“I asked if Russia could act as a mediator and the Russian president agreed”, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, during his meeting in Moscow with Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko relating on his meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Vucic added, “if the (Kosovo) Albanians demand that the US become a mediator in the Kosovo talks, then we will demand that Russia join the process”. Serbian President stated to truly appreciate Russia’s support in preserving country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity considering it extremely important. He also stressed to expect Moscow’s support in the future. The same day, Belgrade news agency Beta stated that the Kremlin “did not wish to comment” on Russia’s possible mediator role. The spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, when asked about the possibility of expanding the format of the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, referred that the issue of Kosovo was seriously addressed during the Russian-Serbian talks. While representatives of Pristina expressed favorably on the United States getting involved in the dialogue. In fact, it is worth mentioning that dialogue was launched after the Kosovo issue was transferred from the UN to the EU in 2010, which has been acting as the facilitator ever since.
Vladimir Putin has told a forum of his supporters that he sees the main objectives of his new presidential program as maintaining Russia’s freedom, social stability and leading place among world nations. Speaking at the Tuesday session of the “Forum of Actions” organized by the All-Russian Popular Front movement incumbent president Vladimir Putin said that Russia had to fulfill the principal historical tasks of the moment, such as population growth, the creation of a new economy and development of its the Arctic and the Far East regions. Putin also emphasized the importance of keeping up with the ongoing revolution in production technologies, healthcare, and education. “Shielding ourselves from these international tendencies or trying to keep up with someone is definitely not our choice, it cannot be our choice”, he said, adding that Russia had all opportunities to restore the spheres of an economy where it used to be a world leader.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no Russian army in Donbas, but recognizes the creation of “certain military, militia” formations, according to an UNIAN correspondent “There is no Russian army on the territory of Donbas, but there have actually been established certain military, militia formations that are self-sufficient and ready to repel any large-scale military actions against Donbas,” he said at an annual press conference December 14. At the same time, Putin claims that the creation of such formations corresponds to the interests of people living in the temporarily occupied territories.
“Because if they do not have such an opportunity there, the ‘massacre’, even worse than in Srebrenica, will be carried out by the so-called nationalist battalions, and nothing will stop them, including an appeal, as I was advised by some Western colleagues, to international human rights organizations,” Putin said.
As Russia has worked to convince the world that its military power is growing, it has concealed its costs in terms of blood and treasure. But newly revealed statistics show surprisingly low casualties despite engagements in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria. It was the latest evidence that President Vladimir Putin’s military strategy is far more calculated than his predecessors, who were willing to win at all costs. Boris Yeltsin’s losses in Chechnya gutted his public support and the Soviet Union’s costly, failed Afghanistan adventure helped speed the end of an empire. Putin’s position is far more secure, which makes his approach to war all the more difficult to explain. Russia has not reported active-duty casualties since 2010 even as it expanded its military operations on several fronts. In 2015, Putin was accused of trying to hide losses in eastern Ukraine, where Russia stubbornly denies military involvement, by classifying data on losses incurred in “peacetime military operations”.
U.S. Ambassador Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s special envoy charged with ending the war in Ukraine, says that his recent meeting with Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Belgrade on November 13 on a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas, was a “step back,” according to the U.S. edition of the POLITICO magazine. “Our third meeting was a step back,” Volker told POLITICO. “They went back to their original proposal again. I don’t know what the next step after this is. It could be that that happened for completely other reasons having nothing to do with Ukraine, just where we are in our U.S.-Russian relationship. It could have had to do with the lack of a bilateral meeting between President Putin and President Trump.” Volker recalled that Moscow had proposed deploying a UN mission to protect OSCE monitors in Donbas. Washington, in turn, said that peacekeepers should monitor the ceasefire throughout the entire area – from the contact line to the Ukrainian-Russian border stretch between Russia and the self-proclaimed republics.
Serbia will soon have ten operational MiG-29 jets and will not stop there, “as we want the citizens to feel secure”, Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday. Vucic added he would have “an important phone conversation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. “We don’t want any kind of conflict, but we want to be sure that we are able to protect, preserve and defend our country”, Vucic said, after the opening ceremony of a new noodles factory in Ruma, a town in western Serbia. The situation in the military, according to the president, is now “incomparably better than it was before”. He recalled that when he became defense minister, “there was not a single MiG-29”. Soldiers will be more satisfied, Vucic pointed out, as they will receive “a significant, very significant increase in wages”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described as substantial and positive his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they discussed Tehran-Moscow ties, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and regional issues, including Syria. The top Iranian diplomat met with Putin in Russia’s southwestern city of Sochi on Wednesday evening, during his ten-hour trip to Russia. Speaking to reporters afterward, Zarif described the gathering, also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as “substantial and positive”. One of the main topics discussed in the meeting was the crisis in Syria, Zarif noted, saying Iran and Russia work in close cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He then added that Iran, Russia and Turkey would keep working on ways to settle the crisis in Syria by launching the next round of peace negotiations in the Kazakh city of Astana.