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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbia's Speaker Bets on Russia

BELGRADE -- Serbia should quit striving for closer ties with the West and turn to Russia, the new parliamentary speaker said.

"Russia will find a way to bring together nations that will stand up against the hegemony of America and of the European Union," Tomislav Nikolic, a leader of the ultranationalist Serb Radical Party and an admirer of late President Slobodan Milosevic, told parliament Tuesday after being named speaker during a tense overnight session.

"I hope that a majority in Serbia will strive for membership in such an organization, not in the European Union," he said.

His remarks reflected a rising anti-Western sentiment fueled by Brussels' decision last year to suspend pre-entry talks with Serbia over its failure to capture a war crimes suspect. Furthermore, Serbs feel disappointed by Washington's support for independence of Kosovo.

Serbia has won Russia's support in trying to prevent Kosovo's secession.

Liberal lawmakers expressed dismay over Nikolic's vision for their country but were still unable to agree on a coalition government that would keep the increasingly popular Radicals at bay. May 15 is the deadline to form a government or hold new elections, in which the Radicals -- already the largest single group with 81 seats -- could gain even more.

Russian Ambassador Alexander Alexeyev said he met with Nikolic to let him know that Russia is "always ready to cooperate with Serbia and strengthen ties on all levels."