Putin: Mutually acceptable solution for Kosovo based on UNSCR 1244; Vucic: I will consult with President Putin before reaching any agreement (RTS/Tanjug/Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he told President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin that Serbia has always been ready for talks and compromise, but that it cannot and will never accept to be humiliated. At a joint press conference with the President of Russia, who is on an official visit to Serbia, Vucic underlined that the delegations of the two countries reached a high degree of consensus on all issues. He expressed his gratitude for Russia’s support to maintaining the integrity and independence of Serbia, saying he is very pleased with the progress of the two countries’ cooperation in all areas. Vucic said he informed his Russian counterpart about everything that is happening regarding Kosovo and Metohija, about the illegal taxes imposed by the Albanian authorities in Pristina, and about the establishment of the so-called Kosovo Army, contrary to UNSCR 1244. It seems to me that we have received considerable support from President Putin in this regard, he stressed, adding that it is completely clear that without Russia there will be no solution to the Kosovo issue, and that before reaching any agreement he will consult the Russian President. Vucic also said that the work is underway on the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline through Serbia and that our country wants the best and the cheapest gas for its citizens, which is Russian gas. Putin stressed that Russia’s position on Kosovo is clear – Moscow supports a mutually acceptable solution for Belgrade and Pristina, which must be based on UNSCR 1244. This resolution does not allow for the existence of any armed formations in Kosovo other than that of the United Nations contingent. We share the concern of Serbia because we know that such moves lead to instability in the Balkans. Our support will continue, the Russian President said. He recalled that the Brussels Agreement is not being implemented and pointed to the fact that the Community of Serb Municipalities has not been formed yet. Russia is ready to cooperate with everyone, but it is also important that international law is respected and that the solution is fair. Asked whether Russia would join efforts to solve the question of Kosovo, Putin said that Moscow had always been active on the issue, and as for direct mediation the EU was already doing that, albeit poorly. UNSCR 1244 envisages the possible presence of Serbian police and border police in Kosovo territory, Putin added. “Where are they?,” Putin asked. He also announced that Russia is ready to invest approximately 1.4 billion Dollars in the development of infrastructure in Serbia, among other things, in the continuation of construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline across the territory of Serbia.
Putin awards Medal of Aleksandr Nevsky to Vucic (Beta)
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the medal of Aleksandr Nevsky to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. “I am pleased to decorate the Serbian President with this high state decoration of Russia,” Putin said at the Palace of Serbia. Putin said the medal bore the name of a great saint and patron of diplomats, who had won independence in the fight against foreign invaders. Putin said the order, established 300 years ago, had previously also been awarded to notable Serbs who had fought for Serbia’s independence, including to Prince Milos Obrenovic and Nikola Pasic. Vucic said that, for him, the medal of Aleksandr Nevsky signified great honor and responsibility in future work on the development of cooperation between Serbia and Russia. Our people will never forget what Vladimir Vladimirovich did in 2015, when Russia vetoed a British resolution branding the Serbs a genocidal nation, said Vucic, who spoke in Russian. “I am proud of Serbia which has deserved this decoration. In recent years, Serbia successfully preserved independence, territorial integrity and military neutrality. This recognition means that we have preserved Serbia as a free state,” Vucic said after receiving the medal.
Serbia, Russia sign interstate agreements (Tanjug/Beta)
In the presence of President Vucic and President Putin, the delegations of the two countries exchanged today more than twenty signed agreements, memoranda, contracts and protocols on the future cooperation. Among the most important agreements is the one related to the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, which was initialed by CEO of “Rosatom” Aleksey Likhachev and Serbian Minister without Portfolio in charge of innovation and technological development Nenad Popovic. Another important document signed is the Memorandum of Understanding on Russian-Serbian cooperation in the field of digital technologies, as well as the Memorandum on the development of innovations in the electricity sector. Administrator of “Roscosmos” Dmitry Rogozin signed the Agreement on the Russian-Serbian cooperation in the field of research and use of cosmic space for peaceful purposes. A contract worth 230 million Euros was signed by General Manager of “RZD International” Sergey Pavlov and Director General of “Railway Infrastructure Serbia” Miroljub Jevtic, in the presence of Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic. The contract deals with the design and execution of works on the construction of the railway infrastructure of Serbia and the construction of a unique dispatch center for train traffic management in Serbia between the companies “Railway Infrastructure Serbia” and “RZD International”. Serbian Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Zoran Djordjevic and Russian Minister of Labor Maxim Topilin signed the Administrative Agreement on Social Insurance, the Protocol on the Exchange of Ratification Charters, the Social Security Protocol, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation in the field of social protection. An agreement on the increase of capacity of the hydroelectric power plant Djerdap 2 was signed between the Russian company “Power Machines” and the “Electric Power Industry of Serbia”, as well as the Memorandum on Russian-Serbian cooperation in the electricity sector. A Memorandum of Understanding dealing with the localization of industrial products in Serbia with the participation of Russian companies was signed by Serbian Minister of Economy Goran Knezevic and Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia Denis Manturov. Also, important agreements were signed with the Serbian oil industry “NIS”, including the Memorandum on Strategic Cooperation with the Moscow State Institute for International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The list of documents signed also includes the Memorandum of Strategic Cooperation between the Russian State University for Oil and Gas and the Serbian NIS. In the field of bilateral relations, among the documents signed are the Plan of consultation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia for 2019-2020, a Joint Statement on cooperation in the implementation of the project for the construction of a regional center for nuclear technologies in the territory of Serbia, the Protocol on the Exchange of Instruments on the Confirmation of the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Serbia on social security. In the area of innovation and technological development between the government of Serbia and the Skolkovo Foundation, the document signed is the Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Serbia and the Autonomous Non-Commercial Organization “Strategic Initiative Agency”. