Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their joint press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on Jan. 17, 2019. Strategic cooperation between Serbia and Russia will strengthen with the signing of over 20 agreements, the presidents of the two countries agreed here on Thursday after their meeting. (Xinhua/Predrag Milosavljevic)
BELGRADE, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Strategic cooperation between Serbia and Russia will strengthen with the signing of over 20 agreements, the presidents of the two countries agreed here on Thursday after their meeting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the Serbian capital around noon and visited the Cemetery of Belgrade Liberators (in World War II) and the Red Army Soldier memorial, where he laid wreaths together with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic before heading to Palace of Serbia for the official welcoming ceremony.
During the visit, the two sides signed more than 20 agreements which aim to initiate new projects in energy, infrastructure, innovations, digitalization and other areas. The two presidents expressed satisfaction with the development of the strategic cooperation between the two countries.
The signed agreements range from cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Serbia and construction of a regional center for nuclear technologies, as well as the research and use of cosmic space, to the expansion of Serbia's gas transport and storage capacities, maintenance and construction of Serbia's railway infrastructure and energy facilities.
Vucic said at the press conference that the two sides agreed on future gas transport, as well as expansion of the existing gas storage at Banatski Dvor in Serbia to the capacity of 750 million cubic meters from the currently 450 million, adding that this will bring additional industrialization and economic development to Serbia.
The newly signed agreements in the area of railway transport are worth 230 million euros (about 262 million U.S. dollars) Vucic noted that their value could increase to some 660 million euros in the future when all planned projects are accomplished.
With seven of the agreements signed on Thursday involve digitalization and new technologies, Vucic expressed the hope that they will enable Serbia to catch up with Russia's level of technical development.
Putin said the positive trend in trade exchange continued in 2018 with its value reaching 2 billion U.S. dollars. He announced that additional possibilities will emerge with the signing of Free-Trade Agreement between Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union, planned for the end of this year.
Putin said Serbia imported around 2.3 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia last year, and Russia's Gazprom intends to deliver 3.5 billion cubic meters in 2019. Moreover, there are ongoing projects to expand Serbia's gas transport network, which will bring additional energy security to the region.
Putin announced that the two countries will continue to maintain military-technical cooperation, and that Russia will continue to support Serbia's defensive capabilities.
The Russian president awarded Vucic with the Order of Alexander Nevsky for the merit in the development of multilateral cooperation with Russia. His visit to Serbia ends with the tour of the Church of St Sava in downtown Belgrade, where tens of thousands of people gathered to greet him.