The Serbian government unanimously decided to relieve Economy Minister Rade Basta of his post on Thursday. Basta had been rebuked in March for demanding sanctions against Russia, and left his party earlier this week to champion the “European path.”
“I just came back from PM Ana Brnabic and she told me that they had to relieve me because of Russian pressure,” Basta told TV Nova after the cabinet meeting, which he did not attend.
His former party, United Serbia, issued a statement saying that Basta’s membership and cabinet post were revoked because his public statements were “diametrically opposed to the agenda of United Serbia and the state and national policy of the Serbian government.” Basta had demanded that sanctions be placed on Russia and called for all cabinet ministers to join the protests against the government in Belgrade, the party explained.
“Rade Basta is no longer a member of United Serbia, and no longer a minister in the cabinet,” said the party head, Dragan Markovic Palma.
Basta had served as economy minister since the October 2022 cabinet reshuffle. The former kickboxer, police officer, and gym teacher previously managed Belgrade’s central heating utility. He had a long history of anti-Russian comments, from demands to shut down the emergency humanitarian center in Nis to calls for achieving “energy independence” from Russian natural gas by building a nuclear power plant with the EU and US.
In mid-March, Basta openly called for Serbia to join the Western sanctions on Russia, claiming that the country was paying an “unbearable” price for its policy of neutrality. United Serbia denounced his comments and another member of the ruling coalition demanded his resignation. President Aleksandar Vucic reprimanded Basta, and later said he had to make changes to ensure the cabinet was all on the same page.
Basta announced on Tuesday that he had formed the ‘European Path Movement’, with the intention of running in future elections. He is the third prominent pro-Western official to leave the ruling coalition, following the departure of ex-MP Dragan Sormaz and former Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic from Vucic’s Progressive Party, earlier this year.
Belgrade has resisted pressure from Brussels and Washington to sanction Moscow, citing among other things the discrepancy between the West insisting on Ukraine’s territorial integrity while wanting Serbia to abandon its own by recognizing its breakaway province of Kosovo as independent.
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