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between “Gazprom Export” and “Srbijagas” for the development of the project of expansion of capacity of the Banatski Dvor underground gas storage facility. Other documents signed are in the field of gas economy, development of production and distribution infrastructure of pipelines and liquid natural gas, Serbian-Russian cooperation in the field of innovation development in the electricity sector between the Government of Serbia and the Russian power company “Rosseti”. Also, the visit of the Russian President was an opportunity to initial the Agreement on Cooperation between the Direct Investments Fund of the Russian Federation and the Development Agency of Serbia, the Memorandum on Cooperation between the University of Novi Sad and the Russian State University for Oil and Gas “Gubkin”, as well as the agreement between the Russian company “Power Machines” and the “Electric Power Industry of Serbia” on the reconstruction of the hydroelectric power plant Djerdap 2. “Sberbank Serbia” signed a memorandum with “Telekom”, as well as Belgrade University with Saint-Petersburg Mining University. A Joint statement was signed between the government of Russia and the government of Serbia on the establishment and conditions of activity of cultural and information centers, the Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Belgrade and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations – MGIMO University, then the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Defense of Serbia and Kamaz, as well as many other protocols with Russian companies that have come to Belgrade.
Putin, Vucic tour St. Sava Temple (Beta)
Serbian and Russian Presidents, Aleksandar Vucic and Vladimir Putin, were accompanied by Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej during a visit to the Saint Sava Temple, where they symbolically placed parts of the Russian and Serbian flags in a mosaic being worked on by Russian artists. The two presidents lit candles in the vault of the Temple, while the Russian president was acquainted in detail with the work plans. Outside the church Putin spoke to the gathered citizens, whom he thanked for their friendship in Serbian and Russian. “Thank you for your friendship. Spasibo za druzhbu,” Putin told the citizens, who were also able to watch the event on video beams. The Russian and Serbian presidents left the Church while the citizens gradually dispersed. According to police, there were over 100,000 people in front of the Saint Sava Temple, who had assembled in a gesture of respect for the Russian President.
Putin meets RS President Cvijanovic, B&H Presidency Chairman Dodik (RTRS/TV1/N1)
Within his visit to Belgrade on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik. According to RTRS, during the meeting Putin reminded of good relations between Russia and the RS and successful realization of their joint projects. Dodik told Putin that the RS has implemented the election results and completed the process of formation of authorities, adding that realization of joint projects in the field of energy is underway.
Dodik expressed content with development of joint projects of Russia and the RS and emphasized that the RS wants to participate in the gas pipeline project ‘Turkish Stream’. After Putin congratulated him on the good results in the 2018 general elections, Dodik informed the Russian President that there are delays in the process of formation of authorities in B&H.
“We are in the phase of forming institutions at the B&H level and there are of course certain delays there. As usual in B&H, there is constant conditioning. At this moment, the Bosniak side is trying to condition that with acceptance of the decision on the path towards NATO which we are of course refusing to do. Therefore, implementation of election results will probably last for quite some time. We in the RS completed the process of formation of all authority bodies and we are functioning smoothly. At the B&H level, everything is in technical mandate. Some are not satisfied with those results and that is why they are obstructing,” Dodik told Putin during their meeting in Belgrade which lasted about thirty minutes. Dodik also said that it is very important that he was in Belgrade as the Serb member of the B&H Presidency, but that his primary interest is the RS. Dodik noted that it is his obligation and duty to primarily affirm the interests of the RS. TV1 reported that Dodik was honest about the fact that he would not go to Belgrade on behalf of the B&H Presidency or ask for permission to do that on the occasion of the visit of the Russian President. “I am not going there on behalf of the Presidency, I am going there as a Serb member of the Presidency. I am entitled to do that, to attend the meeting. I do not want to usurp anything at the expense of my colleagues. I even called them and asked if they think I should raise certain issues at that meeting. Some of them told me that they have no issue and do not want me to go, but I did not ask them if I should go in the first place.” The RS officials stressed that the official Banja Luka sees every meeting with Russian representatives as very important. They informed Putin about a complicated political situation in B&H. Dodik also said that Russia represents a big investor and an important foreign-trade partner for the RS, stressing importance of continuation of the production in the Brod Oil Refinery and participation of Russian companies in reconstruction of two thermal-power plants. Dodik and Cvijanovic told RTRS before the meeting that energy is the most important issue to be discussed at the meeting with Putin, but that projects and cooperation in the field of culture, economy, medicine and information will be also discussed. Cvijanovic emphasized that it is important for the RS to have a partner such as Russia in large projects.
