Ukraine's first lady makes her premier visit to Belgrade

BELGRADE (Reuters) -Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska arrived in Belgrade on Sunday, the first visit by a top Ukrainian dignitary to Serbia since Russia's invasion in 2022 and a signal of the Balkan country's swing away from Moscow, its traditional ally.

Flanked by her Serbian counterpart Tamara Vucic and Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, also on his first visit to Belgrade, Zelenska toured the city and its medieval Kalemegdan fortress, the Tanjug news agency reported.

She also attended the signing of an agreement on cooperation between universities in Belgrade and Kyiv, the report said.

Pro-Russian sentiment runs high in Serbia on the back of traditional historical, religious, political and military ties.

Serbia's populist President Aleksandar Vucic is trying to strike a balance between country's candidacy for membership of the European Union and ties with Russia and China, a major trade partner and investor.

The new government in Belgrade includes Aleksandar Vulin, a pro-Russian deputy prime minister and ex-intelligence chief who is under U.S. sanctions and Nenad Popovic, a minister without a portfolio, also a Russia supporter who has also faced U.S. sanctions.

Serbia has repeatedly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations and other international forums, but has so far refused to join international sanctions against the Kremlin.

Vucic has met Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy three times since 2022 during international forums abroad, most recently at a regional meeting in Tirana in February.

Since 2022, Serbia has accepted thousands of Ukrainian refugees, sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine and pledged help in de-mining the country and in its post-war rebuilding effort.

Last year, a leaked classified Pentagon document said Serbia had agreed to supply arms and ammunition to Kyiv or had sent them to Ukraine.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Jan Harvey)