male volunteers to cross the border and offer what it calls "moral support" to Russians whom they believe are now at risk following the recent coup in Kiev.
The Crimea, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, is currently the subject of a stand-off between Russia and Ukraine, which accuses Russia of occuping the region.
Most locals in Crimea are ethnic Russians, and many say it was wrong of the former Soviet authorities to transfer Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.
By Marija Ristic