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Russian, Serbian Presidents Meet In Moscow


Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 19.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks in Moscow with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic.

Putin and Vucic voiced satisfaction after their meeting that trade between the two countries was growing, and agreed that political and economic cooperation can be further "brought up to the highest possible level," Russian news agency TASS reported.

Vucic, who spoke with Putin in Russian, also pointed to the growing trade volume between the two countries. He also congratulated Putin on his decision to run for reelection in March, Russian news agencies reported.

Before the talks, the Kremlin described the Russian-Serbian relationship as a "strategic partnership" and said that Putin and Vucic would discuss regional and international issues besides bilateral relations.

A statement also said that the sides plan to sign a number of bilateral documents during Vucic's working visit, which ends on December 20.

Vucic was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who called the visit "highly important to us."

"It comes as confirmation of our good relations," Dacic said as he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 19. "And our goal is to further improve our relations in absolutely all areas."

Vucic was last in Moscow in March, when he was Serbia's prime minister. He was elected president in April.

Long a nationalist, he has remade himself as a pro-European Union reformer while seeking to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia as well.

In an interview earlier this month, Vucic told state-run Russian news agency TASS that Serbia was planning to buy Russian military transport helicopters and air-defense systems.

He was also quoted as saying that his country had embarked on a pro-European course but it had no plans to join NATO.

"Serbia will preserve its military neutrality, this was and will be Serbia's policy," he said.

This year, Russia provided Serbia with six MiG-29 fighter jets at no charge, but their assembly, repair, and refurbishing costs were expected to near $235 million in total.

Serbia's moves to heighten military ties with Moscow have worried the West and neighboring countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and NATO member Croatia.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax