The UN General Assembly voted on Thursday to exclude Russia from the organization’s human rights commission. One of the voters, Serbia, says it was blackmailed over UN vote against Russia.
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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that his country has been compelled to support Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council by the prospect of sanctions.
Belgrade has always had good connections with Moscow, but this week backed other Western countries in voting against Russia in reaction to its military incursion in Ukraine. “Our initial decision was to abstain,” Vucic told RTS TV on Thursday. “But then we were subjected to countless and difficult pressure.”
“They said – do you know that a decision is being made whether Serbia will be exempted from the package of sanctions on [Russian] oil, and whether it will be able to import oil after May 15?” the president said. He likened the impact of sanctions on Serbia to a “nuclear strike.”
Serbia, unlike the EU, has not placed any sanctions on Russia. “The Republic of Serbia believes that it’s not in its vital political and economic interests to impose sanctions on any country,” Vucic said, adding that he wishes to retain positive ties with both the European Union and Russia.
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Belgrade has previously stated that losing access to Russian energy would be detrimental to its economy. Serbian news sources reported on Friday that Serbia will be excluded from potential sanctions on Russian oil and gas, citing sources in Brussels.
At the same time, EU spokesperson Peter Stano was cited in the Blic tabloid as stating that the EU anticipates Belgrade to adopt its measures against Russia or apply its own sanctions.
The UN General Assembly voted on Thursday to exclude Russia from the organization’s human rights commission. Serbia was one of the 93 member states who voted in favor of the suspension.
The EU has barred Russian coal shipments but has so far refrained from prohibiting oil and gas imports. However, European Council President Charles Michel stated on Wednesday that sanctions against Russian oil and gas will be necessary “sooner or later.”
Following Ukraine’s refusal to fulfill the provisions of the Minsk agreements made in 2014, and Russia’s subsequent recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, Moscow launched an offensive on the neighboring country in late February. The Minsk Protocol, negotiated by the Germans and the French, was intended to grant the separatist areas special position within the Ukrainian state.
Since then, Russia has insisted that Ukraine designate itself a neutral country that would never join the NATO military alliance led by the United States. Kiev believes the Russian invasion was unjustified and refutes suggestions that it planned to reclaim the two regions militarily.