Updated 1:06 p.m. Moscow Time
MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Serbia on October 16, the Kremlin's press service said Tuesday.
During talks with Serbian President Tomislav Nicolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the Russian leader will discuss “key issues of bilateral cooperation, first of all in the trade and economic sphere,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The trip is coincided with the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi Germany’s occupation during World War II. President Putin is expected to attend a solemn ceremony, which is supposed to be the “central event” of the president’s visit, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Russia hopes to strengthen its cooperation with Serbia amid a freeze in its ties with the European Union, which Belgrade plans to join. Most recently, Russia has been seeking to move ahead with the construction of its South Stream gas pipeline, a project Belgrade appears to be committed to despite tensions between Europe and Moscow.
The South Stream is to carry Russian gas across the Black Sea to export destinations in South and Central Europe, aiming to diversify Moscow’s gas export routes. The construction was launched in 2012, with the first deliveries expected in 2016. The pipeline projected to comprise four sections over 930 kilometers each is expected to become fully operational in 2018.
Obstacles to the project surfaced when Bulgaria ordered the South Stream project be put on hold in June, following a request from the European Commission.