Russian authorities opened the doors of its embassy in Belgrade on August 14 and invited Serbs to pay their respects to victims of the recent violence in South Ossetia. Dozens of people turned up to sign a book of condolences under a huge Russian Federation flag with a symbol of mourning on it.
There were no young people among them and very few women. Some of the mourners displayed badges of Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj.
"I am acting in solidarity with Russia in its defense of its citizens and in defense of peace -- in that part of the world and everywhere," Branko Kitanovic, general secretary of the all-but-forgotten New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which was formed in 1990, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service. "As a communist and as a Serb, I am always in solidarity with Russia, which stands for peace."
Unsurprisingly, others echoed those sentiments.
One man called Georgia "nothing other than a vassal to the U.S.," adding that President Mikheil Saakashvili "came to power by means of certain colored revolutions, which are nothing more than coups."
"I sympathize with the pain of the Russian people, and I think that we share a similar destiny here and in Kosovo," said a woman visitor.
An elderly man said "love for the Russian people" brought him to the embassy. "This is love for innocent Russian victims; and for those who are now being killed because of the betrayal of the Georgian regime."
Another woman expressed sadness "that one friendly people, like Georgians, is now standing against another friendly people, the Russians, and doing it merely because of American interests."
The irony is striking of Russia's exploitation of the Georgian tragedy in Serbia, of all places -- highlighting the inconsistency of Kremlin opposition to Kosovo's independence and support for separatism in Georgia's breakaway regions.
Taking it a step further, consistency might dictate that Serbia should be weighing in against separatist ambitions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
-- Zelimir Bojovic