Defense Minister Says Serbia Will Get Russian Fighter Jets

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) —

Serbia’s defense minister said Sunday the country is getting a shipment of Russian fighter jets, supplies that could worsen tensions with neighboring states.

Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic said after returning from one of his frequent visits to Moscow that six MiG-29s will be delivered to Serbia “soon.”

Djordjevic said Russia also is providing experts to upgrade the aircraft acquired from Russian Army reserves.

“The MiGs will be equipped with most modern arms, radars, optical and communication systems,” he said.

In addition to the fighter jets, Serbia has reportedly agreed to purchase 30 tanks and as many armored vehicles from Russia. Also, Belgrade is negotiating another eight MiG-29s and Russian-made anti-aircraft systems with Belarus.

Serbia’s arming has triggered alarms in the Balkans, which was engulfed by a bloody war in the 1990s that killed more than 110,000 people and left millions homeless. Croatia, a NATO member, has already announced it is buying jets and other equipment from the West in response to the Serbian buildup.

Serbia formally has been on the path to joining the European Union, but under pressure from Moscow has steadily slid toward the Kremlin and its goal of keeping the country out of NATO and other Western institutions.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s stand toward NATO, which he has described as an “obsolete” organization, and his warming of relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, also has worried nations in southeastern Europe.

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