Serbia does not intend to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defense missile systems, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an interview with the RTS national television on Wednesday.
Vucic earlier attended the Slavic Shield-2019 Russian-Serbian drills where he personally examined S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and a battery of Pantsyr-S anti-aircraft missile/gun launchers. After examining the S-400s, the Serbian leader said that one day Serbia would be able to buy these systems but currently the country lacked 500 million euros for their purchase. At the same time, Vucic said Serbia was ready to accept S-400s from Russia as a gift.
The US was quick to respond to Vucic’s statement. US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer warned in an interview with the Macedonian television during his visit to Skopje that the purchase of S-400 systems from Russia would entail US sanctions against Belgrade.
The Serbian leader’s reaction shows that Serbia perceives the US warning seriously.
“What I have seen is an impressive weapon. We have no intention to purchase [the S-400 system] because we have no money to pay for it, considering the construction of motorways and numerous projects. You know, when you have such a weapon, no one would attack you. Neither US nor any other pilots fly where S-400s are operational: Israeli pilots do not fly either over Turkey or Syria, except for the Golan Heights. We have aviation, which the strongest than ever before. We will be strengthening the air defense with Pantsyr systems and other things, which are not on the sanctions list,” he said.
The Vecernje novosti newspaper earlier reported that the Serbian authorities were considering buying S-400 surface-to-air missile systems on long-term credit. The paper also said that 14 Serbian planes simulated a notional enemy during the drills.
All of them were notionally shot down within less than three minutes by an S-400 system that fired 26 missiles. The paper also said that a group of Serbian officers had already undergone training in Russia to learn to operate S-400 systems.