Actually, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had planned a trip to Serbia. But nothing will come of it now. The reason: Serbia’s neighboring countries denied the Russian plane permission to fly over it. A scandal, Lavrov thinks.

The visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Belgrade, planned for Monday and Tuesday, has fallen through. Serbia’s neighboring countries refused “to allow Sergey Lavrov’s plane, which wanted to fly to Serbia, to fly over it,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, according to Russian news agencies. The Kremlin’s chief diplomat reacted with outrage on Monday and spoke of a “scandal”. Lavrov, like President Vladimir Putin, is subject to Western sanctions because of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.

“The unthinkable happened,” Lavrov said at an online press conference. “A sovereign state has been deprived of the right to pursue foreign policy.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke of a “hostile act”. This could cause “certain problems”.

EU states deny Lavrov overflight rights

Actually, Lavrov should have arrived on Monday for a two-day visit to Serbia, which has not yet joined the EU sanctions against Russia. However, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro refused his plane the overflight. “The Russian delegation was supposed to arrive in Belgrade for talks. But the EU and NATO member countries have closed their airspace,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in Moscow.

Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade was therefore canceled of necessity, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing diplomatic circles in Moscow. The day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the EU imposed sanctions on Putin and Lavrov, among others. She also blocked the airspace for Russian planes.

Deputy Speaker of the Russian House of Lords Konstantin Kosachev condemned the closure of airspace to Lavrov’s plane as a move “against Russia as a state and Serbia as a state”. He hopes for a joint and “extremely tough” reaction, which will not only be reflected in the form of diplomatic protests, but also in “concrete measures,” Kosatchev wrote via Telegram.

Serbia in the Ukraine war between the chairs

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic had already referred to “logistical” difficulties regarding overflight rights on the route of the Russian chief diplomat on Sunday. She described the situation surrounding Lavrov’s visit as “extraordinarily complicated”.

Lavrov originally wanted to meet Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic and Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Porfirye in Belgrade.

Serbia has condemned the Russian military action against Ukraine, but at the same time Belgrade does not want to break with its ally and refuses to join the EU sanctions against Russia. Serbia recently extended a gas supply contract from Russia by three years.