Serbia will not impose sanctions against Moscow, president says

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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

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BELGRADE, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Serbia respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and considers Russia's military action against it to be "wrong," but will not impose sanctions against Moscow, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday.

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

But as tensions between Russia and the European Union over Ukraine are rising, Serbia is under pressure to harmonise its foreign policy with that of the EU, which it aims to join, and introduce sanctions against Moscow, among other things.

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"They (Russia) were the only country not to have imposed sanctions against us in the 1990s," Vucic said after a National Security Council meeting.

"They also supported our territorial integrity in the United Nations. We must not forget that," Vucic said, referring to Russia's stance on Serbia's former province of Kosovo whose independence Moscow refuses to recognise.

However, Vucic said the National Security Council concluded the Republic of Serbia considers "very wrong the violation of territorial integrity of a number of countries including Ukraine."

Serbia has put its gas and oil sectors in Russia's hands.

In 2008 the Balkan country sold a majority stake of its oil company to Gazprom Neft (SIBN.MM). Gazprom is the majority stakeholder in the country's sole gas storage facility.

In return, Russia has been blocking membership of Serbia's former province Kosovo in the United Nations.

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.

Vucic said the National Security Council decided that Serbia will stop all military drills with foreign troops to preserve military neutrality.

He said Serbia will take legal action against its citizens who fight abroad.

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Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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