Official: Serbia could ditch EU bid, turn to Russia

Serbia's pro-Russian defense minister says the Balkan country could ditch its European Union membership goals for close ties with Moscow.

In blunt comments to a pro-government TV channel Thursday, Aleksandar Vulin said that "in case the EU doesn't want Serbia, there are others who do."

Although Serbia formally seeks EU membership, its populist leaders have gradually steered Serbia toward Russia. Moscow is a key backer of Serbia's stance over Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo's independence, but the two have been told they must improve bilateral relations to join the EU. The bloc has mediated negotiations aimed at resolving the long-standing Balkan dispute.

Vulin says Serbia must form "a firm, strongly defended border" with Kosovo Albanians.