Ambassador: Russia had no hand in selecting ministers
Aleksandr Chepurin says he is convinced that Serbia's new government is "quite determined to work to further strengthen relations between Belgrade and Moscow."Source: Tanjug, Večernje novosti
"We had good cooperation with many ministers in the previous government I do not see why that practice would not continue with the new cabinet," the Russian ambassador to Serbia told the Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti.
"We may not have the same stance on every issue in the world, but it is in both our interests to branch our ties as much as possible. I believe in their good future, as well as in Serbia's good future," the diplomat stressed, and paraphrased a statement made by PM Aleksandar Vučić to say, "Serbia is a friend of Russia - that is how it was, how it is, and how it will be."
Asked to comment on speculations that Moscow "directly interfered in the composition of the new government" - allegedly demanding that Ivica Dačić remains, and that Zorana Mihajlović is left out - Chepurin said this was "pure boundless fantasy."
"That is exclusively a question for your country," he said of the cabinet formation.
Asked whether Serbia can count on Russia's support in resolving the Kosovo problem in the future as well, and whether Moscow could "change its position and recognize Kosovo," the Russian ambassador said that Serbia can count on Russia in all international institutions when it comes to Kosovo:
"On this issue Serbia needs likely-minded allies, the moral support. There will absolutely be no change in the Russian position on Kosovo. Our stance relies on international law and UN Security Council Resolution 1244. When we referred to the decision of the International Court of Justice, we did so precisely to stress the cynical application of double standards by the U.S. and a number western country. As far as they are concerned it is acceptable and proper to use force against a sovereign state in order to separate a part of its territory, while the peaceful, unanimous expression of the will of citizens of Crimea, under the conditions of the coup in Kiev, was declared illegitimate."
Asked what consequences Serbia would face if it abandoned its current position not to introduce sanctions against Russia," Chepurin said that his country thought Serbia had its own interests and wished to follow those, "instead of chasing up the decisions made by others at any cost, trying to be louder than others."
Chepurin also said that it was Serbia’s sovereign right to want to join the EU and that Russia would not interfere, and at the same time "welcomed Serbia's position not to work against the interests of Russia."
As for Russia's reaction "in case Serbia joined NATO," Chepurin said that "few people in Serbia are saying that was necessary," and wondered:
"I don't know if there are any Serbs fantasizing about starting a confrontation with Russia, or about pointing their rockets at Russia."
According to him, it remains to be seen what will happen in the future, including whether NATO would continue to exist, "or if cooperation between Europe, Russia and China will develop, with Moscow as the connective tie between Brussels and Beijing."
"Our position on NATO is simple and well-known - that alliance was created against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union no longer exists and NATO is a Cold War leftover. I won't even mention the horror that Serbia went through in its recent past, in relation to NATO," the ambassador told the daily.
Asked about the Ukrainian crisis and "a possible new global war," the Russian diplomat said that "some other countries may perhaps have such interests, but Russia certainly does not."
"We are doing everything so that it does not come to pass. The problems in Ukraine should be solved by the Ukrainians themselves, in a peaceful and political manner. In any case, we do not need a new Cold War and Iron Curtain. They say history repeats twice, first as tragedy, and then as farce. Russia does not need the farce."
Asked about Russian investments in Serbia, Chepurin said that he hoped the Russian loan to Serbian Railways "will make Serbian trains run four times as fast as now."
He mentioned Majdanpek, NIS, Sberbank, Lukoil, and Gazprom as examples of successful Russian investments, and noted that the construction of South Stream through Serbia was "proceeding according to plan" while both countries were "very interested in the pipeline project."
"All the contracts have been singed, the plans drawn up. Now it's necessary to resolve the issue of South Stream as a whole."
The ambassador denied that Russia planned to "position itself in Serbia militarily" and said there would be no military base in the southern town of Niš.
"We wish to help Serbia clear up the leftover NATO ammunition. Russia has donated some USD 30 million for that purpose, 37 Russian experts work there," Chepurin explained.