Serbia halts arms exports after US sanctioned country’s spy chief

Serbia Halts Arms Exports After Us Sanctioned Country’s Spy Chief
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By Jovana Gec, Associated Press

Serbia has suspended all arms exports for 30 days, after the US imposed sanctions on the Balkan country’s intelligence chief over alleged illegal arms deals and other criminal activities.

Defence Minister Milos Vucevic said the export ban is necessary in order to fulfil the needs of the Serbian army and boost its combat readiness amid the simmering crisis in the Balkan region.


“It does not mean Serbia is going to war or calling for war, but we are looking at all security risks and challenges,” Mr Vucevic said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic first announced the move several days ago. He cited “internal security” in Serbia as the reason for the ban while tensions simmer with neighbouring Kosovo, a former Serbian province whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognise.

Serbia US Sanctions
The US said Serbian spy chief Aleksandar Vulin had been implicated in illegal activity (Darko Vojinovic/AP/PA)


Mr Vucevic said the decision will be reviewed after 30 days.

Serbia is formally seeking European Union membership, but it has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia. The US and EU officials have recently stepped up efforts to get Serbia and Kosovo to reach an agreement, fearing possible new instability in Europe while the war continues in Ukraine.

Serbia has faced accusations that it was exporting weapons to countries under international ban, or to Russia and Ukraine. Mr Vucevic denied the reports.

“They keep accusing us that we sold to one side or the other,” he said.


The US this week said the head of Serbia’s intelligence agency, Aleksandar Vulin, “has been implicated in transnational organised crime, illegal narcotics operations, and misuse of public office”.

“Vulin has maintained a mutually beneficial relationship with US-designated Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic, helping ensure that Mr Tesic’s illegal arms shipments can move freely across Serbia’s borders.”

Serbia has promised to investigate US claims. The Organised Crime Prosecutor’s office said on Friday they will seek information and “concrete evidence” against Mr Vulin from the US, the state RTS television reported.

Mr Vulin, a close associated of Mr Vucic, is known for his pro-Russia stance. He was appointed spy chief for the Balkan state last year after previously serving as both the minister of defence and interior.


Last August, Mr Vulin visited Moscow, a rare visit by a European state official that reflected Belgrade’s continued ties with Moscow despite its condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Vulin then told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that “Serbia is the only state in Europe that didn’t introduce sanctions and was not part of the anti-Russian hysteria”.

Mr Vucic has said that Washington imposed sanctions because of Mr Vulin’s position on Russia, and not crime and corruption. Mr Vulin’s ousting has been among the demands of weeks-long street protests in Serbia that erupted in the wake of two mass shootings in early May.

There has been no reaction from Mr Vulin to the sanctions, while his Movement of Socialists party has described the measures against their boss as an attack on Serbia, accusing the US of “raping the truth.”


The US so far has imposed sanctions on a number of officials from the Balkans accused of corruption and seen as threatening peace and stability in the region following the wars in the 1990s, and for helping “advance Russia’s malign activities in Serbia and the region”.

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