On Monday, Serbian Minister of Economy Rade Basta made a controversial post on Facebook calling for Serbia to immediately impose sanctions on Russia. In so doing, he became the first high-ranking government official to call for sanctions on Serbia’s most reliable ally.
“Our country is already paying a high price for not imposing sanctions on Russia and it is becoming unsustainable,” Basta wrote on Facebook. “I, as a Minister of Economy, watch how much pressure is being put on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, and for us to remain silent, cannot accept that. That is why I am for the introduction of sanctions to Russia, I stand with President Vučić in defense of state and national interests and I have absolute trust in him. That's why I ask the Government of Serbia and all ministers to make a statement on this matter.”
Basta’s call for sanctions caused outrage in Serbia. The Movement of Socialists (PS) of Serbia, led by Aleksandar Vulin, Director of Serbia’s Security Intelligence Agency demanded Basta’s immediate resignation. "Now, when we need unity, Basta seeks to divide the government of Serbia on the issue of joining the illegal sanctions against the Russian Federation.,” their statement read. “It is particularly shameful that Basta is hiding behind the back of the President of Serbia, in order to undermine the independence and neutrality, which Aleksandar Vucic protects both from the foreigners and such domestic cowards… We expect that Basta will tender his resignation from the government.”
Dragan Marković, leader of the Serbia United party, a member of the coalition government along with Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party condemned Basta’s statements, pointing out that the imposition of sanctions against the Russian Federation will not end the war in Ukraine and that peace can only be achieved at the negotiating table.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova weighed in on the matter pointing out that “should Serbia impose sanctions against Russia, U.S. pressure will not end, but will only grow stronger… unlike the US, Russia has always respected Serbia and its people.”
Rade Basta is widely known as a politician of limited intelligence and minimal education, making him highly susceptible to Western influence operations. A former kickboxer, police officer, and gym teacher, he formerly managed Belgrade’s central heating utility. Basta has a history of anti-Russian comments.