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Serbian Official Lashes Out At Russian Spokeswoman For Mocking President


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (left) speaks to reporters in Belgarde as Marko Djuric, director of the Serbian government's Kosovo office, looks on in February 2019.

A top Serbian official has lashed out at Moscow after a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman mocked Serbia's president for his participation in a U.S. White House ceremony.

The back-and-forth between Belgrade and Moscow was an unusually public and biting exchange given the historical close ties between the two countries.

Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic participated in a ceremony at the Oval Office on September 4 along with Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo, in an event marking the normalization of economic relations between the two countries. The event was hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump.

A day after the ceremony, however, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted a photograph of Vucic sitting in front of Trump's desk, and wrote a mocking post suggesting he should have been sitting like the seductive character played by actress Sharon Stone in the U.S. movie Basic Instinct.

On September 6, a top Serbian government official, Marko Djuric, defended Vucic and reprimanded Zakharova.

He also took a poke at Russian President Vladimir Putin who, Djuric said, had once made Vucic wait 90 minutes for a meeting in Moscow.

Vucic "did not say a single bad word against Russia, not even in that place," Djuric wrote on Twitter.

Vucic "waited for an hour and a 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!" he wrote.

In a later post on Facebook, Zakharova seemed to walk back her suggestion about Vucic, saying she had been misunderstood.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also announced on September 6 that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had spoken by telephone with Vucic, during which Vucic briefed Lavrov on the outcome of his trip to Washington.

On the issue of Kosovo, the Russian ministry said, the Kremlin had stressed its position of seeking a "long-term settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244."

The Oval Office event was seen as notable progress in getting Belgrade and Pristina to agree to full diplomatic relations.

A former province of Serbia, Kosovo broke away after the 1999 war and declared independence in 2008.

Serbia, and Russia, have refused to recognize the declaration, and Serbia and Kosovo have engaged in trade blockades.

The Trump administration has pushed hard for the two countries to normalize relations, and the ceremony was seen as a victory for U.S. diplomatic efforts.

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