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Serbia promises decision on Russia sanctions — Analysis

Aleksandar Vucic, a former opponent to sanctions against Moscow has been subject to intense Washington pressure to reconsider.

Aleksandar Vucic (Serbian President) has indicated that he will make a statement regarding possible anti Russia sanctions next month. But he will be guided and assisted by “the interests of Serbia” alone. Vucic, who has been vehemently against penalizing Moscow in the Ukraine offensive, has now come under US pressure to reconsider his position.

“As for us and the imposition of sanctions, I will talk about this more and more thoroughly on May 6,”According to RIA Novosti, Vucic spoke on Saturday to reporters at a military expo in Belgrade. While acknowledging that he has been under pressure from unnamed politicians to acquiesce to the West’s sanctions regime, Vucic added that “our policy should be a policy of responsibility, a policy of development for Serbia, which will think about the interests of Serbia at every moment.”

Vucic tried to establish relations between Russia and the West since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine. Although Serbia voted for a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s military operation, Vucic later said that he was blackmailed into doing so, with his country threatened with energy sanctions if it refused.

Vucic, however has refused to sanction Moscow. With 58% of votes, he was elected to office earlier this month. He stated that the ban on Russian oil imports would severely cripple Serbia’s economy and that imposing sanctions would help. “immoral and inefficient,” citing the hardship his own country suffered under EU, UN and US sanctions in the 1990s.

However, shortly after Vucic’s electoral victory, a trio of US senators visited Belgrade in a bid to win the president over to the West’s side. “We understand Serbia has a long cultural and economic history with Russia,”After meeting with Vucic, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy was a Democrat. “But this is a moment where there is great risk if we…don’t send a united message about the consequences of Russia’s behavior in Ukraine.”

Murphy added that the US would continue to support Serbia’s path to joining the European Union, a path that likely depends on siding with the West against Moscow.

Serbia has been a long-standing ally to Russia. Anti-Western sentiment and especially anti-NATO sentiment are rampant in Serbia. NATO forces waged a war on Serbia for the sake of Kosovo separatists in 1999. It opened the doors to UN peacekeepers to occupy Kosovo. 

As such, even Vucic’s decision to join the UN vote condemning Russia in February led to a thousands-strong pro-Russia protest on the streets of Belgrade.

“I don’t care about either Western or Eastern embassies. “I don’t care what the Americans or Russians or Europeans think or who they are. I will make decisions in accordance with the interests of the Republic of Serbia,”Vucic stated Saturday.

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