Serbia to reduce number of flights to Moscow after criticism

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Air Serbia will go back to one flight a day to Moscow, the Serbian president said, following criticism that the country’s national carrier is busting a European Union-wide ban on flights to Russia and profiting from the war in Ukraine.

Since the Russian invasion started over two weeks ago, AirSerbia has doubled the number of flights to the Russian capital and introduced larger aircraft to increase the number of seats for what has become its most profitable destination.

An Air Serbia passenger plane rolls on the tarmac at Belgrade's Nikola Tesla Airport, Serbia, Feb. 10, 2021.

An Air Serbia passenger plane rolls on the tarmac at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, Serbia, Feb. 10, 2021.
(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

Beside some Turkish carriers, Serbia’s airline is the only European company that has kept on flying to Russia since the international flight ban was announced after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That triggered criticism from both the EU and Ukraine.

“Serbia is the only one in Europe with an open sky to Russia,” Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar tweeted. “Making money on (Ukrainian) blood is unworthy of an EU candidate country.”

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Serbia’s populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, said Air Serbia will go back to one flight to Moscow a day following “the witch hunt” against his country.

“And will those who are leading the chase against Serbia in connection with the flights to the capital of Russia be satisfied with that?” Vucic asked during a TV interview last night.

An Air Serbia passenger plane flies over the "Old railroad bridge" over Sava River, before landing in Belgrade, Serbia, Aug. 6, 2021.

An Air Serbia passenger plane flies over the “Old railroad bridge” over Sava River, before landing in Belgrade, Serbia, Aug. 6, 2021.
(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

Referring to Turkey, he complained that “no one will touch those in NATO, who are partly in Europe and partly in Asia, and have 30 times more flights to Moscow than Serbia.”

Vucic did not say when the flight reduction will start. There were two Air Serbia flights scheduled for Moscow on Sunday.

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Despite formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has refused to introduce international sanctions against its ally Russia. EU officials have repeatedly warned Serbia that it will have to align itself with the bloc’s foreign policies if it wants to join.

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Serbia’s dominant state-controlled media are unselectively carrying Moscow’s war propaganda, creating a strong pro-Putin mood among Serbia’s ultranationalists and far-right groups.

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