After two days of deliberation, Serbia has decided not to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, and has refused calls from the European Union and United States to impose sanctions on Russia.
In a press statement on Friday evening, President Aleksandar Vucic announced the decision after a meeting of the National Security Council.
In the 14 items of the decision, Russia is only mentioned once, in order to stress that no sanctions will be imposed on it: “The Republic of Serbia believes that it is not important at this time to impose sanctions on any state, including Russia.”
The rest of the items focus on the need to preserve “territorial integrity” in international relations and in the case of Ukraine, they express Serbia’s “regret” for what is happening in “Eastern Europe”, and stress the “fraternal” bonds between Russians and Ukrainians. Serbia vows to provide humanitarian aid, food and energy products to people in need.
“Serbia considers the violation of the territorial integrity of any country, including Ukraine, to be wrong,” the harshest item in the decision stated.
The stress on “territorial integrity” of states relates to Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence, its former region who declared its sovereignty in 2008, after a brutal war exercised by Serbia for two years in 1998-99.
Vucic said Serbia respects traditional friendship with Russia, and has not forgotten the NATO bombings of 1999.
NATO bombed strategic targets in Serbia after its two years of war in Kosovo, in order to force the genocidial regime of Slobodan Milosevic out of Kosovo and avoid a second genocide following that of Srebrenica four yeras earlier.
Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union and is expected to align its foreign policy with the union but it has regularly refused to do so vis-a-vis Russia. In return, Russia has beefed up its military with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, and other heavy weapons. The EU has shown no serious concerns over Serbia’s refusal to impose sanctions and strengthen its ties with Russia. On the contrary, Serbia has become the most advanced country in the Western Balkans in its path towards EU accession.
Vucic clarified that today’s decisions were first consulted with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, before being presented to the National Security Council.
Merely one month ahead of general and presidential elections in Serbia, President Vucic, who is running for another term, called on Serbs to unite in order for Serbia to “develop rapidly and take care of its citizens.”
Serbia is the only country in the region to refuse to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Croatian and Bosniak members of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidency have all condemned it. Unsurprisingly, Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the BiH Presidency, who is a protégé of Vucic and Putin, has also refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine to date.