For the second time in over four years, the head of the Russian state Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin came for a brief one-day stay in Serbia’s capital greeted by his host President Aleksandar Vucic at the Belgrade 'Nikola Tesla' airport, N1 reported.
Ahead of the start of his talks with Vucic, Putin thanked Serbia’s citizens for "a warm reception” he said he witnessed in the streets.
Putin added the spiritual closeness between the two nations led to their cooperation.
Before the meeting, Putin visited the Liberators of Belgrade cemetery and laid wreath.
The talks with Vucic are said to include the Kosovo issue.
On the economic side, the two countries delegations are expected to sign over 20 agreements.
Putin will also decorate Vucic with the Order of Alexander Nevsky, one of the most prestigious Russian medals, while Vucic will present the Russian President with a three-month-old puppy of the local breed Shepard Sarplaninac, named Pasha.
Belgrade is on alert due to the tight security measures following the visit, with the parts of the city wholly cleared from traffic, including the ban on parking in the streets surrounding the St. Sava Cathedral outside which tens of thousands people are expected to greet the two presidents.
Almost 600 reporters are accredited to cover Putin’s visit.
The capital has also seen some cosmetic repair works, central fountain waters in the two countries’ flags, while a village in the north has been dubbed Putin and many cafes also named after the Russian President.
Ahead of the visit, Russia’s ambassador to Serbia Alexandar Chepurin said the regular meetings between Putin and Vucic was proof of good bilateral relations.
“Though there is a saying that all people are brothers, Serbs and Russians are of the same background, same religion and have the same glorious past, so, they are even closer brothers,” the envoy said.
In the meantime, Kosovo's President wrote on his Facebook profile that the stronger US and NATO presence in the region secured more peace, stability and prosperity, while the greater Russian involvement meant quite the opposite.
He commented on Putin's statement ahead of his visit to Serbia accusing the US of being a destabilising factor in the Balkans.
Several of Serbia's NGOs signed a letter on Thursday protesting over what they saw as "a glorification of Putin's authoritarian regime" in Serbia.