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    A Russian-Serbian humanitarian center (RSHC) that has helped the Balkan nation to deal with emergencies, like floods and fires, plans to construct a new training base for volunteer firefighters and rescue teams, Bojan Glamoclija and Vyacheslav Vlasenko, the center's codirectors, told Sputnik.

    Despite the center's good track record, some claim that the base at the Ecka airport located in Serbia's northeast will in fact be a Russian military installation. Glamoclija dismissed these accusations as nonsense.

    "I repeat the humanitarian center is in no way a Russian military base," he said. Those who think otherwise are welcome to see for themselves. "We opened our doors to everyone, including foreigners, the UNHRC, the UNDP. The doors are open. There are no checkpoints. They are saying that the base in Vojvodina is a military facility, but it's just empty talk."

    The base, according to Glamoclija, will provide training to local "civil defense groups, as well as firefighters and rescue teams." It will be a massive effort and a much needed one. Consider this: Serbia's volunteer firefighting society comprises 100,000 people.

    The initiative did not come out of the blue. Vojvodina, a province in the north of Serbia, is home to facilities operated by Naftna Industrija Srbije, the country's major oil and gas company, state-owned natural gas provider Srbijagas and Russia's gas giant Gazprom. A major natural rubber factory and many chemical plants are located in the city of Zrenjanin. This is a risk-prone area that lacks a dedicated base to help improve emergency management.

    "If an additional base is built, it would focus solely on Vojvodina, while a center in Serbia's south, the city of Niš, would tackle other challenges," Glamoclija explained.

    Migrants walk towards a checkpoint along the railway tracks connecting Horgos and Szeged near Roszke, in the vicinity of the border between Hungary and Serbia
    © AP Photo / MTI/Balazs Mohai
    Migrants walk towards a checkpoint along the railway tracks connecting Horgos and Szeged near Roszke, in the vicinity of the border between Hungary and Serbia

    The center played a role in helping Belgrade deal with the unprecedented wave of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

    "When we provided assistance to migrants in the city of Kaniza, journalists wondered why Russia was helping the EU. But the center was only helping the Serbian people and the state to deal with the influx," he noted.

    The center has already made a difference in Serbia.

    "When last May we gave Serbia fire engines Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that these were the first new vehicles that the Ministry of Internal Affairs received in three decades," Vlasenko noted. "The trucks are very expensive for Serbia, but the country needs them badly."


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