Russia ramps up gas supplies to Serbia during visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic address the media after their meeting at the Kremlin (AFP)

Moscow - 

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic showered praise on each other Tuesday as Moscow said it would raise gas supplies to Serbia next year.

Vucic, a former ultranationalist and once a close ally of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, is forced to perform a careful balancing act between Moscow and Europe as he pushes his country towards EU membership.

Serbia's former prime minister, who was elected president this past April, thanked Putin for his support and said Serbia would "never" introduce any sanctions against Russia, a reference to EU and US penalties against Moscow for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

"Thanks to support and gifts the Russian president has sent us we have been able to keep our status of military neutrality," Vucic said after talks at the Kremlin.

"In a political sense Serbia will always be grateful to Putin for the many things that are important to us."

Putin for his part said Russia was ready to continue "intense political dialogue" as well as ramp up gas supplies to Serbia up to 3.5 billion cubic metres a year by 2022.

Serbia depends on Russia for almost all of its natural gas.

Russian gas supplies to Serbia will be increased to 2 billion cubic metres from next year, Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Tuesday, after amending the current supply deal with Serbia's state-run company Srbijagas.

Gazprom's gas supplies to Serbia reached 1.75 billion cubic metres as of November 15, the company said.

Last month Russia denounced the life term slapped on Bosnian Serb wartime military chief Ratko Mladic for genocide as biased, adding that it would undermine reconciliation efforts in the Balkans.

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