Serbia "in line of fire" over Ukraine, says U.S. official

The United States thinks a number of European countries, Serbia among them, are "in the line of fire" when it comes to relations between Washington and Moscow.

Source: Beta, Tanjug
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was appearing before a U.S. Senate subcommittee when he was asked about "the growing influence of Russia in Europe."

In this context, besides Serbia, Kerry also mentioned "Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, and others, Georgia, Moldova, Pridnestrovie," RIA Novosti reported.

He also told the subcommittee it was Russia that "engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War."

"And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations - lies - whatever you want to call them about their activities there to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on several occasions denied that Moscow was supplying pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine with weapons.

The war there has so far claimed the lives of more than 5,600 people.

Members of the U.S. Congress want U.S. President Barack Obama to approve sending arms to Ukraine, something opposed by many European countries.

As he addressed the subcommittee on Tuesday, Kerry did not wish to state his position on the issue, but said it was "under active consideration."

U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy remarked during the hearing there was concern that the debate about sending arms to Ukraine was overshadowing "a far bigger project that is unfolding before us" - and that is "the spread of Russia's influence."

"What we see in Ukraine in the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Russia's influence in that region," he said, and added that legal instruments should be found to suppress that influence which he believes encompasses Moldavia, Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, "Latvia, the Baltic".

Murphy added that this was a case of "asymmetric warfare," and described it in the following way:

"They buy the media, pay off public servants, or intimidate those they cannot buy."

According to him, "such Russian behavior" has not met with the West's adequate response.

Resources are needed to conduct such a strategy, he explained.

The U.S. senator noted that he was in the Balkans last fall, and that during his trip he noticed "great Russian influence in Serbia."

"Russia is marching in Serbia with greater than ever influence," he said, adding that at the same time, the U.S. embassy in Belgrade struggles to raise funds for exchange programs.

During the debate, Kerry also offered this analysis:

"Russia is engaged in a massive effort to sway nations, to appeal to them, reach out to them, and fundamentally, tragically, sort of reigniting a new kind of East-West zero sum game that we think is dangerous and unnecessary."

At the same time, reports quoted him as saying that Washington was doing "a pretty good job of standing up for Ukrainian sovereignty."

Kerry also "urged the world and Congress to increase its economic support for Ukraine."

"We all need to be prepared to step up and be there economically for Ukraine as they reform and try to implement their dream and vision," he said.

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