Original article (in Serbian) was published on 27/05/2022
There is almost no media in Serbia that did not report the alleged statement of the mayor of Kyiv and former boxer Vitali Klitschko for a Swiss web portal that “Ukrainians will get rid of Russians the same way Albanians got rid of Serbs”. The news was shared by many – Tanjug, RTS, RTV, Nova.rs, Blic, Informer and other tabloids, as well as local web portals such as Kossev. The Embassy of Ukraine in Belgrade also came forward, and the Minister of Police, Aleksandar Vulin, reacted sharply. In the end, Vitali Klitschko denied all of it. The web portal that first published this alleged statement is from Switzerland, but it is intended for the Albanian diaspora and is very biased in its reporting – judging by the texts, Albanians are positive, Serbs are negative. The texts are unsigned, there is no imprint on the site, but none of that was enough for the media to doubt the credibility of this source.
Two days ago, on May 25, the Swiss web portal lecanton27.ch published the text with the headline “Mayor of Kyiv, Ukrainian Klitschko in Davos: Thank you Kosovo, thank you Albanians! “The same way you got liberated from Serbia, we will also be free from Russia”.
The text signed by the “editorial office” states that Klitschko “compared Russian crimes and genocide against civilians in Ukraine with the crimes of Serbs in Kosovo”.
“I am very glad to have met an Albanian journalist for the first time, which is a good opportunity to convey a message to the Albanian people in the Balkans. We have heard and read that you Albanians, like us Ukrainians, are people of peace and freedom-loving. Today, we are fighting against the Russian regime, which is trying to occupy our country, just as you used to be occupied by Serbia”, Klitschko allegedly said. There are also two photos in which, apparently, the journalist of this web portal is shaking hands with Klitschko in Davos.
The radicalism of this statement was not enough to cause a slight suspicion among the newsrooms who shared it in Serbia, and the fact that it was a questionable source did not arouse suspicion either.
A few minutes of searching the site is enough to question its credibility – the texts are unsigned, i.e., they are signed by the “editorial office”, there is no imprint, i.e., data on who makes up the editorial and journalistic team, and the tone of the texts is biased.
Although the site has a Swiss domain, which may give a hint of impartiality, it is a web portal intended for Albanians in the diaspora – the texts are in Albanian, in most cases they concern topics related to Albania and Kosovo, the political activities of Kosovo politicians like Albin Kurti are monitored in a very positive tone. The negative tone is reserved for Serbs and other “enemies”.
The refutation arrived before the end of the day – Vitali Klitschko warned on his Facebook profile of a “statement” that was being shared all day by various media, including the Russian ones.
“I did not comment on that. Even before they share such information and quote anything, journalists should look for audio or video evidence for such an exclusive”, Klitschko wrote.
This suspicious statement from the obscure web portal caused a slight political shock today – the Ukrainian embassy in Belgrade said that it could not guarantee the accuracy of the statement, but that Klitschko did not have the authority to state Ukraine’s position on the issue of foreign policy. The announcement of the embassy was shared by even more media, which in the rest of the text, such as web portals N1, Euronews or Politika, “reminded” without hesitation of what Klitschko said to the Swiss web portal as if it undoubtedly happened. Vitali Klitschko’s “statement” was condemned by the Freedom and Justice Party, which was also reported by many web portals.
The Minister of Police, Aleksandar Vulin, also spoke, calling Albanians “Shiptars”. He said, as Tanjug reports, “what Klitschko assigns to the Shiptars in Serbia, he will have to assign to the Russians in Ukraine”.
Many people in Serbia who believed the statement was true visited Vitali Klitschko’s profiles on social networks such as Instagram and left numerous threats, curses and insults on his photos and posts.