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Russia’s Putin hosts Serbian leader after spy scandal rattles ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Serbian counterpart on Wednesday in the southern Russian city of Sochi after a spy scandal in recent weeks rattled the traditionally warm ties between the countries.

Moscow, 4 December 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Serbian counterpart on Wednesday in the southern Russian city of Sochi after a spy scandal in recent weeks rattled the traditionally warm ties between the countries.

Putin emphasized to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that their countries maintained “rather positively developing” ties, with trade rising 9 per cent over the first three-quarters of this year.

Vucic also focused on economic ties, welcoming Russian investments in natural gas supplies and railway transport development, state media reported.

Putin assured that Serbia would be connected with the Russian-sourced gas pipeline TurkStream within the coming weeks.

Vucic accepted Putin’s invitation to visit Moscow for the May 9 Victory Day celebrations, and Putin suggested that Serbian military servicemen participate in a parade.

In a gesture of respect, Vucic told reporters after the meeting that “if Putin had led Russia in 1999, no one would have bombed us.”

Vucic was referring to a Western military intervention against inter-ethnic killing in then-Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.

Russia has remained firmly behind Serbia’s claim to Kosovo, a point that remains at the heart of their relationship.

Last month Vucic said he was baffled by the allegation that the Russian state recently sought to gather secret military intelligence on Serbia as the countries have long been allies.

Serbia “has not imposed sanctions against Russia and has never voted against it. Serbia never jeopardized its friendship with Russia,” Vucic said at the time.

The previous month, Serbia signed a free-trade deal with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union of five post-Soviet states.

The pact was the latest step in Serbia’s tightrope act between its potential accession to the European Union and its traditional allegiances to Russia.

Serbia would likely be obliged to withdraw from the pact if it joins the EU, with such accession tentatively scheduled for 2025.

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