By Maja Zivanovic
As diplomatic tensions continue between Kiev and Belgrade over an interview with BIRN, Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has called on Serbia to respect his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
After calling its ambassador to Serbia back to Kiev for consulations on November 3, Ukraine has urged Serbia to show respect for its sovereignty and integrity, and deal with the issue of Serbs fighting for pro-Russian forces in the Donbas area of Eastern Ukraine.
“The main emphasis during these consultations was on the problem of Serbian mercenaries who fight in Donbas as part of the Russian terrorist troops, in particular as regards Serbia’s obligations within international anti-terrorist legal instruments to which it is a party,” the Ukraine foreign ministry said in a press release.
“Besides, Ukraine is seriously concerned about illegal contacts by representatives of Serbia with the occupied Crimea,” it added.
In an interview with BIRN on November 1, Ukraine’s ambassador to Belgrade Oleksandr Aleksandrovych, said Serbia was not doing nearly enough to stop Serbs from travelling to Ukraine and fighting on the side of pro-Russian forces in the east.
The ambassador said that Russian propaganda and its secret services had played a huge role in attracting Serbian and other foreign mercenaries to Ukraine. He also accused Russia of playing a highly damaging role in the Balkans in general.
“Russia trains Serbian mercenaries to kill Ukrainians. Russia used Serbian extremists to make a coup d’etat in Montenegro. Russia encourages Serbian separatism in [the Serb-dominated Bosnian entity of] Republika Srpska to destabilise Bosnia and Hercegovina,” he said.
“Russia uses Serbian factor to destabilise Macedonia. Russia plays an active role in putting Serbian Kosovars against Albanian Kosovars. Russia sells its airplanes to Serbia to create tensions with Croatia,” he added.
The interview heightened tensions between Kiev and Belgrade, which has taken a neutral stance over Russia’s annexation Crimea and generally prioritises historic ties to Moscow.
Serbia’s ultra-nationalist Radical Party called for Aleksandrovych to be expelled during a session of parliament.
Serbia’s Foreign Ministry also accused Ukraine’s ambassador of seeking to wreck Serbia’s warm relations with Russia.
The Radical Party on Tuesday said that two of its MPs had recently visited annexed Crimea, on Russia’s invitation, and together with other foreign delegations, had founded an international organization called “Friends of Crimea”.
It also made clear that it fully supported Russia’s claim to Crimea. “The Serbian Radical Party respects the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation with Crimea as its territory, as the Russian Federation respects the territorial integrity of Serbia,” it said.
Another Serbian political delegation, also including members of the Serbian People’s Party, visited Crimea earlier this year, marking the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
As the dispute escalated following the interview, Ukraine called its ambassador to Serbia back to Kiev for consultations on November 3.
Recalled UA Amb to Serbia @OAleksandrovych 4 consultations in Kyiv over observing intnl law&avoiding use of Serbian citizens as mercenaries.
— Pavlo Klimkin (@PavloKlimkin) November 3, 2017