In the end, Russia's humanitarian assistance to Serbia was actually quite limited. NIS, the Serbian oil giant controlled by Russia's Gazprom Neft, provided Serbia's police, ambulance, and firefighting services with free gasoline. The Serbian subsidiary of Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, donated an undisclosed sum for the procurement of medical equipment. YugoRosGaz, which imports Russian gas to Serbia and is partly owned by Gazprom, contributed 2 million dinars (about 17,000 euros) to Serbia's Health Ministry to help it fight the coronavirus. Taken together, these donations hardly compare with the assistance offered by the European Union: up to 15 million euros for Serbia's immediate needs, and up to 78.4 million euros, reallocated from pre-accession assistance funds, for the country's economic recovery.
In the past, the modest size of Russian assistance to Serbia compared to ongoing EU support has been distorted by Serbian officials' ostentatious displays of gratitude and exaggerated coverage in local media. However, this time around, things played out differently because Belgrade had a new best friend: China. Serbian officials exploited this situation aggressively. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic criticized the EU for "abandoning his country," while also making clear that China had replaced Russia as the main object of his government's affection. China was the first country from which Belgrade officially sought assistance, and Vucic kissed the Chinese flag when he personally greeted the first Chinese plane carrying six doctors and medical equipment. (Vucic was conspicuously absent when eighty-seven Russian servicemen arrived in Belgrade a few days later.)