There are no ‘Russia-phobic’ policies in Montenegro, same respect for Russia, its people continues, says Milo Dukanovic.
Seeking to visit Serbia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s attempt to pass through NATO airspace amounted to “politicization” and a bid to create the impression of Russophobia in the Balkans region, Montenegro’s president said on Tuesday.
Due to reach the Serbian capital Belgrade for a two-day visit on Monday that would have included talks with President Aleksandar Vucic, Lavrov was forced to call off the trip after Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bulgaria closed their airspace to his plane.
“So, the attempt of Mr. Lavrov to use the airspace of a NATO member and of a country that is fully aligned 100% with the foreign and security policy of the European Union is, I would say, mainly the politicization of the issue and maybe an attempt to create the impression that there is a Russia-phobia in the region,” said Milo Dukanovic.
Despite the two nations having a three-century tradition of interstate relations, Russia included Montenegro on its “list of enemies,” the president noted, calling the move a “radical twist.”
“And once again, there are no Russia-phobic policies in Montenegro. We still have the same respect for Russia as a country and for its people and for the tradition of our relations,” he underlined.
Dukanovic stressed that his country needed “to condemn the policy of aggression” that Russia has exhibited.
He emphasized that these countries’ measures were being taken to “oppose that aggression” and are “100% harmonized and aligned with these foreign and security policies of the European Union.”
“Because, I’m sure that Minister Lavrov — if he ever even truly considered coming to Serbia — that he knew what would be the answer of countries that whose airspace he would need for us to get there,” he said.
– ‘Hostile actions’
On Monday, the Kremlin called airspace closures by three eastern European countries which prevented Lavrov from traveling to Serbia “hostile actions.”
In a news briefing in Moscow, Lavrov said no one would be able to destroy Russia’s relations with Serbia, and that he invited his Serbian counterpart to visit Moscow soon.
Lavrov’s Serbia visit would have been the first by a high-ranking Russian official since the start of the Feb. 24 Ukraine war, and was planned in the backdrop of the EU’s ongoing efforts to punish Moscow with sanctions and other measures.
Serbia, which is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas and oil, has faced growing pressure for its neutrality over the Ukraine war and refusing to sanction Moscow.