BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president said Wednesday that the real reason the country’s intelligence chief is facing U.S. sanctions is his stance toward Russia, not corruption allegations.
The United States imposed sanctions on Aleksandar Vulin on Tuesday, accusing him of being involved in illegal arms shipments, drug trafficking and abuse of power.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Vulin used his public authority to help US-sanctioned Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic move illegal arms shipments across the country’s borders. Serbia. Vulin is also accused of being involved in a drug trafficking ring, the Treasury said.
“No sanctions were imposed on Aleksandar Vulin for any crime, corruption or anything,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said. “The sanctions were imposed because of his position towards the Russian Federation.”
Serbia is a candidate for membership of the European Union, but maintains friendly relations with Moscow.
Vulin, who is openly pro-Russian, was appointed spy chief for the Balkan state last year.
Vulin was previously Serbia’s interior minister. In that role, he visited Moscow last August, a rare visit from a European state official who underscored Belgrade’s refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Vulin then told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that “Serbia is the only state in Europe that did not introduce sanctions and was not part of the anti-Russian hysteria.”
Vulin’s ouster is among the demands of weeks-long street protests in Serbia that erupted following two mass shootings in early May.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States “will continue to hold accountable those who advance their political agenda and personal gain at the expense of peace and stability in the Western Balkans and advance Russia’s malign activities in Serbia and the region”.