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news 27 Mar 17

Putin Wishes Vucic Luck in Serbian Election

Russia's President has wished Aleksandar Vucic success in the forthcoming presidential election, despite the Kremlin's claim that it would not interfere in Serbia's electoral process.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vucic and Putin meet at the Kremlin. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP/Beta

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic met Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, when the Russian President wished him every success in the April 2 presidential election, which he is tipped to win.

"We are certain the election will be held according to highest standards. We wish the current government success," Putin said at the start of the meeting in the Kremlin. [Vucic heads the current government in Serbia as Prime Minister.]

The endorsement came hours after Kremlin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said Russia had no intention of interfering in the upcoming election.

"I wish to thank you and your country for your support of Serbia's territorial integrity," Vucic told his host, referring to Russia's refusal to recognize the independence of Serbia's former province of Kosovo.

Vucic was accompanied to Moscow by the Minister of Defence, Zoran Djordjevic, and by the Minister of Labour, Aleksandar Vulin.

The official purpose of the visit was to talk about improving economic relations and defence cooperation.

Last year, Russia donated six MiG 29 aircraft to Serbia and their delivery was one of the topics of the meeting.

Vucic has been busy using ties with world leaders in his presidential campaign. He flaunted his relations with the Russian President, a popular figure in Serbia, when he told Serbia's national broadcaster, RTS, that he had met Putin "more than all others [the other candidates] combined”.

The visit takes place days before the April 2 presidential election in Serbia. It was the third time Vucic had gone to Moscow just before or after an election in Serbia.

He visisted Russia a month after the 2016 parliamentary election, officially for medical check-ups.

While he was there, he met Putin who said Russia counted on the Serbian government including as ministers "people who will pay serious attention to the development of relations" between the two states.

Vucic also visited Russia five days after his party won the general election in March 2014, again reportedly for a medical check-up, though it remains unknown whether Vucic had any contacts with Russian officials during that visit. 

Vucic also met Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 14, after which a rival presidential candidate, Sasa Jankovic, accused him of abusing such high-level meetings to score political points.

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