Dzaferovic: Dodik’s visit to Belgrade is his personal act and does not reflect policy of B&H (TV1)
Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic stated on Thursday that the visit of Chairman of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik to Belgrade – on the occasion of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin – represents “his personal act”. Dzaferovic stressed that B&H wants to maintain good bilateral relations with Russia, but they could only be built upon the principles of mutual respect and not at the expense of foreign policy and internal commitments of B&H. “If we want to build relations with the Russian Federation on the basis of these principles of respecting our foreign policy and internal political commitments – and I do want that – we should do it from this building, from the Presidency of B&H, at the sessions of the Presidency of B&H and with adequate decisions. That is the right way to do it. Mr. Dodik’s departure to that meeting is his private act. It does not reflect the policy of B&H at all. Nothing he does can reflect the stances of the state of B&H,” Dzaferovic stressed. Dzaferovic said that B&H wants to have good bilateral relations with the Russian Federation, adding that there are mutual important interests for that. However, he stressed that these relations must not be detrimental to B&H’s foreign-political goals and goals of internal policy in B&H, such as the EU and NATO membership.
Kojovic: Vucic is humiliating genocide victims again by thanking Putin for Russian veto on UN Srebrenica Resolution (Oslobodjenje)
Our Party leader Predrag Kojovic stated on Thursday that by thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russian veto on UN Srebrenica Resolution in 2015, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic humiliated the victims of genocide once again. “By reminding of Russian veto, Vucic is increasing tensions in the region and adding salt to the wound of the people who are waiting to bury their loved ones killed in genocide even two decades after they were killed. Such inhumane gesture must be condemned. Serbia continuously, using most traumatic moments in the newer history, is pushing its finger in the eye of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). Unfortunately, Vucic has returned to the position of the enemy of B&H with this move, from time when he said that one Serb life is worth hundred Muslim lives,” said Kojovic and pointed out that the goal of the UN Resolution was to ensure reconciliation, condemn genocide and make additional reform to prevent such crimes from repeating.
Ivantsov: I am not against B&H’s membership in NATO but there is no consensus about it (TV1)
Russian Ambassador to B&H Petr Ivantsov opened an exhibition dedicated to the people of Russia and delivered a lecture at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Mostar on Thursday. Speaking about relations between the two countries, Ivantsov was quoted as saying that he is not against B&H’s membership in NATO. “Most citizens want it to become a member state of the EU, but there is no consensus in your society about membership in NATO and you know that better than I do. It is necessary to pay more attention to both sides. The solution to this issue is up to you,” Ivantsov explained. Ivantsov rejected allegations that Russia is “destabilizing situation and promoting separatism”, arguing that Russia is against international tensions, as they represent threat to the world order. “Russian foreign policy is based on realism, respect, the UN charters and agreements. We are willing to cooperate with everyone ready to do th4e same, but under transparent rules… Russia is not a threat to anyone. We are not trying to impose our stances on others. We are not threatening with force or sanctions,” said the Ambassador. Ivantsov stated that there should not be choosing between NATO and Russia or between the EU and Russia, reminding that Russia’s approach is to have the possibility of cooperation in all fields and policies. He stressed that Russia does not force Serbia or B&H to choose between Russia and someone else.
