Ukrainians in Serbia mark independence day as Belgrade, Kyiv seek to improve ties

by Cristian Florescu

A large number of Ukrainians, along with Serbian activists and diplomats, gathered in Belgrade on Thursday to commemorate Ukraine’s 32nd anniversary of independence from Moscow, having escaped the conflict in their homeland.

The anniversary occurs precisely 18 months following Russia’s complete invasion of its neighbouring country.

Volodymyr Tolkach, the Ukrainian ambassador to Serbia, expressed his desire for it to have ended yesterday.

The commemorations are taking place during a time when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic are making efforts to enhance their relationship, which has been strained due to Belgrade’s reluctance to enforce sanctions against Russia.

Serbia has consistently expressed its disapproval of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in various international forums, including the United Nations. Additionally, it has generously provided shelter and support for tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. However, Serbia has not yet aligned itself with the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

During the rally, Anastasia, a young woman proudly displaying a Ukrainian flag and adorning her hair with a beautiful traditional floral wreath, expressed her optimistic aspirations for a victory over Russia.

She stated that throughout its existence, Ukraine has been fighting for its right to exist, as well as for the opportunity to be recognized on the map of Europe and the world.

Serbia continues to heavily rely on natural gas supplies from Russia, while also maintaining trade and military connections with Moscow. Moreover, there is a significant presence of pro-Russian sentiments in the Balkan nation.

However, Belgrade is also actively pursuing European Union membership and aiming to broaden its energy sources.

According to Nenad Canak, a Serbian pro-Western opposition politician, supporting Ukraine equates to safeguarding democracy.

He stated that the defence of Ukraine is a crucial objective for all individuals who advocate for democracy and human rights worldwide, extending beyond just Europe.

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