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Rare spat between Serbia and Russia after US-brokered deal

A social media post by the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman apparently ridiculing Serbia’s president after he signed a US-sponsored agreement between Serbia and Kosovo has triggered a rare spat between traditional allies Moscow and Belgrade.

Maria Zakharova posted a photo showing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sitting across US President Donald Trump at his Oval Office table. She posted that along with another photo, an iconic scene from thriller “Basic Instinct” showing Sharon Stone being questioned by police as she sits cross-legged in a chair.

Zakharova mocked Vucic in a comment on the Facebook post, saying that he was invited to the White House to be interrogated.

Vucic and other Serbian officials reacted furiously.

“The primitivism and vulgarity she showed speaks about herself, but also about those who have given her the job,” Vucic told the pro-government Pink TV.

Zakharova apologized on Twitter later Sunday, saying her post had been misinterpreted.

Vucic said that while in Washington he defended Serbia’s close ties with Russia, including an arms purchase, and his refusal to impose Western sanctions against Moscow over its policies in Ukraine.

Marko Djuric, an official with Vucic’s ruling party, defended him on Twitter.

“This president did not say a single bad word against Russia, not even in that place [the White House]. The president waited for an hour and half to be received by the Russian president and never asked for a special chair. I will not allow you to attack proud Serbia. Shame on you!” Djuric wrote.

Although formally seeking membership in the European Union, Serbia has been forging close political, economic and military ties with Russia and China.

Trump announced Friday that former wartime foes Serbia and Kosovo had agreed to normalize economic ties as part of US-brokered talks that include Belgrade moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo, which will also open its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.

The announcement provided Trump with a diplomatic win ahead of the November US presidential election and furthers his administration’s push to improve Israel’s international standing.

The agreement also calls on Serbia to diversify its energy supplies, which are now fully in Russia’s hands — something unlikely to be approved by Moscow.

Source: AP and TOI