Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. and the West of destabilizing the Balkans with NATO expansionist policies as Serbia prepares a hero's welcome for the Russian president.
Putin arrives in Serbia on Thursday for his fourth visit to the Balkan country since 2001.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia even as the country formally seeks European Union membership. Belgrade has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has promised it will stay out of NATO.
Putin told two Serbian pro-government newspapers in an interview published Wednesday that "the policy of the United States and certain Western countries aimed to foster their dominance in the region constitutes a major destabilizing factor."
Neighboring Montenegro joined NATO in 2017 while Macedonia is seeking membership.