BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia will not recognise the results of referendums held in four regions of Ukraine partly occupied by Russian forces, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday, despite Belgrade's warm ties with Moscow.
Russian-backed authorities in the four regions say they expect large majorities in favour of joining Russia based on vote tallies in the referendums, which Kyiv and the West have denounced as illegal sham votes held at gunpoint.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin is expected to proclaim the annexation of the four provinces - Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia - in a speech on Friday.
"Serbia ... will not recognise that (referendums) as it adheres to international law, the United Nations Charter and UN resolutions," Vucic told reporters.
Serbia, a candidate for European Union membership, is solely reliant on Russia for its natural gas supplies and has refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
The Kremlin supports Belgrade in its continued opposition to recognising the independence of Kosovo, a former southern Serbian province, populated mainly by ethnic Albanians. Moscow has also sold arms to Serbia in the past.
But Serbia has also repeatedly declined to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations and says it fully respects Ukraine's territorial integrity.
"We are protecting our own territorial integrity and it is in our best interest to protect the territorial integrity of other internationally recognised countries," Vucic said.
Ukraine also refuses to recognise Kosovo's independence from Serbia.
(This story refiles to remove extraneous word "independence" in para 6, no changes to text)
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gareth Jones)