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News 14 Nov 14

Serbia and Russia Stage Joint Military Exercise

As Serbian and Russian troops stage a joint 'anti-terrorist' drill in northern Serbia, the Defence Minister has maintained that the event has no hidden meaning and was arranged long ago.

Tanjug, Radio Free Europe

Russia and Serbia are holding a joint anti-terrorist drill, codenamed SREM-2014, near the northern Serbian town of Ruma.  

Serbia's Defence Ministry stated that Russian airborne troops and Serbian ground forces were holding a joint exercise on destroying terrorist bases and releasing hostages.

Media reports have speculated that the ministry has tried to keep the drill out of the public eye, fearing negative reactions from Western countries related to the Ukraine crisis and other current disputes between the EU and Russia.

However, Bratislav Gasic, the Defence Minister, said the drill was scheduled about a year ago and had no hidden meaning. The Serbian army has signed cooperation contracts with more than 60 countries, he noted.

“We will do everything to lift our operational and functional capabilities up to the maximum level. Cooperation with any army brings new experiences, new technologies, new techniques and the Serbian Army is interested both to show and to receive such knowledge,” he said.

The minister added that this year Serbia also staged joint drills with NATO member countries.

Ljubodrag Stojadinovic, a military analyst and former Yugoslav Army colonel, said the training should not be considered too significant, but does have some importance for Moscow.

“Such training as well as any kind of military show contains a message of power," he said. "That is another important dimension of this training, but it is not aggressive in itself,” Stojadinovic told Radio Free Europe, ahead of the drill.

Serbia is a candidate for a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO, which is seen as a step towards eventual membership.

However, Serbia cherishes close ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin was recently welcomed in Serbia for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Red Army's Liberation of Belgrade from Nazi occupation. Serbia signed an agreement on military-technical cooperation signed with Russia in 2013.

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