The Ambassador of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko said today that Russia was not surprised by the fact that Serbia has not imposed sanctions on the country, adding that they were aware of the severe pressure being put on the official Belgrade because of it.

“We already had an assumption earlier about President Aleksandar Vučić and the entire leadership of Serbia that Serbia would take a principled position in spite of the difficulties and pressure that is severe and ongoing,” said Botsan-Kharchenko to TV Prva, pointing out that Serbia had taken that position based on its own national interests.

Speaking on the energy crisis throughout Europe, he assessed that the damage in Serbia, while felt, “was not as great as in other European countries”.

He also said that Russia was aware that it was difficult for Serbia to withstand such severe pressure, especially given that they are aware of what that pressure looks like, adding that “difficult” was perhaps not the right word to describe it.

Botsan-Kharchenko said that Russia understood that Serbia had to maneuver, and it is his belief that the pressure on Serbia relating to Kosovo and Metohija was connected to the pressure to impose sanctions on Russia.

“Kosovo is an issue of the utmost importance for Serbia and for President Vučić, and the West is counting on Belgrade and Vučić being forced to take more flexible action in other political arenas as the pressure increases, for example, by imposing sanctions on Russia. They are also putting pressure on President Vučić to reach some sort of a contract with Priština, in order to take away Russia’s argument of telling them that they have conflicting positions, double standards,” assessed the Russian ambassador.

Asked whether Russia would be able to say that it would not continue to support the territorial integrity of Serbia if the West were to make it possible for it to make Donbas and Crimea to become part of its territory, Botsan-Kharchenko said that “trade was not on the table”.

He explained that President Vladimir Putin brings up the situation relating to Kosovo with the aim to show to the West that they are using a double standard, and as far as their position on Kosovo, that is, according to him, “entirely different from new regions of Russia”.

Speaking on Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, Botsan-Kharchenko said that it was a maneuver withdrawal and that it by no means represents the beginning of the defeat of Russia in the war with Ukraine.

According to him, people in Russia were not surprised by the withdrawal, as they knew that the situation was difficult, and then a decision was made to evacuate, above all the people, as well as the technology.

The evacuation, as he says, was completed without any losses.

Asked what the reaction was to the fact that Ukrainian flags are flown in Kherson, Botsan-Kharchenko stated that he had never said that it had been a simple decision. “It was a difficult, concerning decision, but there is no such thing as a war that progresses in a straight line, there is always a maneuver. It is not important to win a battle, the most important thing is to win the war,” concluded the ambassador of Russia.

As it concerns negotiations via “hotline” between the White House and the Kremlin, and asked whether the withdrawal from Kherson may be a result of those negotiations, Botsan-Kharchenko said that he was not aware of the existence of any such negotiations, adding that Russia had always been open to dialogue.