Izetbegovic: ‘BH Bloc’ to decide Jan 29 if they will be part of authority or opposition (N1)
SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic stated in an interview with the Faktor portal that SDA’s hand extended to the ‘BH Bloc’, formed by SDP B&H, DF and ‘Nasa Stranka’, is tired. He stressed that SDA is now open for negotiations with leaders of other parliamentary parties. As for ‘BH Bloc’, SDP B&H, DF and ‘Nasa Stranka’ will decide on January 29 if they will be part of authority or the opposition. Representatives of these parties reminded that they have so far avoided talks with SDA, as well as with HDZ B&H and SNSD. ‘Nasa Stranka’ leader Predrag Kojovic stated that there is big pressure on parties gathered around ‘BH Bloc’ by the international community and internal political factors, who expect from them to rescue the country by forming the coalition with national parties. Even SDS announced that the party might join the process of formation of authorities, after key political partners try to form a new convocation of B&H CoM. According to political stances in Republika Srpska (RS), everything will be resolved if B&H Presidency members Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic give their consent to the appointment of SNSD’s Zoran Tegeltija to the post of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman. On the other side, parties in the Federation of B&H believe that everything will be resolved if the RS approves the document that will lead to the NATO MAP activation for B&H. Commenting on the issue, B&H Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ B&H) reminded that there are clear legal procedures for the appointment of B&H CoM Chairman, as well as clear deadlines and obligations. He added that it is necessary to stick to the Constitution of B&H and the law, otherwise the solution will be difficult to find. HDZ 1990’s Diana Zelenika commented that SNSD led by Milorad Dodik must get used to respecting the Constitution of B&H and the law on defense of B&H which says that the B&H CoM, B&H Presidency and other relevant factors will be working of B&H’s accession to NATO.
EUD to B&H, OHR and US Embassy to B&H urge authorities to complete process of formation of Federation of B&H HoP (TV1)
The EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the US Embassy to B&H issued a joint statement on Thursday, calling on local authorities to complete the process of formation of the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP). “We are calling on four Cantonal Assemblies, which still have not done that, to fulfill their constitutional obligations and elect delegates without further delay,” reads the statement. The OHR stressed that the outgoing convocation of the Federation of B&H HoP does not have the legitimacy to make any kind of decisions, particularly not decisions that refer to the budget. The statement warns that adoption of the budget by the old convocation of the Federation of B&H HoP would be a dangerous precedent that could be abused for further postponing the process of formation of authorities in B&H, which is unacceptable.
Sarovic: Kosovo accepts B&H’s request to negotiate on abolition of 100% tariffs on goods from B&H (N1)
After Pristina-based authorities agreed to negotiations on withdrawal of taxes introduced by Kosovo authorities on goods imported from B&H and Serbia, the delegation of Kosovo will arrive in B&H in a week. B&H Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Mirko Sarovic stated on Thursday that B&H will ask for full annulment of taxes, but that it is still uncertain if this will be accepted by Kosovo since these are only first positive signals by Pristina-based authorities. He expressed hope that the recent stance on this issue presented by the US will contribute to final resolution of this dispute with Kosovo. He said that he expects possible change of stances by Kosovo despite the fact that Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has said on several occasions that taxes will not be annulled until the agreement on recognition of Kosovo is reached. N1 reminds that the US has asked Kosovo to immediately annul the 100 percent customs duty introduced by the Kosovo authorities for goods imported from B&H and Serbia, otherwise the US will withdraw its support to Kosovo security forces. According to Kosovo Minister of Foreign Affairs Behgjet Pacolli, Pristina cannot reject the US’ demand. He stated that he will discuss this issue with Haradinaj. Political analysts from Pristina deem that Kosovo cannot sustain any kind of pressure coming from the US government as long as this pressure exists.
Prespes Agreement will head for ratification next week in the Greek Parliament (Nezavisen vesnik)
The Prespes Agreement will head for ratification next week through the contract procedure in the Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs in the Greek parliament, followed by a discussion and voting in plenary. “We will not follow Fast Track procedures”, the government stresses.
This is the second big bet of the Tsipras Government, since the first obstacle, the vote of confidence after the withdrawal of Independent Greeks from the government, was successfully overcome. The goal of Athens is to ratify the Agreement by at least 151 MPs, with all eyes turned to the processes of The River, KINAL, as well as the position of individual MPs. “In such major national issues, what is supposed to prevail is the patriotic interest and the certainty that everyone will be judged by the people and history”, the government says in statement. Moreover, the political scene in Athens seems like a chessboard for strong nerves lately.
The government is releasing the Prespes Agreement to the public
After the verbal note sent by Skopje to Athens yesterday to inform on the completion of the internal procedures of Macedonia, as Alexis Tsipras announced in the House, the government aims to provide full information to citizens and parties, as well as have exhaustive dialogue on the matter. As the Greek Prime Minister’s press office officially announced on Sunday, the entire text of the agreement will be distributed to the press so that all citizens have full knowledge and a clear picture of its content.
New Democracy rejects the discussion for the Prespes Agreement
In Maximos Mansion they argue that the clarifications regarding the term “Nationality”, as well as the language that is classified to the “Southern Slavic” languages, contradict New Democracy’s argument. In this context Tsipras invited Mitsotakis to a television debate on the issue early next week. The main opposition party replied negatively, calling on the Greek Prime Minister to call for elections so that citizens can draw their conclusions from the pre-election debates.
