Serbia’s new government will include a former intelligence chief who has fostered close ties with Russia and is sanctioned by the United States, the prime minister-designate said Tuesday.

Aleksandar Vulin will serve as one of several vice-premiers, said Milos Vucevic as he announced the composition of his future cabinet that is expected to be voted into office in the coming days in Serbia’s parliament.

Serbia is formally seeking European Union membership but has maintained friendly relations with Russia and refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

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The inclusion of Vulin into the new government suggests continued close ties with Russia despite Serbia’s proclaimed pro-EU path.

Aleksandar Vulin, former director of Serbia's intelligence agency

Aleksandar Vulin, former director of Serbia’s intelligence agency listens during a press conference of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Serbia, on Oct. 8, 2022. Serbia’s new government will include Vulin, who has fostered close ties with Russia and is sanctioned by the United States, the prime minister-designate Milos Vucevic said on April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

In July, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Vulin, accusing him of involvement in illegal arms shipments, drug trafficking and misuse of public office.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Vulin used his public authority to help a U.S.-sanctioned Serbian arms dealer move illegal arms shipments across Serbia’s borders. Vulin is also accused of involvement in a drug trafficking ring, according to U.S. authorities.

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Vulin resigned as the director of Serbia’s intelligence agency BIA after the sanctions were imposed on him. He had previously served also as both the army and police chief.

Vucevic, the new prime-minister designate, previously served as the defense minister.

The government formation comes months after a tense parliamentary election in December that saw the ruling populist right-wing party of President Aleksandar Vucic win most seats in the 250-member assembly. The vote fueled political tensions because of reports of widespread irregularities reported by both local and international monitors. An opposition group organized street protests in the wake of the election.

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