Putin to visit Serbia at critical juncture of Kosovo issue
Updated 19:40, 17-Jan-2019
By Li Deyi
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make a visit to Serbia on Thursday with 20 different agreements to be signed at a time when the Kosovo issue is at a critical juncture. His Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic said earlier that the visit will be "the most productive in the number and contents of bilateral agreements."

Vucic to talk openly with Putin

While pointing out that current relations with Serbia "are dynamically developing in the spirit of a strategic partnership," Putin said in New Year's greetings to Vucic that his visit will strengthen the relationship and further cement mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide range of fields between the two countries.
"I've never had any problems with direct talks and sharing opinions with him," Vucic told journalists last month, adding that he will speak about everything openly with Putin.
Sputniknews reported on Tuesday that Putin will visit the government complex of the Palace of Serbia, the largest Orthodox Church of Saint Sava and the memorial to Russian soldiers in the Serbian capital.
Belgrade and Moscow are also due to sign several arms deals, including for tanks and rocket systems, according to an article posted on GIS Reports Online last Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 8, 2018. /VCG Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 8, 2018. /VCG Photo

Energy security to top Putin's agenda

According to reports, the implementation of joint projects in energy, infrastructure, and innovative technologies will be in a focus of attention during Putin's upcoming visit. An agreement on establishing a nuclear center in Serbia could also be signed.
Putin's trip is extremely important and energy security will be at the top of the agenda, Serbian state news agency Tanjug reported.
Coordination of several agreements, mostly concerning the gas economy, is in the final stage, Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic said last Friday, adding an expansion of the Banatski Dvor underground storage facility, the possibility of building gas power stations in Serbia, and rehabilitation of the Djerdap 2 hydropower plant are under discussion.
Serbia's infrastructure minister Zorana Mihajlovic said on Monday that the Serbian state-owned railway infrastructure company will sign a contract worth 230 million euros with Russia's RZD International during Putin's visit, according to SeeNews which focuses on business news in Southeast Europe.

Strong personal relationship 

The two presidents seem to have always enjoyed a close relationship, based on reports lately.
Earlier this month, Putin awarded Vucic the Order of Alexander Nevsky "for his great personal contribution to the development of multilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation," the Russian news agency TASS reported.
During their meeting in Moscow last October, Vucic described the Russian president as a "dear friend" and gave him a book as a gift, with remarks praising the cooperation between Moscow and Belgrade in the international arena, according to the Serbian media company B92.
Putin's popularity is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of independence for Kosovo, which the Serbian church considers its birthplace and where hundreds of its medieval monasteries and churches are located, AP said.
Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic shake hands. /VCG  File Photo

Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic shake hands. /VCG  File Photo

Serbians hail brotherly ties with Russia

As Putin is about to arrive in Serbia, the residents of a tiny village called Banstol are awaiting word on whether he might come to see a church which is under construction but has already been dubbed "Putin's church."
The Russian leader already has a village, a wax figure, a plum brandy and several cafes named after him in Serbia, and now, he's getting a Russian-style church, AP reported on Monday.
Locals say the emerging structure is meant as a sign of admiration for Putin and the centuries-long brotherly ties between the two nations that share common Slavic roots and the Orthodox Christian religion.
AP's report also said that surveys say that most Serbs believe Russia is their country's biggest ally and financial donor despite much bigger Western economic and other aid to the Balkan country.

Kosovo issue at critical juncture

Putin's upcoming visit has a strong political significance, Independent Balkan News Agency (IBNA) said on Tuesday, adding the Kosovo issue is at a critical juncture when negotiations under the aegis of the EU have been virtually "frozen" and the presence of the U.S. is becoming more pronounced.
Washington wants an immediate solution to the issue in order to reduce Russia's influence in the region, especially in Serbia, at the thought of Kosovo keeping Serbia attached to the Russian chariot, IBNA reported.
In a telegram last month, Vucic expressed his gratitude for the principled position of Russia on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and the active support in international organizations, and especially in the UN Security Council.
Russia's interest in the region relates to its strategic position between East and West. Out of Serbia's eight neighbors, five are NATO members; four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession, reports said.
(Cover: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 2, 2018. /Reuters Photo)
(With inputs from agencies)