Putin requires ‘secure Balkans’ throughout Serbia go to – EURACTIV.com
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for stability in the Balkans on Thursday (January 17) during a pompous visit to Serbia, a key ally of Moscow.
After attending a rousing red carpet reception in Belgrade, Putin said he would support efforts to maintain calm in the region a day after accusing the West of destabilizing the Balkans through efforts to strengthen NATO membership to have.
“Like Serbia, Russia is interested in the situation in the Balkans remaining stable and not dangerous,” Putin told reporters at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
The Russian leader also accused the Kosovo authorities of taking a number of provocative steps, including deciding to build their own army. This step has exacerbated tensions with Serbia and could destabilize the region.
Putin said he considered Kosovo’s decision to build an army to be illegal.
Although Serbia and all of its neighbors are striving to join the European Union, Belgrade maintains close ties with Russia, its historical “Orthodox big brother”, whose population is also of Slavic origin.
Affection for Moscow is heightened by relentless support for the emotional issue of Kosovo, a former Serbian province that erupted in guerrilla warfare in 1998-99.
Putin is greeted by a rock star in Belgrade
Russian President Vladimir Putin will receive a rock star with t-shirts, mugs and murals on Thursday (January 17) when he lands in Serbia, Moscow’s most important ally on the edge of Europe.
Serbia has never accepted the split, and Russia also rejects it and is exercising its veto power at the United Nations to thwart Kosovo’s dreams of accession.
Vučić thanked Russia for the support of Russia in Kosovo and presented Putin with a puppy of the Sarplaninac breed, a shepherd dog from the region, during the visit.
In the meantime, Putin presented his counterpart with a Russian state award.
The visit of the Russian president was celebrated on the streets by tens of thousands of Serbs who marched through the capital in a parade that supported the two leaders.
“Welcome, dear President Putin, dear friend,” read one of the many billboards in the city with a mixture of Russian and Serbian flags.
The parade culminated in the massive Saint Sava Church, one of the largest houses of worship in Orthodox Christianity, where more than 120,000 people gathered, according to police.
The leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, greeted Putin as church bells rang.
In the church, the decoration of which is partly financed by Russia, the leaders lit candles and symbolically placed pieces of tiles in a mosaic.
“Thank you for the friendship,” Putin said in Serbian to the crowd in front of the church at the end of his visit.
In return for Moscow’s support on the Kosovo issue, Belgrade refused
Joined international trade sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014.
Graffiti saying “Kosovo is Serbia, Crimea is Russia” can sometimes be seen on Serbian streets.
Putin’s stopover comes from the fact that long-standing, EU-sponsored talks to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo have stalled and do not seem to be going fast enough.
During the visit, Vučić said: “Without Russia … it is clear that there will be no solution” about Kosovo.
The largest donor of Kosovo is the USA.
Putin is “Serbia’s salvation,” said retired General Mitar Petkić, who camped for hours in front of the Saint Sava church to welcome the Russian leader.
“The EU is falling apart, until we join it will no longer exist,” the 66-year-old told AFP.
However, the warm embrace does not hide Russia’s recent setbacks in the Balkans, where the West has increased its influence.
Moscow could not prevent Montenegro from joining NATO in 2017. Macedonia is pursuing this goal even after it ratified a name change agreement to end a decades-long dispute with Greece.
If Macedonia is successful, seven countries bordering Serbia – which are not seeking accession – will be in NATO. Only neighboring Bosnia will not be a member either due to the veto of its Serbian population.
Greece and Russia exchange angry statements about Macedonia
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday (January 14) expressing concerns about “instability” in Greece following the ratification of the latest constitutional amendment in Macedonia. Greece responded with a warning to Russia not to interfere in its internal affairs.
“Energy, key area”
The relationship between Serbia and Russia is “more emotional than rational,” said the Serbian economic analyst Biljana Stepanović.
According to a 2017 survey by the Serbian government, a quarter of the population believes that Russia and the EU were the country’s top joint donors to development aid.
In reality, 75% of donations came from the EU or its member states, while Russia did not make the top nine.
The West also outperforms Russia in terms of direct investment and trade.
However, Moscow is involved in the region.
Serbia imports two thirds of its natural gas and crude oil from Russia, while Russian giant Gazprom owns the Serbian oil company NIS.
“Energy is the key area of Russian-Serbian cooperation,” Putin told reporters. He said Gazprom plans to increase its gas supplies to the Balkan country by 2020.