Serbian officials and pro-government media react to criticism for not joining Russia sanctions

by Cristian Florescu

On 25 February, Serbian National Security Council adopted conclusions on the war in Ukraine, though it referred to the conflict as “events in Eastern Europe”. The conclusions expressed support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine but refrained from the imposition of sanctions on Russia, writes European Western Balkans 

Serbia has not joined EU sanctions on Russia ever since they were first introduced in March 2014, citing its dependency on Russian gas and Moscow’s support for its position of non-recognition of Kosovo. It remained, together with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the only country in the region not to align or announce its alignment with the newest round of sanctions introduced by the EU.

It seems, however, that the continuation of the policy of balancing will not be seriously challenged, at least publically, either by the United States or the European Union. US Embassy tweeted on Friday evening that it “welcomed the position of Serbia and President Vučić on the support of territorial integrity of Ukraine, which has been violated by an illegal and unprovoked attack”, using stronger language than Serbia in the Council conclusions.

Several European politicians and former diplomats, however, have criticised Serbia for its position. Most of the comments were met with a reaction of the Serbian officials and disseminated by pro-government media.

Following the outbreak of the war, the headlines on the front pages of the pro-government newspapers have continued some of the years-long pro-Russian and anti-Western trends in reporting, which were also visible earlier last week.

Sprski telegraf also reported on Friday that “Russian media buzz about Vučić’s statement: The decision of Serbia is the main news in Russia”, also featuring the hug between Vučić and Putin photographed in November last year.

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