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Serbia welcomes new arms shipment from Russia

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – The Serbian President on Monday welcomed a new delivery of arms from Russia amid fears in the Balkans that the country’s recent military escalation could lead to more tensions in the war-ravaged European region .

President Aleksandar Vucic attended a training exercise at a military base near Belgrade that included newly purchased Kornet anti-tank guided missiles.

“I am happy that our soldiers are satisfied with the purchase of Kornets from Russia,” said Vucic. “It’s probably one of the best anti-tank weapons in the world.”

“The Kornet is an important defensive tool to deter anyone from potential aggression against our country,” said Vucic.

Serbia has often been accused of saber blows and collaborating with Slavic ally Russia to destabilize its neighbors, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.

Serbia is widely accused of triggering a bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s with its nationalist policies. Lately, the country has armed itself mainly with Russian and Chinese warplanes, drones and anti-aircraft systems.

In recent months, Russia has handed over 30 main battle tanks and 30 armored personnel carriers to Serbia. Serbia has also recently purchased sophisticated Russian Pantsir air defense systems, as well as Chinese attack and transport helicopters and drones.

Despite officially seeking to become a member of the European Union, Serbia has refused to align its foreign policy with the 27-nation bloc and instead strengthened its alliance with Russia and China.

Vucic said on Monday that Serbia “remains on the European track”, but also added that it will continue to “nurture” its friendly relations with Russia and China.

To join the EU, Serbia needs the support of all EU member states, but the government has maintained icy relations with fellow Balkan compatriot Croatia, the latest new member admitted to the bloc.

Croatia, which is also a NATO member, is in a mini arms race with Serbia, which recently received six used MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia and four more of the Belarus type. In November, the Croatian government announced the purchase of 12 Rafale fighter jets from France.

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