Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Montenegro closed their airspace to a Russian plane that would have carried Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Serbia, causing the trip to be canceled.
Lavrov slammed the move by the three NATO nations. “An unthinkable thing has happened,” he said on Monday. “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to conduct foreign policies. The international activities of Serbia on the Russian track have been blocked.”
The move is the latest example of NATO nations discouraging diplomacy with Moscow. While some NATO members have maintained dialogue with Moscow, including France, Germany, and Italy, many have followed the US and haven’t held high-level talks since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Serbia has tried to balance ties between NATO states and Russia. While seeking an EU membership, Belgrade has maintained its historically close ties with Moscow. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expressed “dissatisfaction” over Lavrov’s plane being blocked and said Serbia “will preserve independence and autonomy in political decision-making.”
Lavrov said that by blocking his plane, Western nations show they don’t think Serbia has the right to choose to host him. “From the Western viewpoint, Serbia mustn’t have any choice, any freedom in choosing its partners,” he said.