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Serbia buys loitering munitions from UAE, invests in military industry – president

  • Signal of further alienation from longtime ally Russia

Feb 21 (Reuters) – Serbia said on Tuesday it would buy loitering munitions, a drone that flies to a target and detonates, from the United Arab Emirates, marking a further estrangement from longtime ally and arms supplier Russia.

“In the next 48 hours, we will sign the (arms) contract,” President Aleksandar Vučić said Tuesday during a tour of the defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“These are suicide drones, they will be in Serbia, we hope to have the first domestic suicide drone in the Serbian army within five or six months,” he told reporters in a speech broadcast live on Serbian television.

Vucic did not specify how much loitering ammunition, price or manufacturer Belgrade will receive from the UAE.

Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, has been under Western pressure since Moscow’s devastating invasion of Ukraine about a year ago to scale back ties with Russia, a traditionally Orthodox and Slavic ally.

Although Serbia has voted against Russia at the United Nations three times since the invasion, the Belgrade government has so far refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow.

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Vucic said on Monday that Serbia wanted to strengthen its military and defense industry by investing an additional 700 million euros ($746.62 million) by 2023.

Serbia’s military is loosely based on older former Soviet hardware, with MiG-29 fighter jets and MI-35m gunships, and its air defense system consists mostly of Russian missile systems and radars. Its ground forces also use Soviet-made T-72 tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It also operates Chinese reconnaissance and combat drones and medium-range surface-to-air missiles.

Last year, Vucic stated that Serbia wanted to buy the Rafale multirole fighter jet from France. He said on Monday that negotiations on the price, which he estimated at around 3 billion euros, were still ongoing.

($1 = 0.9376 Euros)

Reporting by Alexander Vasovich; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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