After meeting Dimitrov, Cavusoglu emphasized that Turkey recognizes Macedonia under its constitutional name (Republika)
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevluc Cavusloglu reminded his Macedonian counterpart that Turkey supports Macedonia in the name argument against Greece. Dimitrov visited Ankara as the government is conceding on the name issue and agreeing the rename the country under Greek pressure. Cavusoglu used the joint press conference to emphasize that Turkey has recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name and that it strongly values Macedonia’s stability. The Turkish Minister also said that his country will gladly welcome Macedonia into NATO. Dimitrov responded that Macedonia wants to close its open issues with neighbors so that it would leave the zone of instability and join EU and NATO. “But, at the same time, we mustn’t forget our friends who have supported us along that path from the very start,” he added. If the deal is ratified in Greece, Macedonia would have to notify the more than 130 countries that recognize it under its constitutional name that it is now using a new name, relinquishing these hard-won diplomatic wins against Greece over the past decades.
VMRO-DPMNE calls institutions to boycott the Law on Languages, SDSM reacts (Nezavisen vesnik)
VMRO-DPMNE and the so-called “Coalition for a Better Macedonia” urged central and local government institutions to ignore and boycott the law on languages. This party said that if these institutions face threats, VMRO-DPMNE will assist them through its legal team. “VMRO–DPMNE calls on all central and local government institutions to boycott the application of this unconstitutional and harmful law. If officials in these institutions face threats, VMRO-DPMNE and its legal department are ready to assist them at any time,” said Nikola Micevski, VMRO-DPMNE’s parliamentary group coordinator. Micevski said that the law “on bilingualism” was unconstitutional. According to him, “this law has been unlawfully signed by parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi and published in the Official Gazette to the detriment of the Republic of Macedonia and to the detriment of the cohesion in the society.” Meanwhile, ruling party SDSM says that the Constitutional Court has no reason to abolish the law in question. “VMRO-DPMNE’s calls to block the law on languages is destructive and has a damaging effect on society,” said SDSM. At the moment, the government has not yet come up with an estimate of the financial implications that the implementation of the Law on the use of languages will have. This law was passed twice in Parliament, on 11 January and 14 March last year, but the President of the country, Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign it, stating that it was against the constitution.
Mickoski meets with coalition partners to jointly demand early general elections (Republika)
VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski met with the leaders of the smaller parties in the VMRO lead coalition For a Better Macedonia to underline the request for early general elections which would be held along with the presidential elections in late April. Mickoski and the other leaders raised the way in which the Parliament voted on the amendments to the Constitution and the publishing of the law on the use of the Albanian language, without the President’s signature, and agreed this makes the need for early elections even more acute. The representatives of the parties condemned the act to hold a vote in the parliament under threats, blackmail, pressure and bargaining with the rule of law in service of political goals. Macedonia is practically a country where the rule of law no longer applies, said Mickoski. Coalition leaders agreed that it is necessary to bring criminal charges against those who allowed the constitutional amendments and the law on the use of languages to be published without the President’s signature, in violation of the Constitution. The acts were signed by Speaker Talat Xhaferi. The law on the use of the Albanian language will also be submitted before the Constitutional Court, given that it widely oversteps the framework put in place after the 2001 war. The Prime Minister is way over his depth. The Coalition for a Better Macedonia led by VMRO-DPMNE insists on holding early general elections along with the presidential elections. I will repeat, this is not about taking over the government and dividing offices and advancing careers. This is to allow the voters to decide whether they want a humiliated North Macedonia or a proud and dignified Republic of Macedonia, said Mickoski, demanding that the parliament is dismissed at once.
