Russia has started the delivery of six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia which was at war with its neighbors Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
Two of the disassembled fighters were transported on a Russian An-124 military transport aircraft that landed at a military airport near Belgrade on Monday afternoon. The assembling of the fighter jets will be done with the assistance of Russian experts.
All six are to arrive by Oct. 20, when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is expected in the Serbian capital.
Moscow is handing over the MiG-29s for free, but it is estimated that the overhaul of the secondhand aircraft will cost Serbia some 200 million euros ($235 million).
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that in addition to the jets, the country will boost its anti-aircraft defense. It has been negotiating the purchase of the Russian-made S-300 systems.
Russia is also donating 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 reconnaissance and patrol combat vehicles.
Serbia has been on the path to join the European Union, but under political and propaganda pressure from Moscow has steadily slid toward the Kremlin and its goal of keeping the countries in the Balkan region out of NATO and other Western bodies.
Serbia is to receive another eight MiG-29 fighters and two battalions of Buk surface-to-air missile complexes from Belarus on the condition that Belgrade pays for their repairs and upgrade.