Serbia's PM links bomb hoaxes with ties with Russia

Serbian PM Ana Brnabic holds interview with Reuters, in Belgrade
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic looks on during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic

BELGRADE, May 17 (Reuters) - Serbia's prime minister alleged on Tuesday that nearly 100 bomb threats that have prompted mass evacuations of schools and public venues were part of pressure from abroad against Belgrade over its refusal to sanction Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Emailed threats have been sent to more than 90 schools, and venues including the presidency building, bridges, shopping malls, restaurants, Belgrade's zoo and a football stadium.

No explosive devices were found when bomb disposal teams searched the locations on Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said, without providing evidence or giving further details, that the hoaxes originated from abroad because of Serbia's stance on Russia.

"We are the only country in Europe that has not imposed sanctions against Russia, and ... these bomb threats are pressure from abroad because of our refusal to impose sanctions," she said in a TV interview.

Interior minister Aleksandar Vulin said the bomb hoaxes were “a part of special warfare” against Serbia, adding that the police, which come under his ministry, were investigating.

Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, is almost entirely dependent on gas and oil from Russia, a traditional Orthodox Christian and Slavic ally. It also maintains close political and military ties with Moscow.

In April, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Ukraine and an unidentified EU country of being behind a series of hoax bomb threats against Air Serbia planes which maintain regular flights to Moscow. Ukraine dismissed Vucic's allegations as "baseless". L2N2WG0JC

Moscow calls its invasion a "special military operation" to rid Ukraine of fascists, an assertion Kyiv and its Western allies say is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Alison Williams

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