Will Russia put a footnote on Macedonia’s name? (Nezavisen vesnik)
After the nervous reaction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about accepting the constitutional changes in Macedonia, President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov personally came up with new assessments. In a final attempt to influence the vote in Greece and to give a loud voice to their demand for the name agreement to be debated in the UN Security Council, where Russia plays a role as well, both have entered into a field in which no country that respects the credibility of its diplomacy would even enter. Putin argues that behind the implementation of the name agreement are the United States and several other Western countries because they want to consolidate their domination in the Balkans, and that it becomes a serious destabilizing factor in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his visit to Serbia, answered questions from Serbian media – the newspapers Politika and Vecernje novosti. According to Putin, Macedonia, much like Montenegro, is forcibly absorbed into NATO, despite the stance of half of its population. “The authorities did not risk holding any relevant referendum – as a result, the country is suffering political instability.” “The referendum on changing the country’s name failed, but the outside pressure continued,” Putin added in the interview ignoring the fact that besides the referendum, all polls show that a huge percentage of Macedonians want to join NATO, but they do not want to do so change the name of the country, i.e. that the problem is not a strategic determination, but the price that Macedonia pays for it. Lavrov, meanwhile, said that Russia does not oppose the new name for Macedonia, but there is the issue of the legitimacy of the ongoing process. By doing so, he practically rejected the dilemmas that Moscow could continue to address the country with the name Republic of Macedonia with a footnote, as Turkey has done so far in all international organizations, ie – to refuse using the new name, as authorities in Greece fear, because they think it has been imposed on Macedonia. “We do not oppose the name that eventually appeared and was announced. We ask questions about how legitimate this process is and how much it really is conditioned by the desire to find a consensus between Greece and Skopje, or it is conditioned by the US desire to drive all Balkan countries into NATO as soon as possible and stop any Russian influence in that region,” said Lavrov. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that Moscow does not interfere in Athens’s internal affairs, but will continue to express its opinion on the name issue of Macedonia because it is under the authority of the UN Security Council. Grushko said that the comment by the Russian Foreign Ministry, condemning the decision of the Macedonian Parliament to change the Constitution for the purpose of changing the name of the country, is an essential assessment of “how the negotiations (between Athens and Skopje for the renaming of Macedonia) took place, under whose international pressure and unprecedented interference that the West has shown in achieving completely clear geopolitical goals.” Although Russia has legitimate geostrategic interests, Macedonia is far from its frontier, so our NATO membership neither qualitatively nor quantitatively will imply a greater threat to it, this Russian concern is explained only by the hopes that in addition to Serbia, Moscow can also gather other Balkan countries around and create some kind of new eastern bloc in the middle of the Alliance. Therefore, Moscow’s reactions were read yesterday as sincere and friendly only by Janko Bacev’s political party, United Macedonia. “Although the announcement by the Russian MFA that the name issue should be considered in the UN Security Council is good in trying to prevent the erosion of everything that is Macedonian, the Macedonian MFA reacted again in the negative context of Russia’s sincere intentions for respecting the holy Macedonian name, identity, history and tradition of the Macedonian people. This is an old practice of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov, creating provocations on an anti-Russian basis and to break the concept of friendly relations with Russia,” the party said. Moscow’s arguments that disputed the agreement between Macedonia and Greece are reduced to several: that both the agreement and the new name have been forcibly imposed from outside, that the sole goal is for Macedonia to join NATO because it in the West’s interest, not ours, that the whole process is illegitimate from the aspect of the current Macedonian legislation, that the position of President Gjorge Ivanov and the opinion expressed by the majority expressed in a referendum, that the protests against the agreement are ignored and that this does not lead to a long-term solution – instead it creates greater division in the society. According to Moscow, a sustainable solution must be found without outside pressure and without imposing deadlines and conditions, based on broad social support – in Macedonia and Greece – and exclusively within the framework of law.
Moreover, Moscow refuses to see that the agreement is a bilateral issue whose solution was supported by the two current prime ministers who are not anyone’s marionettes, that there negotiations for the dispute for over two decades, and that the pressure from outside was to come up with a solution, but not just any solution. Also, that the solution to a dispute cannot be a destabilizing factor when the failure of it was precisely that for Macedonia, that the agreement is an internal matter between the two countries and not Russia, that it was passed in our parliament and that the Russian interests regarding the non-enlargement of NATO cannot be crucial when making decisions for Macedonia. Moscow ignores the fact that Macedonia is not a presidential, but primarily a parliamentary democracy, that Ivanov did not stand behind the agreement, but the ruling coalition was the one that stood behind it, that there was room for the opposition in Macedonia to take part in the deal, but chose to boycott it, while Moscow doesn’t even bother to ask the opposition about some kind of stance, and, on the contrary, does everything in its power to make it go away, and no one has seen a referendum on major issues in Russia since the time of Boris Yeltsin, with no one checking the will of the people when they made the president of the country ‘for life’. Whilst here they see the will of the people every time Janko Bacev comes out on the streets with less than a dozen followers.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Creation of Kosovo’s army is provocation fueling tensions in Balkans, says Putin (TASS, 17 January 2019)
BELGRADE, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia finds the Kosovo authorities’ decision to create their own army regrettable and sees it as another risk of destabilization of the situation in the Balkans. “Regrettably, Kosovo’s authorities took a series of provocative steps lately, thus greatly aggravating the situation. In the first place I have in mind their decision of December 14 to form a so-called army in Kosovo,” Putin told a news conference following talks with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic. “It goes without saying that this is a direct violation of the UN resolution, which does not allow for the creation of any paramilitary forces except for the international UN contingent.” “Such irresponsible steps by Kosovo’s authorities may cause destabilization in the Balkans,” he warned. Moscow and Belgrade are interested in a stable and safe situation in the Balkans, Putin said. He recalled that Moscow would like to see Belgrade and Pristina achieve a “viable and mutually acceptable solution for Kosovo on the basis of the UN Security Council’s resolution 1244.” Putin said that the talks with Vucic were successful. He thanked the Serbian leader and the delegation’s members for meaningful and productive talks. He expressed gratitude to the residents of Belgrade and the people of Serbia for the warm and hospitable reception all members of the Russian delegation were able to feel. He voiced the certainly that the achieved agreements would promote stronger Russian-Serbian friendship.
