Serbia, Russia to begin joint military exercises next month

The Serbian military plans to host two joint exercises with Russian forces starting next month and lasting to October, the Serbian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The exercises could coincide with an expected visit to Serbia by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and reaffirm Belgrade's strong ties with Moscow while it also pursues EU membership.

The army exercise, Slavic Brotherhood 2016, will begin next month in the town of Nikinci, 30 kilometres from the border of NATO member Croatia. The exercise is annual and was held in Russia last year and Serbia in 2014.

The air force exercise, the Brotherhood of Aviators of Russia and Serbia 2016, is planned for October at the Batajnica airbase near Belgrade. It will primarily feature MiG-29 jets and "new Mi-17 helicopters that the Serbian Armed Forces recently bought from Russia."

The Defence Ministry said that the main goal of the exercises is to improve Serbia's military, which "cooperates with more than 60 countries."

Though an EU membership candidate, Serbia has been walking a tightrope between the West and its traditional ally Russia, refusing to take sides in the confrontation over Ukraine. 

Belgrade did join NATO's Partnership for Peace progamme in 2006 despite popular hostility towards the West since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and particularly NATO's 1999 intervention over Kosovo.

Many Serbs feel that the West sided with their foes in the disintegration of Yugoslavia, while Russia backed their interests. 

Last update: Fri, 19/08/2016 - 12:38

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