Russia's Lavrov cancels Serbia trip after countries close airspace

AFP , Monday 6 Jun 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was forced to cancel a visit to Serbia on Monday after several of its neighbours prevented his plane from passing through their airspace, officials said.

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at a meeting dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society with the portraits of Russia s last Czar Nicholas II, and Czarina Alexandra, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 3, 2022. AP


Lavrov had been due to hold talks with top officials in Belgrade, one of Moscow's few remaining allies in Europe since the launch of its military offensive in Ukraine earlier this year.

"The countries around Serbia have closed the channel of communication by refusing to authorise the overflight of the plane of Sergei Lavrov who was headed to Serbia," Russian news agencies quoted ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

"The Russian delegation should have arrived in Belgrade for talks. But the EU and NATO member countries closed their airspace."

Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti reported that Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro had refused access to their airspace.

A Russian diplomatic source told news agency Interfax there had been no choice but to cancel the visit.

"Russian diplomacy has not yet learned how to teleport," the source said.

Lavrov had been 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 EU.

The two countries enjoy longstanding close ties and Belgrade recently signed a new three-year contract to receive Russian natural gas.

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