Serbia under pressure to shift stance on Russia, president says

Open Balkan summit
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic gestures during conference of the Open Balkan summit at the Palace of Brigades in Tirana, Albania December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga//File Photo

March 2 (Reuters) - Serbia is coming under "huge pressure" as it resists joining the European Union, the United States and other countries in imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday.

Serbia is performing a delicate balancing act between its European aspirations, partnership with NATO and its centuries-old religious, ethnic and political alliance with Russia. read more

Vucic said that Serbia had joined a United Nations General Assembly condemnation of Russia's attack on Ukraine, but that no sanctions were implied. Serbia was the only country in Europe which had declined to introduce sanctions against Russia, he added.

"Serbia is in an exceptionally difficult situation, there is less understanding than ever for the position of our nation," Vucic said in a televised address. "We are facing huge pressure."

The country, which relies on Russia for its energy needs, is under pressure to harmonise its foreign policy with that of the EU, which it aims to join.

While the EU and Russia have issued tit-for-tat airspace bans, Serbia's flag carrier Air Serbia is still flying between Belgrade and Moscow and has added extra capacity.

Vucic said he feared that Serbia might lose its support in the United Nations regarding the status of its former province of Kosovo if Russia is ordered out of the world body.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo after a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 to halt killing of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces during a two-year counterinsurgency but still claims the breakaway province as part of its territory. Russia also does not recognise Kosovo's independence.

Reporting by Kirsten Donovan, Daria Sito-Sucic; editing by Grant McCool

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