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The Belgrade visit was Putin's gift to Vucic

19 52 67
18.01.2019

Russia's President Vladimir Putin may be losing his mojo at home, but there is surely one country where his star continues to shine as brightly as ever: Serbia.

"Putin, you Serb, Serbia is with you," chanted fans in March 2011 as the then Russian prime minister entered Little Marakana stadium to watch Red Star Belgrade play Zenith, an outfit from his hometown of St Petersburg.

Three and a half years later, in October 2014, Putin attended as a guest of honour a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from Nazi occupation with the help of Soviet troops.

Now he is back in Serbia once again, and he is as popular as he was over four years ago.

On January 17, more than 30,000 people from across Serbia cheered for the arrival of a dear friend and ally in downtown Belgrade. "Brother Putin, save the Serbian people and the land of the Serbs," read one placard. The crowds grew ecstatic as the two heads of state entered the neo-Byzantine Saint Sava cathedral, restored with a Russian grant. With 7,000 police on patrol and the Belgrade traffic blocked, it was a day to remember.

The welcome Putin received in Belgrade signals that Russia still wields influence in the Balkans even though it experienced a series of setbacks in the region in the past two years.

Montenegro, an old-time friend of Moscow, joined NATO in June 2017. Russia's objections and disruptive tactics, including an alleged foiled plot backed by the Russian military intelligence to overthrow the Montenegrin government, could not stop the alliance's expansion into the Balkans.

And today, the newly renamed........

© Al Jazeera