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Serbia rejects Western calls to join sanctions on Russia

February 25, 2022 GMT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia rejected calls Friday from the European Union and the U.S. to join sanctions against Russia, citing its national interests, although its autocratic president did say that Moscow’s assault on Ukraine is against international law.

With the move, Serbia remained a rare European state — like Russian ally Belarus — not to join a call for Western sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of a sovereign European state.

“Serbia respects the norms of international law,” President Aleksandar Vucic said. “But Serbia also understands its own interests.”

Vucic said that Serbia regards the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity as “very wrong,” but added it won’t join in the sanctions.

Despite formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has been strengthening ties with its traditional Slavic ally Russia. Moscow has been supplying Serbia’s armed forces with weapons, leading to more tensions in the Balkans which went through a bloody civil war in the 1990s.

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Vucic praised Russia for supporting Serbia in the UN Security Council by blocking resolutions that would have allowed its former province of Kosovo to join international institutions.

“The Republic of Serbia expresses most sincere regret over what is happening in Ukraine,” Vucic told reporters. “Both Russia and Ukraine are friendly countries.”

“Naturally, Serbia remains on its European path and this is its strategic determination, but (Serbia) won’t rush into hostilities only because someone wants it to,” Vucic said.

He described the decision as “serious and responsible,” adding that not joining sanctions against Russia is “fair” because of Moscow’s supports Serbia’s bid to retain claim on Kosovo.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub