(Bloomberg) -- Serbia angrily disputed a suggestion from European Union member Lithuania that the Balkan state may be punished for refusing to join sanctions against Russia even as Belgrade seeks to join the bloc.
Serbia has been balancing its EU entry aspirations with keeping close ties with traditional ally Russia, which provides energy supplies and political support in feuds with Balkan neighbors that have lingered since Yugoslavia’s bloody breakup.
“Threatening Serbia with sanctions unless it imposes sanctions against the Russian Federation is as stupid as it is hypocritical,” Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said in comments published on the government’s website.
He was reacting to a call on Monday by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to penalize states that are still doing business with Russia and allowing Moscow to bypass EU sanctions. Vulin said it was “hypocrisy” to demand that Serbia join the sanctions while EU nations are still importing oil and gas from Russia.
“If the Lithuanian threats are the language of the European Union, then our accession to the EU is even further away than I thought,” said Vulin, an ally of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. “Serbs do not attack friends and do not like blackmail.”
Serbia was among more than 140 nations that condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine in a United Nations vote, but it stopped short of joining the strict sanctions.
While Russian flights are banned from EU airspace, Serbia’s flag carrier continues to fly to destinations there, providing a loophole for travelers. Air Serbia scaled back the flights this week following international criticism.
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