Serbia against Russia sanctions, but will accept refugees and send aid

Serbia is prepared to accept refugees from Ukraine and send humanitarian and medical assistance within its means. [EPA-EFE/ANDREJ CUKIC]

Serbia believes it is wrong to violate the territorial integrity of any country, including Ukraine, Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković said on Saturday. The day before, President Aleksandar Vučić said Serbia refused to introduce sanctions against Russia because it invaded its neighbour.

The foreign minister underlined Serbia’s commitment to dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, adding that in the eyes of the Serbs, the Russians and Ukrainians were brotherly peoples.

Serbia is prepared to accept refugees from Ukraine and send humanitarian and medical assistance within its means, the foreign ministry quoted Selaković as saying.

On Friday (25 February), President Aleksandar Vučić said that Serbia is offering its full support to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, adding that violating it was a mistake. But Serbia refuses to introduce sanctions against Russia.

Speaking after a session of the Serbian National Security Council in Belgrade, Vučić said that Serbia had made “a sober, level-headed decision in the best interest of Serbia.”

“Serbia respects international law and will continue to abide by it because it is the best way to protect itself, its interests and principles. Serbia also understands its own needs, and whatever someone who doesn’t belong to the Serbian leadership might want, Serbia has its vital national and state interests,” the president said, adding that Serbia honoured traditional friendships as well.

Reading out the conclusions of the National Security Council, Vučić said the latest developments in the east of Europe were most regrettable, and that Serbia considered Russia and Ukraine friendly states.

“Serbia believes that violating the territorial integrity of any state, including Ukraine, is very wrong,” Vučić went on, quoting the Council. Serbia respects its own and the integrity of other states, and borders can be changed only under the rules of international law, he explained in his speech.

Speaker Ivica Dačić said on Friday that Serbia needed to look exclusively after its own interests concerning the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“It is not our duty to act according to other people’s expectations. The West expects us to condemn Russia and introduce sanctions against it. Russia probably expects us to acknowledge and praise everything it did and probably recognise what Russia has already recognised,” Dačić told reporters.

Serbia’s role is not to fight in a war with Russia, or Ukraine, nor to support either of them but to decide what was best for Serbia, he added

“The war hasn’t engulfed Serbia. Everything would have been fine if they hadn’t decided to try to convince us that it is a blatant violation of international law and territorial integrity, as if we were naïve and stupid. As if nothing happened in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and Serbia, and as if condemning Russia now can bring Kosovo back,” said Dačić, who is also the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia.

A decision imposing sanctions on Russia would harm relations with Russia and China and “cut the branch that Serbia is sitting on”, Dačić also said. “I believe the decision is the best possible. The EU might have been happier had we condemned Russia,” he added.

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