Serbia’s relationship with the Russian Federation has been influenced by the situation in Kosovo. The Kremlin opposed Kosovo’s independence, fearing it might serve as an example for other separatist movements. In the meantime, despite Serbia’s application for EU membership, its inclination to remain on good terms with Russia is apparent in both public as potical political spheres. Most Serbs believe that it is in their interest to maintain strong relations with the Russian Federation. Moscow realizes this, and emphasizes increasing its influence in Serbia. According to data gathered by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), one of the few organizations promoting the Euro-Atlantic relations in Serbia, there were 21 associations promoting the Russo-Serbian relationship in 2016. In February 2018, Serbian leaders claimed in a meeting with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov that they will not sacrifice their close relations with Russia to get closer to EU membership.
According to the Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates to the European Union, there are 110 registered NGOs, associations, and media outlets in Serbia that seem to be directly connected to the Russian lobby, including Sputnik, RT, or Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Three Serbian political parties (the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Dveri Movement, and the Serb People's Party) signed a declaration with the United Russia party in support of a neutral military area in the Balkans.
The pushback from the Serbian side is marginal. Apart from a few civil society organizations, including the CEAS, the political will to make any meaningful steps is low. There are, however, exceptions. For example, in 2016, the Serbian authorities detained and deported a group of Russian nationals suspected of involvement in a coup attempt in Montenegro. Under a certain Russian pressure, the deportation has been handled very quietly in an effort to conceal the whole incident.