In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during a joint news conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Officials say on Monday, Aug. 26 Serbia will sign a free trade agreement with a Russian-led economic group, the move which could further hamper the Balkan country's proclaimed efforts to joining the European Union. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

EU hopeful Serbia to sign agreement with Russian-led group

August 26, 2019 - 4:50 am

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Officials say Serbia will sign a free trade agreement with a Russian-led economic group, which could hamper the Balkan country's efforts to join the European Union.

The deal between Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is expected to be signed on Oct. 25, according to a statement from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's office.

To join the EU, candidate countries must align their policies with the bloc's, including imposing trade sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Serbia is Russia's only Balkan ally.

Monday's statement followed a meeting between Vucic and Russian Ambassador Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, who said the agreement will grant Serbia access to a market of 180 million people.

The EEU consists of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.