Serbia’s defense chief crows about Russian military allies

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s defense minister says live-ammunition drills being held with Russian and Belarusian troops show that Serbia has allies in any future war in the Balkans.

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin says Monday the military maneuvers dubbed “Slavic Brotherhood” show that “we are no longer alone.” He was referring to the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia that stopped a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists and civilians when Russia remained on the sidelines.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008. The former Serbian province is recognized by the U.S. and most other Western states, but not by Serbia, Russia or China.

Tensions recently have increased in the Balkans, with Serbia and Kosovo accusing each other of undermining efforts at reconciliation.

Serbia is seeking European Union membership, but has also been sliding toward Russian influence.

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