BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia will investigate the accusations made by the United States against the head of its state security agency, President Aleksdandar Vucic said on Wednesday, after the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on the pro-Russian official.

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)sanctioned Aleksandar Vulin, the director of the Serbian Security and Information Agency (BIA), implicating him in helping Moscow with “malign” activities in the Western Balkans region, and with having links to an arms dealer and a drug trafficking ring.

“I think it’s very important, it’s terribly important, to conduct an investigation,” Vucic told reporters.

“Aleksandar Vulin was not sanctioned for any crime or corruption or whatever, but because of his position about the Russian Federation,” Vucic said.

Vulin who is also the head of the co-ruling Movement of Socialists, and who previously held posts of the defense minister and the minister of interior, is the first high-ranking Serbian official to be sanctioned by the United States since Vucic took office in 2017.

In a statement on Tuesday, Vulin’s party accused the United States of “lying, raping, and distorting the truth”.

In the past, Vulin, a staunch supporter of Serbia’s strogman Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, visited Russia and met chiefs of its intelligence agencies, most recently in May when he attended a security conference there.

In January, Vulin was accused by a group of Serbian and pro-Ukraine activists of involvement in the recruitment of Serbs to fight for Russia’s Wagner mercenary army in Ukraine.

In 2022, Belgrade’s daily Nova quoted Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza as saying he and members of the Russian opposition were wiretapped during their meeting in Belgrade and that Vulin handed over transcripts of the talks to Moscow.

Although Belgrade has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it has so far refused to join international sanctions against Moscow.

Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union, but it must first root out rampant corruption, organised crime and align its foreign policies with those of the bloc.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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