Putin feted as Serbia marks end of Nazi rule

Russian president says Serbia is "closest ally", as nation celebrates liberation of Belgrade 70 years ago.

    Putin feted as Serbia marks end of Nazi rule
    Tanks rumbled through the streets to mark Belgrade's liberation from Nazi occupation [REUTERS]

    Serbia has feted Vladimir Putin with a military parade to mark seven decades since the Russians liberated Belgrade from the Nazis, but leaders balanced their reverence for old allies with a statement on their future in Europe.

    The Russian president was among thousands who on Thursday watched more than 3,000 soldiers and tanks march in Belgrade's first military parade since 1985, when it was the capital of Yugoslavia.

    But the parade and Putin's welcome came at a time when Serbia is vying for acceptance into the European Union, while the bloc accuses Russia of formenting war in Ukraine.

    Nazi-occupied Belgrade fell to the Red Army and Yugoslav partisans on October 20, 1944, but the parade was held on Thursday, October 16, to accommodate Putin, on his way to Milan for an EU-Asia summit set to be dominated by Ukraine and fears of a new European gas crisis.

    Putin, who was given the Order of the Republic of Serbia, the country's highest state decoration, told his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic: "Russia, just as it was in the past, will always see Serbia as our closest ally."

    Despite the red-carpet treatment and lofty talk of Slav brotherhood, Serbia's prime minister Aleksandar Vucic said his country would not veer from a strategic shift to the west.

    "Serbia is on its European path, and we will not give up on that path," he said as he sat beside Putin.

    Serbia, which began negotiations this year to join the EU, has refused to join the Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its backing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, despite EU pressure to align its foreign policy.

    Belgrade still has time, however, with EU accession unlikely before 2020 at the earliest.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.