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25 Feb, 2008 19:31

Russia confirms support for Serbia

Russia has reaffirmed its support for Serbia in rejecting Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence a week ago. At a meeting in the Serbian capital First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev promised there would be no shift in Russia's support for

It's the first visit by a foreign official since Kosovo seceded.

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister denounced the West's backing of Kosovo's independence.

He warned NATO and EU missions not to use force against Serbs in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Kosovo's independence creates a precedent for other disputed territories.

Dmitry Medvedev was also in Belgrade to close a gas pipeline deal. He said stronger economic ties would only cement the alliance.

“Our short visit is aimed to express our support to Serbia in response to the illegitimate unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence. These actions contradict the existing system of international law. But support should not only be moral and legal, it's essential to strengthen our energy co-operation and the agreement between Gazprom and Serbiagas is indispensable to the development of economic ties between our countries,” said Medvedev.

During the visit Russia and Serbia signed an agreement to build the South Stream gas pipeline.

“Our economic co-operation continues to develop. A month ago, we signed an important agreement in the energy sector, and now Serbiagas and Gazprom have signed an agreement on building a new pipeline,” Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said.

Later, during a three hour visit to Budapest, Dmitry Medvedev also reached an agreement with Hungary to join the South Stream gas project. The deal will be signed on Thursday in Moscow in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

The gas pipeline will go through Hungary in order to supply EU customers. Both countries will have a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture. And a major gas storage facility with the capacity of one billion cubic meters will be built in Hungary.