MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic will discuss the South Stream project, as well as a number of bilateral issues during their meeting in Belgrade on October 16, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Wednesday.
"As for the talks in Belgrade, energy will be discussed, including the South Stream, the situation with the Serbian oil company NIS. As you know, there are still several problems,” the Russian presidential aide said.
“They will also discuss issues related to the Russian Railways cooperation. JSC Russian Railways is actively involved in various projects related to the reconstruction of Serbian railways,” Ushakov added.
On October 7, Serbia reaffirmed its commitment to build a leg of the South Stream pipeline, a Russia-led project that would bypass Ukraine to bring natural gas to Europe. Russia's Gazprom energy giant started building the pipeline in 2012 and it is expected to be fully operational by 2018.
Over the past few months, Russia has been seeking to strengthen its cooperation with Serbia amid a freeze with its ties with the European Union, which Belgrade has plans to join.
Putin will commence the official visit to Belgrade on Thursday. The trip is timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi Germany’s occupation. The Russian leader is expected to attend a remembrance ceremony, in what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier described as the “central event” of the president’s visit. Putin is then expected to meet with President Nicolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to discuss the key issues of bilateral cooperation, first of all in the trade and economic sphere.