Prime Minister Albin Kurti has reiterated his warning calls on the European Union and NATO about potential threats to the Western Balkans stability stemming from Russia’s closest ally Serbia.
In an interview for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Kurti condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its destabilising approach in other neighbouring countries like Moldova and Georgia. He warned that Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić is a “Kremlin puppet who imitates Russia” in his approach in the region.
“The Soviet Union has transformed into an octopus, with the Russian Federation at its centre and its tentacles extending in Donbas, Crimea, Transnistria, South Ossetia […] The former Yugoslavia is an octopus with Serbia at its centre, a Serb entity in Bosnia, a Serbian [political] subject in Montenegro that doesn’t recognise the independence of the country, and the illegal structures in the north of Kosovo,” Kurti stated.
The prime minister drew attention to Vučić’s policy to strengthen relations with Russia while disregarding complaints from a lenient EU despite being a frontrunner to join the bloc.
“Serbia wants Europe’s money and Russia’s arms,” he said, also recalling a joint military exercise by Russia-Serbia-Belarus last year in defiance of a NATO exercise in the Western Balkans.
“Last year, Kosovo attended the largest NATO exercise – Defender Europe 2021 – with 350 soldiers. Serbia instead participated alongside Russia and Belarus in the Slavic Shield 2021,” Kurti recalled. He urged the EU and NATO to prioritise the integration of his country in both organisations to increase regional stability.
Serbia decided to not to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and refused to impose sanctions on Russia despite its obligation to align its foreign and security polity to that of the EU before it becomes a member. Following EU pressure, it agreed to sign a UN resolution condemning the Russian aggression, but at home, Vučić downplayed the signature and has never explicitly condemned Russia in public.