Forcing Serbia to make an artificial choice between the West and Russia is impermissible, says Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko.

Matviyenko said this during a special session of the Serbian National Assembly in Belgrade that she addressed on Monday, adding that there was “no force in the world that could destroy the friendship and cooperation between Russia and Serbia.”

“Russia always stood for the right of every sovereign country to cooperate with any parter. Today Serbia is one of a few countries in the world that is defending precisely this position,” she said.

The chair of Russia’s upper house of parliament also said that Serbia can continue to count on her country’s consistent support when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija.

She said the Kosovo issue was by and large provoked by an outside aggression, and by the relentless meddling of NATO countries into the internal affairs of then Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and remarked that through its centuries-long history, Serbia several time became the object of crude outside pressure.

“In Russia, we will never forget those tragic events for your country, the aggression of the West in the 1990s, the result of which was a forcible trearing apart of a modern European country and a forcible change inside European borders,” said Matviyenko, reiterating Moscow’s support for Serbia’s territorial integrity regarding Kosovo, stressing that “the tragic event of NATO’s (1999) aggression rendered the fragmentation of a European country acceptable.”

“73 years ago, together we liberated Belgrade. Today, we consistently back Belgrade regarding Kosovo. I assure you that Serbia can continue to count on the support of Russia and the Russian people,” Matviyenko told members of the Serbian National Assembly.

She said that Russia highly appreciates Serbia’s firm position, despite pressure, against introducing “illegal sanctions against Russia, aimed at suppressing Russia’s economic growth, and its growing influence in the world.”

“This stance of yours is sincere friendship. Not every country has found such courage, but you have,” she said, stressing that Russia “highly appreciates Serbia’s politically and morally principled stance.”
Relations between the two countries, the Russian official continued, are an example of true friendship and brotherhood based on historical closeness, and mutual respect, trust and cooperation that has been confirmed over the centuries.

“This is why we can say that there is no force in the world capable of undermining our friendship, brotherhood, and cooperation – no matter how much effort somebody may invest in it.”

Recalling the two country’s cooperation through history, and their joint fight for freedom and independence and the right to choose independently, as well as the mutual support offered by Russians and Serb to each other, Matviyenko said the unity between Russia and Serbia must be guarded, strengthened, and conveyed to future generations.

She recalled the Serbian saying, “God in Heaven, Russia on Earth.”

“Such words, thoughts and feelings live for centuries, from one generation to another – because they come from the depth of the soul,” Matviyenko said.

In her speech, the Russian official observed that the role of women has been growing lately, including in Serbia where two women now hold important state offices – of prime minister, and president of the National Assembly.

“Today, Russia and Serbia have a strategic partnership that covers all fields of cooperation, including the political level, high and top level meetings of the parliaments and government, with a positive trend in trade relations,” Matviyenko said, adding that the bilateral free trade agreement, signed in 2000, “has been meeting expectations,” and creating favorable conditions for continued cooperation.

She said that this year, bilateral trade had recorded a 16 percent increase with a tendency of further growth, while investment cooperation had been increased, primarily in the fields of energy and transportation. In these domains, she underlined the Serbian railway modernization project and the development of the company NIS.

Currently, the Federation Council chairwoman continued, Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union are discussing unifying the trade regime in the context of the initiative to form a large Eurasian space, launched by President Vladimir Putin.

“A successful completion of these negotiations – and they are proceeding very intensively – will allow Serbia to reach a new level of cooperation with the Eurasian economic alliance. This will provide a bigger market for Serbian goods,” Matviyenko said.

Ahead of her address, Matviyenko met with National Assembly President Maja Gojkovic, and said afterwards that Moscow has not and will not recognize Kosovo.

“We are grateful to Serbia, the Serbian leadership and the Serbian nation for not having recognized the illegal sanctions against Russia and for the efforts they are investing in development of economic cooperation,” Matviyenko said.

On Tuesday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic received Matviyenko, and said during the meeting that his country was “firmly committed to develop further its political relations with Russia.”

Bilateral ties, the situation in the region and an upcoming visit to Moscow by a Serbian delegation were discussed during the meeting, the president’s office said in a statement.