Russia pressures Serbia on status of controversial base


BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Russia is pressuring Serbia to grant diplomatic status to the Russian staff of a controversial facility that U.S. officials believe could become Kremlin’s spy base in the Balkans.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s office said Tuesday that Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Chepurin urged him to hold a meeting “as soon as possible” to resolve the status of the “Russian-Serbian humanitarian center, because of the volume of its work.”

Moscow has repeatedly denied reports that the alleged disaster relief center that opened in 2011 in the southern Serbian city of Nis could become Moscow’s station for eavesdropping on Western interests in the Balkans – a tense European region where Russia is vying for influence.

Serbian officials say they will soon make a decision on the center’s status.