Preamble: The interview below is taken from Colonel Cassad. However, the material at Cassad is a translation into Russian of a Serbian language original from KM Novine. The opening paragraph and the final sentence are comments from Colonel Cassad, the remainder of the text is the interview conducted by the Serbian news agency. Our translation made use of both these versions, which contain slight variations between them.
Dejan Berić: it is in our blood to fight injustice
An excellent interview with the Serbian sniper, Dejan Berić, who since the summer has been actively engaged in fighting for the Novorossiya Army against Ukrainian fascists. In autumn, as there was no information about him, many people were worried that Dejan might have been killed; however, he is still alive and healthy, and he continues fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades.
“Novorossiya is fighting against fascism, may God forgive the disgrace of the Serbian government”
Despite the “boyish” nickname and character, ‘Deki’ has displayed an honourable and courageous attitude toward life. We talked with him about Novorossiya, his motives for fighting there, how to be a sniper, events on the battlefield, and the people and the authorities who make up and who lead Serbia.
The Serbian volunteer in Novorossiya is the kind of man who would appear to be already extinct in Serbia: a man who neither deals nor compromises with the devil; a man who considers it an honour to die in the struggle against injustice; the kind of man who made our nation brave and who, for centuries, preserved the uniquely Serbian quality of keeping the sword unsheathed, both in epic songs and on the battlefield. Dejan Berić, a Serbian volunteer in Novorossiya, though he never expected to, took up the fight on all our behalves and has become one such man.
What are you doing in Novorossiya? What was your motivation to go to the edge of the world, of which we have, until recently, known almost nothing, and to risk your life there? How and why?
What I am doing in Novorossiya, I have already stated many times. So now I will be brief. I came to help our Orthodox brothers and to fight against NATO’s criminals, who bombed our country; they were rattling their sabres and threatening to attack the Crimea. I forgot one fact: that NATO and the countries supporting it are nothing but cowards. They only dare to start a conflict if there is a possibility of bombing from afar and ninety percent of the targets are civilian, in order to sow fear and panic. Thus, they are not directly involved, but their influence here is clearly visible. Also, several American officers were wounded here. They were not in combat—they stay a little further away from the front line and give instructions on the importance of destroying civilian targets. I have heard it from more than one captured Ukrainian soldier; many repeated the same story.
How do you view developments in the former Ukraine today? If you had waited until this time, would your decision be the same today as it was then—to come to Novorossiya?
The situation in Ukraine is beyond awful. If it was not for the terrible censorship in the Serbian press, you could see all the horrors of a civil war. What does appear is more than fifty percent lies.
I can give you a simple explanation for that—the only objective newspapers in Serbia are those that were not bought out by foreigners. And there are none of them, because those that were not bought out are controlled by a government that is no longer Serbian and is driving Serbia to complete destruction. I would love to be wrong… If I had not come at the very beginning, I would have come after I had seen the first photos of children killed in the streets, in schools…
Everyone has a different conscience. I have never forgotten what the NATO criminals did to Serbia. I will always repeat this, not to show that I have not forgotten, but to remind those who did forget. I just cannot imagine myself sitting in a warm room, playing computer games, while the fascist vampire is awakening in its worst form.
Although his words were very useful and needed to be heard, he had been skilfully “hiding” from the local and other media. One day he went into action with a group of Novorossiyan fighters to assist in the execution of an exceptionally important assignment. He didn’t realise that, from then on, his popularity would jump to a new level.
The Serbian public became aware about you when it was announced that you had set fire to an armoured vehicle of the Ukrainian Nazi junta armed only with a rifle. For you, personally, was that one of the most important events in the war in the former Ukraine?
I had been skilfully hiding from the public until we went to help Motorola’s group when they punched through the Snezhnoe-Stepanovka-Marinovka corridor. They are always accompanied by a reporter who films what they do on a small camera. He asked me for an interview, saying that it was only for them, but the next day the video appeared on YouTube.
I went around all the areas where battles were fought. Of Serbs, I saw only one fighter—Slaviša from Belgrade. Sadly, he is no longer with us here; he is resting now, because when a plane bombed the house they were in, he caught a piece of shrapnel in his stomach. He is alright now, but he is still not up to hard work.
Dejan emphasises that he is not in Novorossiya with Četniks or any other group but with locals, for whom he came here. It is very important to him that the locals accept him as one of their own.
On my beret I am proud to wear a five-pointed star next to the bat emblem of the military scouts. Some people in Serbia do not like it. However, it is my choice. People are proud of it here.
I cannot single out the most important event. Maybe it was near Marinovka, when I was able to set fire to the armoured vehicle with shots from a sniper rifle. I used armour-piercing incendiary ammunition. This was not some heroic feat that can be ascribed to me, it was simply that the APC advanced onto our positions firing a large-calibre weapon. It passed us, so we moved forward a little further than planned. I fired at it more from impotence, since we had no anti-tank weapons with us. Its armour was weak, I do not know where I hit it, but, after a few rounds, it was already ablaze.
The conventional wisdom is that snipers find themselves a shelter and from there, “alone”, they fire on moving targets of their choice. What exactly is the role of a sniper in war?
That view is a bit misleading. I am a regular soldier, like others who have sub-machine guns. A sniper, I became by force of circumstance. The sniper from the famous Donetsk Airport would kill two or three civilians every day. We were unable to locate him for four days. During those four days the toll reached twelve people killed, of whom only one was male, the rest all women and children. I took a sniper rifle and went to wait for him. I had identified the direction he was firing from and found a position where I could await him. I was lucky that I had thought correctly and I discovered him on his first shot. He never fired again. After that they asked me to eliminate snipers. And that, I suppose, is my main task. Or, at least, it is the hardest one.
