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Lavrov Unveils Russian Mosaic For Serbia's Church Of St. Sava

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik (second right) at the St. Sava Temple in Belgrade on February 22.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has unveiled a mosaic by Moscow-based artist Nikolai Mukhin in the dome of Belgrade's Church of St. Sava's on the second day of his visit to Serbia on February 22.

The Church of St. Sava is the largest Orthodox church in Serbia and one of the largest in Europe. Lavrov was accompanied by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

The four million euro mosaic was financed by Russian energy giant Gazprom. It took a year to complete the 40-ton. It was then cut up into pieces and transported to Belgrade in trucks.

Also on February 22, Lavrov gave a lecture to students at Belgrade University during which he praised Serbia's efforts to maintain a balanced foreign policy at a time of significant global conflicts.

Lavrov accused Western countries of trying to "maintain hegemony" in Europe while expanding NATO.

Although Serbia is seeking to join the European Union, it continues to nurture close ties with Moscow and has said it will not join the EU's economic sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine.

Belgrade has also not sought to join NATO, unlike its neighbors Macedonia, which is seeking to join the military alliance, and Montenegro, which became a member in 2017.

Belgrade's neutral military policy has not been openly opposed by U.S. or European leaders.

During his visit to the Serbian capital, Lavrov met with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic as well as Vucic.

At the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov said, he gave Dacic an "Order of Friendship" award. In return, Dacic gave Lavrov a Serbian soccer jersey with the number "10," which is traditionally worn by a team's most talented playmaker. Dacic told reporters that Lavrov was "a 10 for me."

At a joint news conference with Vucic, Lavrov welcomed Serbia's drive to join the European Union while vowing that Moscow would stay engaged with the Balkan country no matter what happens.

Lavrov's trip to Serbia coincides with the 180th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and Serbia.

About one hundred Serbians rallied in front of the Russian Embassy in Belgrade to greet Lavrov, holding pictures of Putin and waving Russian flags.