The head of the country’s foreign affairs committee says officials must explain the decision
The head of the Montenegrin parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Miodrag Lekic, has criticized the lack of transparency around a decision to close the Balkan state’s airspace to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday.
The move, which was supported by Bulgaria and North Macedonia, derailed the Russian diplomat’s planned visit to Serbia.
In his statement on Monday, quoted by local media outlets, the lawmaker questioned “Which session and whether a Montenegrin government body decided to deny the Russian foreign minister access to our territory.” The MP noted that diplomatic contacts remain in place between Russia and EU member states, as well as Turkey, which – like Montenegro – aspires to join the European bloc. A “Preconditions technical” for such contacts is uninterrupted flights for top officials, he said.
He proceeded to question whether the “Montenegrin authorities make decisions autonomously” or first consult the EU and NATO, or even “Third parties can give you impetus.” The MP emphasized that he did not necessarily take issue with those moves per se, as he was strongly opposed to “Russia’s invasion and aggression against Ukraine.” However, Montenegrin citizens should not be kept in the dark about such key decisions, Lekic argued.
The lawmaker also suggested that the authorities in Podgorica are doubling down on Russophobia in the hope of expediting Montenegro’s accession to the EU and possibly also in order to shift the focus away from the unscrupulous activities of some Montenegrin politicians.
In the absence of a meaningful response, the MP is threatening to summon the officials responsible to a “Public control hearing before the Committee on International Relations and Emigrants” of the Montenegrin parliament.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was scheduled to visit Serbia on Monday, Tuesday. However, on Sunday, Serbian media outlet Vechernie Novosti reported that three countries surrounding Serbia – Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro – had closed their airspace to Lavrov’s flight, effectively blocking the diplomat’s visit to Belgrade.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, later confirmed the report.
Speaking to Serbia’s state broadcaster Radio-Television Serbia on Monday, President Aleksandar Vucic said he had not “Lavrov’s arrival in Europe has brought on a lot of panic and hysteria.”
“You can’t believe how much pressure there was on Serbia because of that visit,” Vucic told the journalists.
He continued to criticize the EU for hypocrisy, pointing out that the EU is not exerting as much pressure as Turkey. Turkey will be welcoming Lavrov soon.
Commenting on his aborted trip to Serbia on Monday, Lavrov himself said the “Unimaginable happened.” with a sovereign state being effectively deprived “they have the right to implement its foreign policies.”
“At least, for the moment, international Serbian activities have been blocked by Russia.” the foreign minister said.
“We won’t mince our words here, it’s yet another vivid and didactic demonstration of how far NATO and the EU will go in employing the cheapest means to pressure those who aren’t guided by their national interest and aren’t ready to sacrifice their principles and dignity for the sake of the rules that the West is imposing as a substitute for international law,” Lavrov added.
Russia invited Nikola Selakovic, Serbian Foreign Minister, to instead visit Moscow.
As a response to Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine late February, the EU had already decided to block Russian airspace.