NEW: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is forced to cancel his trip to Serbia after several countries blocked his plane from crossing their airspace.
Published on 6.6.2022
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was forced to cancel a visit to Serbia on Monday after several of its neighbors blocked his plane from crossing their airspace, officials said.
Mr. Lavrov was due to meet with senior officials in Belgrade, one of Moscow’s last allies in Europe since it launched its military offensive in Ukraine earlier this year.
“The countries surrounding Serbia have closed the channel of communication by refusing to allow the overflight of Sergei Lavrov’s plane which was going to Serbia,” Russian news agencies quoted ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying. .
“The Russian delegation should have arrived in Belgrade for talks. But EU and NATO member countries have closed their airspace. »
The Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti reported that Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro had denied access to their airspace.
A Russian diplomatic source told the Interfax news agency that there was no choice but to cancel the visit.
“Russian diplomacy has not yet learned how to teleport,” the source said.
The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, hinted that NATO was putting pressure on the three countries.
“We are talking about a NATO step, and without the United States this could not have happened,” Kosachev said on Telegram.
He accused NATO of “direct intervention” in bilateral ties between Russia and Serbia, and of “trying to take over the rest of Europe and subjugate it”.
Atanas Atanasov, co-chairman of the right-wing Democracy Bulgaria party, which is part of the ruling coalition, told state television BNT on Monday morning: “These measures are among those that the free world imposes on Russia and they must continue. “.
“These things reflect the activity of the Russian state and that is the purpose of the measures put in place. »
Mr Lavrov was due to meet President Aleksandar Vucic, his counterpart Nikola Selakovic and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije.
While Serbia has condemned Russia’s military action in Ukraine, it has not joined the European Union in imposing sanctions on Moscow, despite its bid to join the bloc.
The two countries have long had close ties and Belgrade recently signed a new three-year contract to receive Russian natural gas.