Sometimes I read the comments in newspapers that some people see the sniper as a killer of civilians. It hurts to read such things, but a wise man once said: ‘it’s not important what is said, but who says it’. So I am still a sniper in reconnaissance and sabotage, currently the Ryazan Brigade, named in honour of our commander. We were a reconnaissance and sabotage group with one APC, and now we are a brigade with three hundred well-equipped fighters.
How do the Novorossiyan people, and how do you, view the reaction from Serbia—both the people and the government?
I do not want to talk about how people here view the reaction from Serbia. Because I am not able to explain to them the actions of the Serbian government.
I will just say that it does not matter what the government thinks, it is important what the people think. There is a lot of moral support, and that is very important. The government has sold out Serbia. How, then, can it be a benchmark of our relations? We are ordinary people, who have always shed our blood for one another—we are the measure of the relations between the two peoples. It is just as during the criminal bombing of Serbia, when the authorities in Russia did not represent the Russian people. Russians came to help as volunteers. Many got married both in Serbia, and in Republika Srpska [the Serbian entity within the borders of Bosnia Herzegovina -ed.].
Recently, a law was passed providing for criminal penalties for Serbian citizens participating in wars outside their mother country. That law does not apply to professional Serbian soldiers in NATO “peacekeeping” forces, who volunteered for those missions for solely pecuniary reasons. Those who go from Serbia in this way to fight other people’s wars are officially said to be proud representatives of their country around the world.
You are in Novorossiya to defend its people against fascism. You are involved in protecting Orthodox holy places and countries and are not looking for any financial gain. How do you view this law?
The question is well placed. I will give you my opinion, but first I will convey what some of the ex-soldiers of the criminal NATO armies say.
Some soldiers joined our First International Brigade who had served professionally in the French Army for five years. This was three months ago. One man, the most respected in that group, was a Frenchman of Serbian origin, Nikola. He is now the commander of the international group. We no longer serve together, but we keep in touch as much as possible. Is there anything more to say about NATO when you hear him say: “I served in that criminal army in Afghanistan and I am ashamed of it. I came here to fight against fascism”?
What must have happened to the man, that he left a well-paid, well organised army and came here to fight in an army with no pay? As for organization, there is still plenty to do yet. When he arrived, I told him how we fight here; he did not believe me. About twenty days later, when I was in Donetsk, we met again. He smiled, and told me that he thought we had been trying to scare him, but that everything was as we had said. Perhaps many people do not understand why he did what he did. I know. I saw him when he came and again recently. Nobody can drive him away from here, his conscience has awoken.
It would be great if the conscience would awaken in Serbia too. More and more people are coming who served in the army of some NATO country and who want, at last, to fight the good fight.
Dejan says that the law prohibiting taking part in wars was adopted according to an initiative of someone outside of Serbia who wanted to protect their own interests.
Serbia is no longer a country of its own people. Our beautiful land is ruled by foreigners, with their blind servants in the government. I read that law, and to me, as a man who knows what loyalty to his country means, it is beyond laughable. Why? I cannot quote it exactly, but it also states that only the regular Serbian Army can take part in wars outside Serbia’s borders. Hence the Serbian Army became one of the cogs in NATO’s machine. The Serbian Army will participate in the killing of civilians, just as Serbia was brutalized by seventeen separate armies.
May God forgive our government who adopted such a shameful law. I thought it was terrible when I read it. I did not want to get into politics, but, by their actions, they force me… Aleksandar Vučić [the current Prime Minister of Serbia -ed.] called on us to return to Serbia and not to dishonour her in the world any further. I do not know, was he ashamed of his ancestors when he said this??? Both his grandfathers fought against fascism. It is in our blood to fight against injustice, and his actions are pushing more people to come here. If I understand correctly—and please correct me if I am wrong—we who came here by the call of our hearts, we shame Serbia, whereas those who join, as mercenaries, the army which bombed maternity wards, hospitals, schools, buildings, media and trains in our beautiful country—they defend the honour of Serbia. To me it seems a little odd.
Remember the great words spoken in the holy Serbian land: “It doesn’t matter how much the enemy outnumbers us, what matters is the importance of what we defend.” [“није важно колико је бројнији непријатељ, важна је светиња која се брани” in Serbian original -ed.], so I am staying here with the hope that normal people will come to power in Serbia who will abolish that law so that I will be able to return to my country. I am interested in one thing: whether someone will pass a law condemning the government that caused people in Serbia to commit suicide because they could not pay their bills after they reduced their already-low wages or the pensions that they earned by their labour?
The government is directly responsible for much loss of life in Serbia. To whom will they answer for that? In the end it’s all about politics. Gentlemen politicians, I wish you long and healthy lives, so you can see your grandchildren married and feel how future generations are ashamed of you because of what you have done.
After talking with someone who defends and lives his ideals, it is difficult, in the slavish conditions of Serbia, not to romanticize your views on participation in a war against the Nazis. I recently asked friends—what did they think about going to Novorossiya as volunteers? After a brief pause, when many things flashed through my mind, one of them replied in a tone indicating that the question was nonsensical: “Who would not want to be there?”; yet all find reasons to stay rather than to go: family obligations, work—life has turned us into “heroes with a lack of free time,” as I read somewhere. But, fortunately, not all of us.
Interviewer: Ivan Maksimović
He is a surprisingly decent and modest man. I wish him good health and more well-aimed shots.