China delivers weapons to Russia ally Serbia in 'show of force'

China delivers anti-aircraft weapons system to Russian ally Serbia in ‘demonstration of force’

  • Secret delivery of elite missile system was show of strength from China: experts
  • Putin ally Serbia has been careful to support the Kremlin while pushing to join EU
  • China deal boosts Belgrade’s armoury, adding to a stock of Russian weapons
  • President Alexander Vučić: ‘Both Ukraine and Russia are friendly countries’
  • Serbia, Russia and China do not recognise statehood of neighbour Kosovo 

Russian ally Serbia received a secret delivery of Chinese anti-aircraft weapons in a show of Beijing’s strength in Europe.

Western countries are concerned that the military build-up by the Balkans state comes at a fragile time for peace in Europe.

Belgrade has grown its armoury in recent years with the help of Russia and China.

All three countries do not recognise the statehood of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.  

Six Chinese Y-20 army transport jets arrived in Belgrade on Sunday (this one pictured in 2018)

Media and military experts said on Sunday that six Chinese Air Force Y-20 transport planes landed at Belgrade’s civilian airport early on Saturday, reportedly carrying HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems for the Serbian military.

The Chinese cargo planes with military markings were pictured at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport. 

Serbia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment.

The arms delivery over the territory of at least two NATO member states, Turkey and Bulgaria, was seen by experts as a demonstration of China’s growing global reach.

‘The Y-20s’ appearance raised eyebrows because they flew en masse as opposed to a series of single-aircraft flights,’ wrote online magazine The Warzone.

‘The Y-20’s presence in Europe in any numbers is also still a fairly new development.’

Serbian military analyst Aleksandar Radic said ‘the Chinese carried out their demonstration of force’.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić all but confirmed the delivery of the medium-range system that was agreed in 2019, saying on Saturday that he will present ‘the newest pride’ of the Serbian military on Tuesday or Wednesday.

He had earlier complained that NATO countries, which represent most of Serbia’s neighbours, are refusing to allow the delivery flights over their territories amid tensions over Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla civilian airport was the site of the clandestine overnight delivery 

Although Serbia has voted in favour of UN resolutions that condemn the bloody Russian attacks in Ukraine, it has refused to join international sanctions against its allies in Moscow or criticise outright atrocities by the Russian troops. 

US officials had warned Belgrade against the purchase of HQ-22 anti-aircraft systems in 2020.

They said if Serbia wants to join the European Union and other Western alliances, it must align its military equipment with Western standards.

The Chinese missile system has been widely compared to the American Patriot and the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, although it has a shorter range than more advanced S-300s. 

Vučić (right) is an enigmatic leader and recently gave Johnny Depp (left) a medal of honour 

Serbia will be the first operator of the Chinese missiles in Europe.

Serbia was last at war with its neighbours in the 1990s. 

The country, which is formally seeking EU membership, has already been boosting its armed forces with Russian and Chinese arms, including warplanes, battle tanks and other equipment.

In 2020, it took delivery of Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 drones, known in China as Wing Loong. 

The combat drones are able to strike targets with bombs and missiles and can be used for reconnaissance tasks.

There are fears in the West that the arming of Serbia by Russia and China could encourage the Balkan country toward another war, especially against former province Kosovo.

Serbia has also helped supply the Myanmar military junta alongside Moscow and Beijing.

At least 1,500 civilians have been killed since military launched a coup three years ago.

Serbian and Russian weapons have been tied to war crimes, according to the US. 

A Chinese construction firm is also building a multi-billion-pound sewage plant in Kragujevac, central Serbia.

The two countries also intend to sign a free trade agreement by the end of 2022. 

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