Former President Tomislav Nikolic has told Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin that Serbia’s priority is “friendship with Russia while respecting other nations.”

Rogozin is in Belgrade today for the inauguration of Nikolic’s successor, Aleksandar Vucic, with whom he met on Friday morning.

During his meeting with the Russian official, Nikolic, who now heads the National Council for Cooperation with Russia and China, remarked that he is now free to speak openly.

“I am no longer president and I can now tell you freely – we have defined our priorities a long time ago – and that is friendship with Russia, while respecting other nations,” he said.

Nikolic served as president from 2012 to 2017, and never much disguised the fact that he preferred Russia to Western powers.