Robert Harneis –TDO- Russia has given six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia this week, in a continuation of a relationship that runs counter to its aim to join the European Union.
After the NATO attack on Serbia in 1989 a large proportion of the population remains hostile to the West and would prefer closer relations with Russia. However economic necessity is driving the Serbian government to continue with its application to join the EU. The acquisition of the Russian aircraft will not be welcome by NATO.
Moscow is giving the secondhand jets to Serbia for free, but they are arriving disassembled and Belgrade will have to pay close to €200 million to rebuild them.
The Serbian government will present the refurbished aircraft to the public on 20 October, at a parade on Belgrade Liberation Day, which marks the liberation of the capital in World War II. The Russian defence minister will also to attend the event.
The first two dismantled MiGs arrived from Russia on 2 October aboard an AN-124 military transport aircraft and another two came a day later. The delivery of all six aircraft, equipment, weaponry and spare parts will be completed by 6 October.
The first delivery was received at the Batajnica military airfield near Belgrade by Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin and senior officials of the army.
“We will be able to proudly say that for the first time since 1987 our air force is getting new machines,” Vulin said in a press release, adding that they “will make our army stronger, more organized and more modern.”