Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country respect the Serbian leadership’s decision to join the EU. “Unlike our Western partners, we do not try to pose an artificial dilemma for Belgrade and make Serbia choose whether to be with Russia or with the European Union,” Putin said in an interview for Serbian dailies Politika and Vecernje Novosti.
The Russian leader – who is due to arrive here on Thursday on an official visit – also said that while Russia has many friends in the Balkans – “our strategic partner Serbia occupies a special place.”
“To be honest, we were surprised by a rather passive response from the European Union to the decision by Kosovo’s ‘parliament’ to transform the Kosovo Security Forces into a full-fledged army,” Putin said, and added:
“It is clear that the Serbs living in the province perceive this step as a direct threat to their security. More broadly, it involves serious risks of escalating the situation in the region. It is hardly in the EU’s interest to turn a blind eye to such unilateral actions, which blatantly violate international law, especially if Brussels wants to continue acting as a mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.”
“We highly appreciate that the Serbian leadership remains firmly committed to maintaining neutrality,” the Russian president said. “At the same time, over the years we have helped Serbia to enhance its defense capability by supplying arms and military equipment and providing maintenance and modernization support. We will continue to develop military and technical cooperation.”
When it comes to the situation in the Balkans, the Russian leader said, “a serious destabilizing factor there is the policy of the US and some other Western countries aimed at securing their dominance in the region.”
“As early as in 1999 NATO forces – without any UN authorization –bombed Yugoslavia for two and a half months and forcedly detached the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. And in 2008, Washington and its allies supported the illegitimate declaration of Kosovo’s independence,” he recalled.