TurkStream line pipe in Serbia to be constructed before end of 2019 (TASS, 17 January 2019)
MOSCOW, Construction of TurkStream line pipe in Serbia will be completed by the end of 2019, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said on Thursday in an interview with Channel One. He added that the length of the gas pipeline on the territory of Serbia will be 403 km. “The gas pipeline will run from the Serbian-Bulgarian to the Serbian-Hungarian border. As for the deadline, line pipe of the gas pipeline will be built before the end of 2019,” Miller said. “The length of the Serbian section will reach 403 km. Construction of a compressor station is planned,” he added. Miller said in an interview with Rossiya-1 TV channel that Gazprom will soon begin building infrastructure in Serbia for the TurkStream pipeline. “Construction will start literally any day now,” he said, answering a question about the start of construction of the gas transportation infrastructure in Serbia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Russia is ready to invest around $1.4 bln in infrastructure development in Serbia to continue the TurkStream project through this country. He noted that Russia is ready and has the necessary resources for the implementation of projects for the continuation of the pipeline to Europe, and “many countries show interest in it,” but everything needs to be properly formalized. “Together with Serbia, we are working on it, it concerns development of infrastructure, including transit infrastructure on the Serbian territory. We are ready to invest the necessary resources, it will amount to around $1.4 bln,” the Russian leader said, answering a question about the possibility of extending the TurkStream gas pipeline to Serbia. The TurkStream project includes construction of a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to the European part of Turkey and further to the border with Greece. The first line will be designed to supply the Turkish market, the second – for gas supply to the countries of South and Southeast Europe. Gazprom considers Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary as potential markets.
Putin Gets Red Carpet Treatment in Serbia, a Fulcrum Once More (The New York Times, by Marc Santora and Neil MacFarquhar, 17 January 2019)
BELGRADE, Serbia — The water in Belgrade’s central fountain was lit Russian red, ceremonial artillery blasts thundered at the palace, and tens of thousands of Serbs were bused in from around the country to welcome President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday. If the tableau seemed more fitting for the days of kings than a typical state visit, these are no ordinary times for Serbia, which once again finds itself tugged between East and West in ways hauntingly reminiscent of the Cold War. Then, Yugoslavia, with its capital in Belgrade, managed to stay out of the Soviet bloc, though it was nominally aligned with it. Now, amid resurgent competition for political and economic influence in Europe, especially in the Balkans, that strategy seems suddenly relevant. With Serbia seeking to join the European Union without damaging its ties with Moscow, this country on the eastern flank of Europe is in play all over again. And the fulcrum of its balancing act is the president, Aleksandar Vucic, an increasingly authoritarian leader regarded as a chip off Mr. Putin’s block. “It is extremely unusual, especially in democracies, to have a government organize a massive rally to welcome a foreign dignitary,” said Vuk Jeremic, the leader of opposition People’s Party, former foreign minister and former president of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Vucic, he said, was betting that Western leaders would watch the throngs of people cheering as he embraced the Russian leader in a European capital and “become even more tolerant toward his autocratic behavior, in the hope that he doesn’t drop Serbia’s formal commitment to join the E.U.” That has opened an opportunity for Russia, which sees Serbia as a potentially fruitful investment target, especially to supply natural gas. Mr. Putin has placed heavy public emphasis on new economic agreements, while analysts said he would privately express dismay at Belgrade’s eagerness to join the European Union. At a brief news conference, Mr. Putin committed $1.4 billion to bring additional Russian gas to Serbia, before he paid tribute to the long history of Russian-Serbian relations. “They have strong, stable and deep roots — the Russian and Serbian people have always been spiritually close,” Mr. Putin said. Paraphrasing a Serbian expression, he said, “If we are together, then victory awaits.” For Moscow, Serbia presents a kindred cultural space anchored in their shared Slavic roots and Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, where it can assert itself at a moment when the European Union is perceived as weak, while keeping NATO at bay. “The world is becoming more black and white,” said Bosko Jaksic, a political columnist in Belgrade. “And I fear when it comes to Serbia, Putin is using Kosovo and gas to export a political model.” Indeed, any future Serbian accession to the European Union, which remains a long way off, will require Serbia to compromise on Kosovo, which Mr. Putin accused of ratcheting up regional tensions. Kosovo, a mostly ethnic Albanian and Muslim territory, broke from Serbia in the 1990s under the wing of a NATO bombing campaign. Russia has never recognized an independent Kosovo, and remains one of Serbia’s staunchest backers. In Serbia, warm feelings for Russia and admiration for Mr. Putin run deep and seem to be growing well beyond the long tradition of strong ties between