A majority of the Russian media were surprised with Serbia's decision to buy the Chinese anti-aircraft FK-3 rocket system instead of the Russian-made S-300, the Balkan Security Network website reported on Monday.
The reports followed media claims in Serbia that the choice to acquire the Chinese instead Russian system was a done deal.
„Several media (in Russia) reports show a feeling of betrayed expectations and disappointment about Serbia portraying itself as a divided personality because it nourishes friendship with Russia while striving to join the West and buying arms from China,“ the website wrote.
Some Russian websites like lenta.ru and AEX.ru reported that Serbia „despite the wish of the majority of the population,“ would buy the Chinese rocket system instead of S-300, although according to unnamed and unofficial sources from Moscow, the purchasing of S-300 system in the next year was discussed.
The gazeta.ru website recalled that after buying artillery-rocket Armour S-1E, Serbia’s media reported Belgrade was interested in purchasing S-400 and that President Aleksandar Vucic said „there was no money for that,“ but added, „Serbia will economise.“
The website quoted Ruslan Puhov, the head of the Russian Centre for Strategic Analysis, as saying China gave Serbia favourable loans without interest for FK-3 because Beijing wanted to sell military equipment on the market in ‘respectable countries’ in Europe.
Puhov also said the S-400 „is not cheap,“ but added he had some doubts about the Chinese technology, though the country had specific progress in the last 30 years, „some problems still exist.“
The topwar.ru website also took for granted that Serbia was seriously interested in S-400. At the same time, the bmpd.livejournal.com blog, considered close to security circles, reported that FK-3 was an export version of HQ-22 system which was replacing HQ-2 (SA-2 Dvina) system in the Chinese army.
The Voice of America (VOA) in Russian reported that the announced purchase was the continuation of Serbia’s military cooperation with China that started with the buying of CH-92 drones, although Belgrade traditionally relied on Russia, obtaining planes, tanks and armoured personnel carrier (APC) from that country.
The Russian Sputnik agency in Serbian recalled that FK-3 was based on S-300 which China bought in the 90s. The agency cited sources saying the arms purchase was always a political issue and that Serbia tried to balance to avoid the US sanctions.