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European state’s leader vows to resist Russian sanctions ‘blackmail’

Serbia is “proud” of its ironclad position on Ukraine conflict, President Aleksandar Vucic has said

Serbia will not be blackmailed into adopting the Western line regarding the Ukraine conflict and imposing sanctions on Moscow, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday.

Since the hostilities broke out two years ago, Serbia, which has traditionally maintained close ties with Moscow, has striven to remain neutral. Vucic has said on numerous occasions that his government has come under pressure from Western powers to place sanctions on Russia.

“The position we expressed – eight days after the conflict in Ukraine began, is still valid today. Serbia is proud of its position,” Vucic told journalists on Thursday, when asked whether French President Emmanuel Macron demanded that Belgrade impose sanctions on Moscow.

During his visit to Paris earlir this week, Vucic “reached concrete agreements” on Serbia’s purchase of 12 French-made Rafale fighter jets. The French leader claimed at a joint press conference that Serbia’s “future lies within the EU,” and that Belgrade should honor this by “greater coordination with our foreign policy decisions” – stoking speculations that the jet deal comes with conditions.

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“No one has blackmailed us, and no one can blackmail us… Serbia is small in terms of its size and population, but is big in its heart and giant in terms of statehood. Serbia has not and will not change its attitude,” Vucic noted, insisting that his meeting with Macron was “friendly.”

Belgrade has officially condemned Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, although Serbia remains the only country in Eastern Europe – aside from Belarus – that has not imposed sanctions in light of the conflict. Vucic admitted in February that he does not know how long he will be able to hold out against Western pressure, but stressed that his country will defend its position for “as long as possible.”

 

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