Russia has formally handed over six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia, as part of ceremonies marking the World War II liberation of Belgrade.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attended the October 20 event at a military airport outside the capital, Belgrade.
Serbia is marking the October 20, 1944, liberation of its capital from Nazi occupation with a military parade and other events. Historians say about 3,000 Yugoslav and 1,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in the final Belgrade Offensive.
The six MiGs arrived disassembled aboard Russian transport planes over the past three weeks.
They are being provided by Moscow at no charge, but their assembly, repair, and refurbishing costs are expected to near $235 million in total. Vucic has said the planes would enter military service by the end of 2017 after refurbishing and pilot training.
Vucic, a former nationalist, has remade himself as a pro-European Union reformer while seeking to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia, which is looking to block the Balkan nation’s path toward possible NATO membership.
Serbia’s moves to heighten military ties with Moscow have worried the West and many neighboring countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and NATO member Croatia.
Based on reporting by AP, BalkanInsight, and Interfax