Russian anti-air defense divisions armed with S-400 and Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile systems have been sent to Serbia to take part in the second stage of the Russian-Serbian Slavyansky Shchit (“Slavic Shield”) 2019 exercise. The Russian Defense Ministry announced this on October 24 in a press release, pointing out that this is the first time that the missile systems are being used in an exercise in another country.
According to the Defense Ministry, the systems have already been moved to Serbia, and will be deployed there at the Batajnica Air Base. “Russian and Serbian anti-air defense divisions will carry out tasks relating to the detection, escorting, classification and destruction of the full spectrum of airborne targets of an imaginary enemy in the process of performing joint anti-air defense duty,” the department said in a statement.
The first phase of the Slavyansky Shchit 2019 exercise was conducted in September in Russia’s Astrakhan province. At the time, Vladimir Dukanovic, a Serbian MP from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that there are some in Serbia who support the idea of purchasing such systems from Moscow. However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has repeatedly pointed out that the country does not have money for this.
Belgrade is Moscow’s chief ally in the Balkans, the AFP news agency notes. Russia supports Serbia’s position on the status of Kosovo, among other things.
Russia has deployed S-400 and Pantsir-S missile systems in Syria. Turkey has also purchased S-400 systems, despite sharp opposition from the US. The S-400s have already been delivered to Ankara.