In a sign of resistance to Western calls to choose between Moscow and the West, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic said his country’s brotherly relations with Russia cannot be destroyed, and Belgrade would never succumb to pressure during a meeting with Turko Daudov, an advisor to controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Vucic met with Daudov in Belgrade, even posing for photos wearing traditional Chechen clothing that had been given as a gift.
“For us, the Russian people are our brother people, and centuries-old history has proven it many times. Therefore, Russian-Serbian relations cannot be destroyed under any pressure,” said Vucic.
The comments come a day after the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Brussels was “very worried about the situation in the Western Balkans,” adding “unnecessary and counterproductive tensions” between Kosovo and Serbia “are reaching a very, very dangerous level”, warning “we are unhappily on the edge of another crisis.”
Daudov said that the current situation in the world is “difficult” but that Russia stands firm in defending spiritual, traditional and family values and has rejected the “foreign ideology” posed by the West.
“But despite all the difficulties and extraordinary pressure exerted by Europe, the leadership and the people of Serbia not only did not oppose but also supported the Russian Federation,” said Daudov.
Serbia has faced strong criticism for refusing to align with EU sanctions and foreign policy and for maintaining strong, friendly ties with Moscow.
In September, Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković was forced to defend the agreement on consultations for 2023-2024 he signed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.
Protests in Serbia often feature banners with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face on and Russian flags.
Belgrade’s ties with Moscow continue to irk Western capitals. Earlier this month, Germany has cautioned Serbia against cultivating deeper relations with Russia, warning that it could thwart its bid to join the European Union.
Serbia has been a candidate to join the European Union since 2012, but its prospects are seen as bleak without a normalisation of relations with Kosovo, which it refuses to recognise as an independent country.
The situation in the north of Kosovo became more precarious in recent weeks as members of the Serbian community resigned from the country’s institutions as a sign of opposition to the government’s requirement that all cars owned by citizens of Kosovo should have Kosovo-issued plates.
Security analysts have warned of a significant mobilisation of Serbs on 21 November, when Pristina will begin to apply the rule, with plans to target vacated institutions and block roads./Euractiv/