Ukrainian foreign minister and first lady meet with pro-Russia Serbian president

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba made a surprise visit to Russia-friendly Serbia on Monday, together with Ukraine‚Äôs first lady, Olena Zelenska, in a sign of warming relations between the two states. On his first visit to Serbia since the start of the Russian aggression on Ukraine in 2022, Kuleba met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and new Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic, whose , including two who have been under U.S. sanctions. A statement issued by the prime minister’s office after the talks said that “Serbia is committed to respecting international law and the territorial integrity of every member state of the United Nations, including Ukraine.” Although Serbia has condemned the Russian aggression on Ukraine, it has refused to join international sanctions against Moscow and has instead maintained warm and friendly relations with its traditional Slavic ally. Serbia has proclaimed neutrality regarding the , and its authorities repeat that Serbia does not supply weapons to any parties. However, there are reports that Serbia has delivered weapons to Ukraine through intermediary countries. The visit by Kuleba and Zelenska, who toured the Serbian capital with Serbian first lady Tamara Vucic on Sunday, was met with criticism in Moscow. Comments by readers in the Russian state-run media such as “shameful” were published by RIA Novosti. In what appears to be damage control, soon after his talks with Kuleba on Monday, Vucevic was to meet the Russian ambassador to Belgrade and the two were to tour a big storage facility for Russian gas that is being imported to Serbia. Pro-Russian President Vucic has informally met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy three times on the sidelines of international conferences. Serbia has supplied Ukraine with humanitarian and financial aid. Vucic has for years claimed to follow a “neutral” policy, balancing ties among Moscow, Beijing, Brussels and Washington. Although he has repeatedly said that Serbia is firm on its proclaimed goal of seeking European Union membership, under his authoritarian rule the Balkan country appears to be shifting closer to Russia and especially China. During a high-stakes visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Belgrade last week, to build “ironclad” relations and a “shared joint future.”

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