Part two: Vladimir Putin visits Serbia and meets with his Serbian counterpart. Just before the visit, Putin gave interviews to Serbian media. RT Deutsch documents the conversations with the newspapers Politika and Večernje novosti in an exclusive German translation. [Note: fortunately, German is one of our languages here at FRN]
Večernje novosti: The West, and Washington in particular, are irritably reacting to Russia’s intensive cooperation with Serbia and the Republika Srpska [the Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina]. How do you comment on the statements by Western politicians that Russia is a destabilizing factor in the Balkans, and how do you assess Russia’s relations with other former Yugoslav republics?
Putin: When we talk about the situation in the Balkans, the line of the US and some western countries to ensure their dominance in the region is a serious destabilizing factor. As recently as 1999, NATO forces bombed Yugoslavia for two and a half months without a mandate from the UN, violently splitting off the autonomous province of Kosovo.
And in 2008, Washington and its allies supported Kosovo’s illegitimate declaration of independence. In 2017, contrary to the opinion of one half of its population, Montenegro was implicated in NATO. The authorities were scared of conducting a referendum on this issue, and as a result, the country is now experiencing a period of political instability.
Last year, to speed up the integration of the Republic of Macedonia into NATO, a process was initiated to pass constitutional amendments and change the name of the state, in other words to revise the foundations of Macedonian national identity.
At the same time, the will of the Macedonian voters was ignored: the referendum on changing the name of the state failed, but external pressure continues.
Our country knows and understands the whole complexity of the Balkans and the history of this region, and has always understood this region as a space for constructive cooperation. Even today, Russia has many friends here, among which our strategic partner Serbia occupies a special place. That is why subsidies have an unconditional priority in consolidating regional security and stability. We work to ensure that the rights and interests of the countries and peoples of the Balkans are respected and that international law is respected.
Interaction with the Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is on a mutually beneficial basis in strict accordance with the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. We also continue to support projects in the energy, petroleum and fuel trading, financial, pharmaceutical and many others both in Republika Srpska and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Equally important in our view is the promotion of joint initiatives in the humanitarian field in view of the growing interest of the Bosnians in the Russian language, Russian culture and education in Russia.
Relations with Slovenia and Croatia are constantly evolving, although the dialogue between the EU, (which includes both countries), and Russia is going through a difficult time.
Last year, some meetings with the Croatian leadership took place. The turnover of goods is growing: in the first nine months of 2018 it rose almost 10 percent with Slovenia and 27 percent with Croatia. Last year, Russia and Slovenia successfully shared each other’s cultural season alternately, while in Zagreb, a major exhibition of the State Hermitage took place in honor of the 50th anniversary of the town-twinning between the Croatian capital and Saint Petersburg.
We will continue to build friendly and trusting relationships that are sure to meet the interests of our peoples.
Večernje novosti: What do you think about the prospects for cooperation between Moscow and Belgrade in the event of EU accession to Serbia? How can this affect Russian investment in the Serbian economy?
Putin: We respect the EU accession course chosen by the Serbian leadership. Unlike our Western partners, we are not trying to force an artificial choice on Belgrade: either Russia or the EU.
The integration processes are experiencing a dynamic development in our globalized world, they are always capturing new countries and associations, creating future-oriented constellations.
That is why we are convinced that Serbia’s aspirations for European integration, as well as Russia’s participation in the Eurasian Economic Union, are not an obstacle to our cooperation at various levels.
It is important that Russia and Serbia plan to continue strengthening their interaction in the economic and investment sectors. The free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and Serbia, which is currently being prepared, should also be conducive to this.
A proper round of negotiations took place a few days ago, on 10 and 11 January. We expect this document to be signed by the end of this year, opening up entirely new opportunities for increasing the efficiency and practical benefits of joint economic work. Finally, I wish to wish the readers of Večernje novosti and all the citizens of the friendly Serbia peace and prosperity.