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Putin visits Balkan ally Serbia for pipeline talks

 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, talks with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister ...
 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a signing of bilateral documents in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister Putin has ...
 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, shake hands with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Min...
 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and his Slovene counterpart Borut Pahor attend a news conference in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, ...
 Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends the signing of bilateral documents in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister Putin ha...

Slovenia Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, talks with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister ...

Slovenia Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a signing of bilateral documents in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister Putin has ...

Slovenia Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, shake hands with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Min...

Slovenia Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and his Slovene counterpart Borut Pahor attend a news conference in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, ...

Slovenia Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends the signing of bilateral documents in Brdo, Slovenia, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Prime Minister Putin ha...

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin discussed economic issues and energy on Wednesday in Serbia, a key Balkan ally where Moscow retains important political and economic influence despite the country's plans to join the European Union.
Putin arrived in Serbia from Slovenia where he had sought to assure officials that the project to build the South Stream pipeline _ meant to transport Russia's natural gas to Europe by bypassing Ukraine_ is not in jeopardy. Putin is expected to repeat those assurances in Serbia, which has strong interest in the project.
Russia signed an energy agreement with Serbia in 2008, which promised that part of the pipeline will run through Serbian territory, in exchange for the Russian purchase of the majority stake in Serbia's state-run oil company, NIS.
The two countries also have close diplomatic ties and share the same, Orthodox Christian religion. Russia has backed Serbia in its dispute with the West over the independence of Kosovo _ Serbia's former province, which split in 2008 with the backing of the United States and most EU nations.
Putin first met with Serbia's President Boris Tadic. He is also scheduled to visit the countries parliament and Serbia's main St. Sava Temple in Belgrade. The two countries' delegations will sign three economic agreements, officials said.
"We have a lot to discuss, all forms of cooperation," Putin said at the start of his meeting with Tadic.
"This is the country of great friendship toward Russia and the Russian people, our ties are historic and spiritual," Tadic responded, adding future relations will be based also on "mutual interest."
In Slovenia on Tuesday Putin's talks focused on clearing up the last legal and financial hurdles for the South Stream project for transport of up to 63 billion cubic meters (2.2 trillion cubic feet) annually under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. From there, it would be shipped through Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria via one of the two legs of the pipeline scheduled for completion in 2015.
Putin said although Russia is currently studying "different versions" of the pipeline construction, "nothing will stop us from carrying out the South Stream project."
The project is dealing a blow to a rival pipeline supported by the United States and the European Union. Nabucco would bring Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe, bypassing Russia.
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Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Slovenia.


Updated : 2021-05-10 16:29 GMT+08:00