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Putin Awards Serbia's Dacic Friendship Medal

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Kremlin in Moscow in December.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic the Order of Friendship, a state medal he bestows upon several foreigners every year.

Dacic was honored for "achievements in strengthening friendship and cooperation between nations," according to the text of Putin's decree, which was posted on an official Russian government website on January 30.

A former prime minister, Dacic is considered one of the most pro-Russian politicians in Serbia.

The Balkan country is seeking to join the European Union but also to preserve warm ties with Moscow, which shares its Orthodox Christian heritage and has supported Belgrade in numerous disputes with the West.

The award comes weeks after Dacic and President Aleksandar Vucic visited Moscow, where they held talks with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Days before the December visit, Vucic said Serbia was planning to buy Russian military-transport helicopters and air-defense systems. He said that Serbia had embarked on a pro-European course but it had no plans to join NATO.

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
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