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NATO nations block Russian envoy’s plane from Serbia visit

NATO nations block Russian envoy’s plane from Serbia visit

Serbia and Russia on Monday formally confirmed that a planned visit by Russia’s Foreign Minister to the Balkan country will not take place, with Moscow accusing the West of preventing the trip.

The announcement followed reports that Serbia’s neighbors — Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro — had refused to allow Sergey Lavrov’s plane to fly through their airspace to reach Serbia.

“An unthinkable thing has happened,” Mr. Lavrov said during an online news conference on Monday. “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to conduct foreign policies. The international activities of Serbia on the Russian track have been blocked.”Mr. Vucic expressed “dissatisfaction” over the “circumstances” that prevented the visit and added that “despite all, Serbia will preserve independence and autonomy in political decision-making.”

While formally still seeking European Union membership, Serbia has maintained friendly ties with Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, refusing to join Western sanctions against Moscow. Many in Serbia view the fellow-Slavic nation as a close ally and Moscow has backed Serbia in its effort to retain its claim on KosovoMr.

Lavrov blamed NATO countries for engineering the flight ban — Montenegro, Bulgaria and North Macedonia are all members of NATO — noting that the action showed again that the main purpose of the alliance expansion is to try to isolate Russia.

Mr. Lavrov is set to travel to Turkey on Wednesday, where he can fly directly over the Black Sea. Turkey has sought to harbor good relations with both Russia and Ukraine while also trying to help international mediation efforts in the crisis.The Russian foreign minister said the West has trampled on the principle of a free choice of foreign policy partners.Serbia’s pro-Russian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin expressed “deep regret” that a “great and proven” friend of Serbia could not come. Vulin added that “Serbia is proud that it is not part of anti-Russian hysteria, and the countries will have time to be ashamed.”

Serbia, meanwhile, also is almost fully dependent on Russian gas. Vucic recently talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone to arrange a new deal on gas supplies for the next three years.
This is amidst the war that is taking place between Russia and Ukraine.

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