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Putin Promises $800 Million To Serbia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (right) and Serbia's President-elect Tomislav Nikolic in Moscow on May 26.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to release $800 million in loans to Belgrade as he received Serbia's president-elect Tomislav Nikolic in Moscow.

The money is the second tranche of a previously agreed $1 billion loan for Serbia, of which only $200 million has been disbursed so far.

Putin told Nikolic that "we see Serbia not only as our traditional and very important partner in the Balkans" but "Serbs as our spiritual brothers."

Nikolic -- who is due to be inaugurated by June 1 -- made Moscow his first foreign destination following his election win against Boris Tadic earlier this month.

A former Serbian ultranationalist, Nikolic has vowed to keep Serbia on its path toward EU membership while at the same time maintaining Belgrade's traditionally strong ties with Russia.

He also said that Serbia will not give up its claim to Kosovo for the sake of EU membership.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax