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2 Mar, 2023 18:11

Russia comments on ‘Serb weapons’ in Ukraine

Moscow is “deeply concerned” by reports that NATO members smuggled Serbian-made rockets into Kiev
Russia comments on ‘Serb weapons’ in Ukraine

Claims that Serbian-made ammunition has been delivered to Ukrainian forces are a serious matter, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, adding that Moscow is reserving judgment until all the facts have been established.

Several media outlets in Russia and Serbia have reported that some 3,500 rockets manufactured at the Krusik factory in Valjevo had made their way to the Ukrainian military. 

Asked about this at Thursday's daily briefing, Zakharova stated that the reports caused “the deepest concern” in Moscow, and that the ministry was “attentively following” the matter, including discussions about it in the Serbian parliament.

“This is too serious an issue, with implications on Russian-Serbian relations, to react reflexively,” Zakharova added. “We need to get to the facts.”

According to the reports, the Krusik weapons works sold the rockets to a Turkish customer, who then sent them to Ukraine via Slovakia. The 122-millimeter projectiles are used with the M-21 Grad multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS), in service with both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Responding to the reports, Krusik officials insisted that their contracts specified the Turkish end-user could not re-export the rockets without permission, and that the documents allegedly showing the resale to a Canadian company for delivery to Slovakia were falsified.

Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic muddied the waters on Tuesday, however, when he told the parliament that Belgrade had the legal right to export weapons and that if they ended up in the wrong hands, that was a matter of international trade.

“Serbia absolutely does not export weapons to either Ukraine or Russia, but we have the right to sell to all documented and legal end-users,” Vucevic said. “We will not sell weapons to any parties to the war. We do not want our weapons to be used in the war on either side. But we do not want to be false moralists. We produce weapons and military equipment. These are not museum pieces that sit on exhibit, this is something armies put to use.”

Reports of the Krusik deliveries come as the US and the EU are pressuring Belgrade to join their sanctions against Russia, as well as accept their demands to recognize the breakaway province of Kosovo in exchange for a promise of eventual EU membership.