the military and intelligence services. Mr. Putin was at the top of a list of most-trusted foreign politicians, with the support of 58 percent of respondents, according to a survey conducted by the newspaper Politika in March. Even before he arrived, Mr. Putin seemed to be everywhere. Billboards on the highway welcomed Serbia’s “dear friend.” His face was plastered on T-shirts, mugs, pins and even underwear. As he toured historic sites with Mr. Vucic by his side, the Russian national anthem rang out time and again. In recent years, more than 100 pro-Russian media outlets and nongovernmental organizations have taken root in Serbia, according to the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, a Belgrade-based think tank. Jelena Milic, the head of the think tank, termed Moscow’s varied efforts to exert influence “Putin’s orchestra.” Her study, “The Russification of Serbia,” detailed efforts by Moscow to undermine public support for European integration and to delay rapprochement with the West. “There is more and more evidence that some members of ‘Putin’s orchestra’ are financed directly from Moscow,” she wrote. Serbia is a crucial transit point in Russia’s plans to extend its TurkStream pipeline to supply natural gas across southern Europe, a project that has provoked misgivings in the European Union. Russian investment in Serbia’s economy has already exceeded $4 billion, Mr. Putin told Politika. It faces stiff competition from China and Turkey among others, however. To highlight the cultural ties, Mr. Putin visited Belgrade’s newly restored Church of St. Sava, one of the world’s largest Orthodox Christian churches, where Russian businessmen underwrote the cost of the gilded mosaic lining the dome. Outside the church, a crowd of 100,000 had been assembled to cheer the leaders. But many of those in attendance had been offered incentives to attend, including five liters of milk. Some reported being threatened by bosses that they would lose their jobs if they did not go. At the news conference, Mr. Putin was asked what he thought about the outpouring and what he would say to the people there. “My participating in demonstrations is not part of the plans for the visit,’’ Mr. Putin said, smiling. But he added, ‘‘I can say that we have very warm feelings about such manifestations of friendship.” The gathering stood in sharp contrast to one the night before, when tens of thousands walked along the same route, to the same church, for a candlelight vigil to remember a Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic, who was gunned down in Kosovo one year ago. His killers have never been brought to justice, and the death has become a rallying point for those who accuse Mr. Vucic of creating a climate of fear that fuels political violence. For more than a month, through bitter cold and snow, tens of thousands of Serbs have taken to the streets in protest. “In our country, we are confronted every day with so many lies and threats,” said one of the organizers, Jelena Anasonovic, 24. “I think democracy, true democracy, is something you need to fight for every day.” By assembling a sprawling crowd of his own, Mr. Vucic, who has been dismissive of the protests, sought to demonstrate his support at home. For the international audience, Mr. Vucic had a different goal. Mr. Jaksic, the political columnist, said Kosovo is at the heart of the balancing act Mr. Vucic is trying to pull off. “It all starts with the mother of all problems, and that is Kosovo,” he said. Even if Mr. Vucic managed to achieve lasting peace with Kosovo, Mr. Jaksic said, it might be at the expense of Serbia’s democracy. “I am against Mr. Vucic because of his authoritarian model,” he said. “He is always talking about my big friend Putin, my big friend Orban, my big friend Erdogan. You can judge him by his friends.” Mr. Vucic has recently floated the idea of some sort of partition of Kosovo. While he has not publicly offered any details on how that might work, especially given the inherent dangers of redrawing maps in the volatile Balkans, the idea gained momentum last year when John R. Bolton, the Trump administration’s national security adviser, said the United States was open to the idea. But to go forward, Mr. Vucic would surely need at least the tacit approval of Mr. Putin. Russia is still grumbling about the name change in nearby Macedonia that should pave the way for its accession to the European Union and NATO, a clear loss in the Balkans for the Kremlin. Although Serbia has no plans to join the military alliance, Moscow wants to maintain a strong embrace. If Russia were to sign off on the still-undefined plan, observers say it would likely come at a price. For instance, Russia could use it as a pretext to argue for recognition of Crimea as a Russian province. But the vast majority of Serbs, some 70 percent according to recent polls, reject any compromise over Kosovo. Dejan Garic, 43, was doing a brisk business selling Putin-themed items at his kiosk near Kalemegdan, the ancient fortress situated on a hill overlooking the point where the Sava and Danube rivers meet. “Putin does not recognize Kosovo, and that is very import for us,” he said. A former soldier who fought in the war, Mr. Garic recalled that “Russians were the only ones helping us.” He is from southern Kosovo and believed that one day his hometown would be made a part of Serbia again.One shirt he sold seemed to sum up the popular feeling. Mr. Putin was pictured wearing aviator sunglasses, with a message written in both Serbian and Russian. “Kosovo is Serbia,” it said. “Crimea is Russia.”
Marc Santora reported from Belgrade, Serbia, and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow.