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U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Serbia has been reported by foreign media – but Western and Russian reporters had different takes on it.
Initially, the focus of both was Biden’s message regarding the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, albeit from different angles.
Reuters and AP, quoted by numerous other outlets, focused on the condolences Biden offered also to the families of NATO’s victims. However, Russians saw “a warm welcome to one of the biggest advocates of the bombing” as the most important news out of Belgrade yesterday.
Reuters stressed that Biden is the first senior official of the United States to have made such a gesture, i.e., offered his condolences, while RT observed that he offered no apology.
RT also said that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic welcomed him as “a friend of the country,” noting in the next sentence that Biden was “one of the most vocal advocates of NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999”.
At the end of the report, RT included Biden’s extremely harsh statements about Serbs and about the bombing, along with video footage.
Also mentioned is the SRS protest that gathered “several hundred citizens.”
In their subsequent reports about the visit, Western media focused precisely on that protest, but from a slightly different angle.
Although they were also quoting the statements made by “the leader of the ultra-nationalist SRS” Vojislav Seselj, they were less concerned with his opinion of Biden, and more with his support for Donald Trump.
“U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has experienced a hostile welcome in Belgrade, where hundreds of ultra-nationalists clearly expressed support for Donald Trump,” writes the website Politico.
“Trump is an alternative to globalization. He will destroy the old power centers in the U.S. and supports Russia,” Seselj is quoted as saying.
The same website also noted that Biden expressed his condolences to the families of NATO’s victims and said that he came to “Serbia and Kosovo” in order to “encourage them to normalize relations.”
The Washington Post also reported that Biden was “greeted with shouts of ‘Vote for Trump,'” and quoted the same statements made by Seselj.
The TPM website quoted the Reuters report about the protest and added that the region has been experiencing “strong tensions ever since 1999” – when NATO bombed Serbia “to stop genocide against ethnic Albanians.” The same outlet noted that Seselj was acquitted of war crimes.
On the other hand, Moscow-based Kommersant daily said there was another issue that Biden reportedly discussed with Serbian officials – and that is “relations with Russia.”
“Although it was not on the official agenda, diplomatic sources in Belgrade insist that during the talks, including the face to face one with Prime Minister Vucic, they touched on the Russian question,” said Kommersant.