BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia held a military parade on Friday to mark Victory Day, the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, in an apparent show of force amid rising tensions with Kosovo.
The parade in the southern city of Nis included 4,000 troops, 300 military vehicles and 40 aircraft, including two Russian battle helicopters flown by Russian crews — a display of the growing political and military alliance with Moscow.
"I hope we won't have to use (the military) against anyone," Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said. "All this should serve primarily as a deterrent against an aggressor's attack."
Tensions have increased in the region with Serbia and Kosovo accusing each other of undermining efforts at reconciliation following a 1998-99 war which ended after NATO intervention. Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008. But Belgrade doesn't recognize it.
Any military intervention by Serbia in Kosovo would trigger a direct clash with NATO-led peacekeepers stationed there.
"Serbia is a free country and we won't allow anyone to threaten its freedom," Vucic told the soldiers and thousands of people who gathered to watch the parade.