Serbia has announced it will deepen its ties with Russia through the “most favorable” gas contract in Europe, while the European Union has made clear that it expects Belgrade to start imposing sanctions on Russia.
The news was announced by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in a press conference on Sunday, following a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Vucic has resisted EU and US calls for sanctions against Russia since the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Following their most recent calls in the last couple of weeks, EU officials were expecting Serbia to start imposing sanctions, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, earlier last week Serbia announced a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 7. A meeting between Vucic and Putin will be scheduled after Lavrov’s visit.
Then the new 3-year gas deal was announced on Sunday, to be signed in the coming two days as the previous one expires on May 31.
“We will have the most favorable gas price in Europe,” Vucic said. The price provided for Serbia by Russian Gazprom will be at least three times lower than the rest of Europe, he added, while in winter it could drop down to 12 times lower. Furthermore, Gazprom holds a near monopoly in the gas sector in Serbia.
Vucic said that he had been briefed by Putin on the latest situation on the ground in Ukraine, and had expressed his hopes for peace.
Serbia is the only country in the region not to impose sanctions on Russia.
Russia has cut gas supplies for Finland, Poland and Bulgaria following their refusal to pay in Russian rubles.