World News

Serbia suspends Belarus military drill, citing EU pressure

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia suspended military drills with foreign troops for six months on Wednesday, halting planned joint exercises with Russia in protest-hit Belarus, after what the government termed pressure from the European Union.

Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said Serbia was facing “enormous and undeserved” pressure from Brussels, according to state news agency Tanjug. “They asked us to leave the planned military exercise with Belarus,” he was quoted as saying.

Belarus has been rocked by mass protests since there-election of veteran President Alexander Lukashenko in an Aug.9 election his opponents say was rigged.

Lukashenko has looked to Moscow to help with domestic security and to offset Western antagonism towards him.

Serbia’s suspension of drills with foreign troops, including also those from China and the trans-Atlantic NATO alliance, would help maintain its military neutrality, Vulin said.

Belarusian, Russian and Serbian military forces had been due to hold manoeuvres together from Sept. 10-15.

Serbia is performing a delicate balancing act between its ambition to join the EU and its traditional ties with Russia and China who support its refusal to recognise the independence of its former southern province Kosovo.

EU officials were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne