Putin stays in Belgrade longer than planned

Russian PM Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Belgrade extended his visit for several hours, in order to meet with Serbian officials and attend events.

Source: B92

Putin left Belgrade last night after starting his visit in the morning with meetings with the country's president, prime minister, parliament speaker and chiefs of parliamentary groups.

The South Stream pipeline project, Kosovo, Serbia's EU perspective, other economic ties, and international politics were all subjects covered in the meetings.

Belgrade received assurances that South Stream's arm through Serbia will be built, that construction works will begin in 2013, and finished by the end of 2015.

Putin also supported the country in its bid to join the EU, but noted that Russia was generally against NATO's enlargement that moved toward its borders.

After the meetings and a joint news conference with President Boris Tadić, Putin headed for the Serbian Orthodox Temple of St. Sava where he received the Church's highest decoration - Order of St. Sava - from Patriarch Irinej.

The accolade came for his demonstrated love for the Serbian Church, and his assistance to the struggle to keep Kosovo in Serbia, it was said.

Putin expressed his gratitude and spoke about "unbreakable ties between Serb and Russian people, stressing that all is transient except the spiritual, which survives us all" - according to reports.

Later in the evening, he was joined by his Serbian counterpart Mirko Cvetković as they headed for the Red Star FC stadium in Belgrade to watch the second half of a friendly played between youth teams of Red Star and FC Zenit of St. Petersburg. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Putin was greeted by about 20,000 enthusiastic fans who treated him to a standing ovation and unfurled banners in Russian referring to him as "older brother" and Russia as "mother", with the club's top officials in attendance along with the PM and several ministers.

Among the guests in Putin's box was also Goran Jovanović, who was there on the invitation of the Russian prime minister. Jovanović heads the Niš branch of Moscow's Night Wolves bikers' club, and met with Putin last year in Ukraine during a biker event.


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