Russian Prime Minister Putin has said that the ease of making decisions on the use of force by the international community is raising concerns. The aerial bombing of Libya by Western forces has only resulted in a larger number of casualties.
“What are we witnessing today? There are airstrikes all over the entire territory of the country,” Vladimir Putin said. “How is it possible to use means that result in an increased death toll among civilians in order to protect the country’s population?” the Russian Prime Minister wondered, speaking at a joint media conference with President Boris Tadić in Serbia.
Putin was asked to comment on the situation in Libya. Last week the UN approved resolution 1973, imposing a no-fly zone over the conflict-torn country in Northern Africa. Russia abstained in the vote on the document authorizing the use of force in Libya, but did not veto it either, hoping it would help to protect civilians.
Putin is in Belgrade where he held talks with the republic's President Boris Tadić and Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. Economic cooperation – in particular the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline – was topping the agenda, but the sides also touched upon hot political topics, including Kosovo and the situation Libya. The latter is particularly timely, as the head of the Russian government arrived in Serbia on the eve of the 12th anniversary of 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
However, Putin said that he does not think that Serbia and Libya “could be put on the same page” as they are totally different countries.
Speaking at the joint press conference following talks with Putin, Tadic said that his nation would never recognize the independence of Kosovo. “We intend to raise the question at the UN Security Council in order to start an independent investigation into the sales of human organs. All those who committed crimes in Serbia must be brought to justice,” Tadic said.
“This will contribute to the reconciliation of the peoples of former Yugoslavia and this is important for peace and the stable development of the whole region,” the Serbian president said. He also said that he discussed the question with Vladimir Putin and that they continued to count upon Russia’s support when discussing Serbia’s territorial integrity. Tadic also stressed that though his country was seeking membership in the European Union it would never neglect its important relations with Russia.
Commenting on the matter, Putin said that Moscow welcomes the dialogue between the Serbian and Kosovar leadership and – if necessary – would be ready to provide assistance in the process of negotiations. As for direct contacts between Belgrade and Pristina, “it is the sovereign choice of the Serbian people” and only they can decide how to build their relations. The Russian Prime Minister added that any talks are better than armed hostilities and arguments.
Moscow's stance on the issue remains unchanged and is based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999. The document authorized an international civil and military presence in Kosovo and established the UN Interim Administration Mission in the region.
The South Stream pipeline project designed to export Russian natural gas to Europe through the Black Sea bed is of exceptional importance to Serbia, Boris Tadic said. “This project is exceptionally important for the whole European continent. Serbia is a country that had signed an agreement connected with the South Stream building. For Serbia, with its special demands in the energy sphere, the realization of the South Stream project is of exceptional importance,” the Serbian leader said.
Putin and Tadic also told reporters that Russia would extend an 800 million dollar credit for the development of the Serbian railroad industry and several new electrical energy projects.
Putin received a warm welcome in the Serbian capital, which he last visited back in June 2001 as Russia’s President. Cvetković met his counterpart at the airport. Later on, Putin was greeted by Tadić with highest state honors in front of Palace of Serbia where a series of meetings between members of the Russian delegation and Serbian officials was held.
Tadić observed that Russia and Serbia are bound by centuries of friendly relations and have both historic and spiritual ties. The two states have also "reached agreement to build relations for the future based on mutual interests," he said as cited by Serbian radio B-92. The crowning achievement of the bilateral relations will be an agreement on strategic partnership between Moscow and Belgrade that is to be signed in the coming months.
"That would not have materialized without your contribution," Tadić noted, addressing Putin.
Earlier, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić said Belgrade had big expectations for Putin's visit. "I expect Serbia will be stronger the day after the visit is over. We will talk economic, but also political topics, and it will be an important visit from which we expect great results," he stated.
On his trip, Putin is accompanied by Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoigu. On Tuesday, the Russian delegation visited Slovenia where a number of deals were finalized including on a joint venture between Gazprom and Slovenia's Geoplin Plinovodi to build the Slovenian section of the South Stream gas pipeline.