Lavrov Cancels Serbia Trip After NATO Countries Deny Airspace Use
Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Montenegro each closed their airspace to Lavrov’s plane, which was originally scheduled to land in Belgrade on Monday morning.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov abandoned his plans to visit Serbia after every country around it refused to allow his aircraft to travel through their airspace, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“The reports are accurate,” an anonymous official within Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the outlet. Following a clarification, the official later announced that the meeting had been canceled, observing that “our diplomat [Lavrov] has not yet mastered the ability to teleport.”
A Serbian newspaper, Vecernje Novosti, had reported earlier in the day that Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Montenegro had each closed their airspace to Lavrov’s plane, which was originally scheduled to land in Belgrade on Monday morning. Russia’s top diplomat was slated to meet with Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik during his visit from Monday, June 6 to Tuesday, June 7.
In the days leading up to Lavrov’s trip, Vucic confirmed that the Serbian government would continue to anticipate the visit, but added that “the situation is getting complicated.” Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabic echoed Vucic’s comments, adding that it was “unbelievable that today the situation in Europe and the world is such that the president of one country should deal with such things as the travel logistics of the foreign minister of another country, on which it depends whether he will come or not.”
Serbia has been landlocked since the dissolution of its union with Montenegro in 2006. Following North Macedonia’s accession to NATO in 2020, Serbia has been completely surrounded by NATO members with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is in advanced discussions to join the alliance amid contentious domestic politics.
Although most European nations have vocally opposed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and joined the international sanctions regime against the Kremlin, Serbia’s leadership remains close to Russia and has refused to participate in the campaign. Immediately following the invasion, Vucic indicated that he supported peace and respect for sovereign borders, including those of Ukraine, but refused to explicitly condemn the Russian invasion.
In late May, Vucic also announced that he had signed a three-year gas deal with Russia following the expiration of Belgrade’s ten-year contract with Russian gas giant Gazprom on May 31. Vucic claimed that Serbia would purchase Russian natural gas for the lowest price of any nation in Europe, bragging that Serbian prices would be “ten to twelve times lower than what the rest of Europe pays” during the winter.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.