Ukraine expects support from its partners in Serbia, Kyiv’s Ambassador to Belgrade Volodymyr Tolkach, who pointed to the prominent display of the letter “Z” – symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – at various events as a source of discomfort for his compatriots.
While 7,500 Ukrainian citizens currently live in Serbia, they have recently been made to feel unsafe, particularly as the letter “Z” – a ‘fascist swastika’ for Ukrainians, according to the ambassador – was brandished at various events, the ambassador said in an interview with the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation.
For example, on 9 May, the Russian national anthem was played in Belgrade as hundreds of Serbians, including senior government officials, assembled for Victory Day, showing the political strain of a country long aligned with Moscow but now trying to join the EU, Reuters reported.
At a march to pay homage to Serbian and Soviet troops who died in World War II, some participants held signs with a giant letter Z while others brought a life-size cardboard cut-out photo of President Vladimir Putin.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday (15 June), Tolkach pointed to similarities between Serbia and Ukraine and called for a boost in economic cooperation.
The ambassador pointed to him visiting a refugee centre in Vranje with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in early June, which showed him that “Serbia shares in the tragedy of Ukraine and will continue to support Ukraine.”
The ambassador also said Vučić had expressed a readiness to help with the medical treatment of wounded Ukrainians and reconstruct infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the ambassador also pointed to Ukraine having “many things in common” with Serbia today, citing both countries’ EU paths.
The ambassador even spoke of boosting economic cooperation between the two countries.
“We should introduce a free trade zone in commerce,” the ambassador said, lamenting that Serbia continues to be the only European country with customs barriers.