The British news agency says that Vucic’s remarks to Reuters come a day after protesters at a rally in Belgrade against a gay pride march waved Russian flags and carried posters of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“I cannot say that it (the protest) was a proxy attack because there were many ordinary people there…but whether there is a proxy conflict in Serbia…there is one, no doubt about that, East and West,” he said, speaking to Reuters.

Reuters further says that Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union, its single biggest trade partner and investor. It is militarily neutral but maintains ties with NATO and has purchased weapons from its member states. However, they say that Belgrade is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas and has also bought weapons from Russia. China is a major investor, mainly in mining and infrastructure.

Although Serbia has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, it refused to join sanctions against Moscow. In return, both Beijing and Moscow support Serbia’s opposition to the independence of Kosovo. “We are trying to survive… with as few wounds and scars as possible,” said Vucic.

Although Serbia and Kosovo agreed to settle the dispute over identification documents, authorities in Pristina said local Serbs must switch their car number plates from Serbian to Kosovo ones within two months. Vucic said he did not believe authorities in Pristina wanted “a serious conversation or a serious dialogue” but that they believed they could impose their plans with support from the West.

“I trust that those countries which are protecting the so-called independence of Kosovo will convince the Pristina regime not to play with a conflict in the region which is certainly full of problems,” he said. The Serbian president said more talks and “shuttle diplomacy” by EU and U.S. envoys aimed at resolving the car number plates issue are expected in the coming weeks.