Serbian president rejects calls for sanctions against Russia

Jan 3, 2023, 11:11 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 1:19 pm

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during an annual public address in Belgrade, Serbia, Wedn...

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during an annual public address in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, amid recent tensions in Kosovo and difficult economic situation. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president said Wednesday that the European Union’s calls for his country to join sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine represent “a brutal” interference in the internal affairs of the Balkan state, which has asked to join the EU.

In his wide-ranging year-end address to the nation, Aleksandar Vucic praised his and his country’s economic and political achievements, comparing himself to a wolf who cannot be tamed under international pressure.

“Thank you very much for meddling in our internal affairs in such a brutal way,” he said, referring to the Western appeals.

Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has repeatedly ignored calls to align its foreign policies with the 27-nation bloc, including joining international sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

There are increasing suggestions from EU-member states that Serbia’s membership bid should be suspended until it complies with the bloc’s foreign policies.

Serbia remains the only European country besides Belarus that has refused to introduce sanctions against Russia, its Slavic ally.

Russia has been supporting Serbia’s claim over its former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008 with Western support.

Vucic said that ranking U.S. and EU officials will be visiting Serbia in the next few days to discuss possible solutions to the tensions over Kosovo, which ran high in the past weeks with Serbia deploying troops to the mutual border. Northern Kosovo has a sizeable ethnic Serb minority.

“We wanted peace, and we barely saved it,” Vucic said. “Through no fault of our own. We haven’t provoked anyone not even for a single second, unless some people consider it a provocation that we see our people in Kosovo as citizens of our country.”

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Serbian president rejects calls for sanctions against Russia