WARSAW, Poland — Serbia’s president says his government may purchase air defense systems and at least six transport helicopters from Russia.

“Serbia is on a European path, but the difference between Serbia and other countries in the region is that Serbia does not want to join NATO,” Aleksandar Vucic said, as quoted by local broadcaster N1.

The president said his government considers Serbia “as an independent country, militarily neutral” and it “must be strong enough to defend ourselves.”

Belgrade has reportedly been considering a purchase of S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems from Belarus, but the latest statement indicates the contract could be awarded to Russia. The potential acquisitions are to be discussed during Vucic’s Dec. 18-20 visit to Moscow, during which the president will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Vucic said the six Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets that Russia transferred to Serbia this year are currently being upgraded and will reach full operational readiness in the coming months.

The planned procurements are part of Serbia’s military modernization program. Among others, the Ministry of Defence is planning to acquire new Lazar 3 eight-wheel drive armored vehicles and Milos unmanned ground vehicles. Last month, the ministry decided to purchase 9mm Glock 17 handguns and 5.56mm FN Minimi light machine guns.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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