23:03 GMT +307 December 2019
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    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gives a press conference in Belgrade, file photo.

    Vucic Vows to 'Uphold the Best of Cooperation' With Russia Amid Allegations of Moscow Espionage

    © AFP 2019 / OLIVER BUNIC
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    BELGRADE (Sputnik) - Serbia will remain a militarily neutral country and will not change its policy on Russia, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday, amid allegations of Russian espionage activity in the nation.

    On Wednesday, Serbia's Blic newspaper published an article claiming that a former deputy military attache at the Russian Embassy in Serbia, Georgiy Kleban, attempted to recruit a senior Serbian officer for the purposes of espionage. Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said the country's authorities would first study and verify the reports.

    "As for us, we are not going to change our policy in relation to Russia. We consider it a brotherly nation and we will uphold the best of cooperation in all spheres. In addition to protecting and maintaining our soil in this sense, meaning intelligence, as well. Serbia is not going to pivot its policy to NATO, it [Serbia] does not want to join neither NATO, nor the Collective Security Treaty Organization, nor any third military bloc - I reiterate it distinctly and clearly," Vucic said in a national address.

    Blic and other Serbian media published images and video of an alleged spy encounter in which the two men can be seen exchanging packages and the Serbian official pulling an envelope - purportedly containing cash - from his pocket.

    Vucic has commented on the publication of the footage, saying that he Serbian authorities saw the former deputy military attache at the Russian Embassy in Serbia giving money to Serbian officers three times. 

    The footage involving Kleban, according to the Serbian president, had been recorded on December 24, 2018, in Belgrade’s Zemun district. The president said that then, the Russian officer met with resigned Serbian colonel Z. K..

    Vucic insisted that Belgrade remained committed to cooperating with Russia, considered it a brotherly state and was grateful to Moscow for its support on the international arena.

    Earlier in the day, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that Moscow will comment on the matter only when the video file is evaluated for authenticity and studied to determine the identity of the participants.

    On Thursday, President Vucic met with Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, Russian ambassador to Serbia, during which he confirmed an upcoming 4 December visit to the Russian city of Sochi, and then scheduled a meeting of the security council.

    "Preparations for President Vucic's visit to the Russian Federation on December 4 and his talks with President [Vladimir] Putin were one of the topics discussed at the meeting. This will be the 17th meeting of the two leaders and their third meeting this year," the Serbian presidential administration said in a statement.

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    Vladimir Putin, Russia, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia
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