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Serbian president rules out NATO membership, anti-Russian sanctions

April 20, 5:16 UTC+3 BELGRADE

Vucic said that although his country was ready for dialogue on the status of Kosovo but it will not give up its national honor

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Pro-government rally in Belgrade

Pro-government rally in Belgrade

© Pavel Bushuyev/TASS

BELGRADE, April 19. /TASS/. Despite foreign pressure, Serbia will never impose sanctions on Russia and will stay out of any military bloc, including NATO, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told a pro-government rally in Belgrade on Friday evening.

"Serbia wants to join the European Union, but we also want to preserve our good relations with Russia and improve relations with China. We will never impose sanctions on Russia no matter how strong the pressure is, because Russia has never imposed sanctions on us. We want to remain neutral, to defend our land and skies on our own and to stay away of any military bloc," the Serbian leader said.

He said that Serbia’s foreign policies envisage friendly relations with Russia and China and improving ties with the European Union and NATO. At the same time, Belgrade is reluctant to join any military bloc, saying that it values its status of a neutral country. Western politicians and organizations have repeatedly stressed that the country’s European integration is possible on the condition that it recognizes the independence of Kosovo and halts friendship with Russia.

Vucic said that although his country was ready for dialogue on the status of Kosovo but "everyone must remember that although life is precious, there is something far more valuable - honor."

"Don’t force Serbia to give up its honor," he said.

On Friday, Vucic attended a large-scale rally in the Serbian capital, which gathered to demonstrate support to the incumbent government. Earlier, Vucic said the rally will be the country’s biggest in 50 years. According to police estimates, it was attended by between 140,000 and 150,000 participants, including residents of all Serbian regions, brought to the capital by some 3,000 buses. A group of 27 people arrived from the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija on foot, after the authorities of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, prohibited a dozen of Belgrade-bound buses from crossing the border.

The rally was organized in response to a series of anti-government protests, which began last December. No incidents were reported.

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