BELGRADE (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sought to sustain Serbian loyalty on Tuesday, declaring the two countries, both seeking to reassert themselves in Europe, should unite in pride at their roles in World War Two.
Moscow views Serbia as a future hub for its planned South Stream pipeline which would deliver Russian gas to southern Europe; a plan viewed as a rival to Europe’s Nabucco project.
Serbia’s President Boris Tadic said Medvedev backed Belgrade’s plea for a big loan, although no firm commitments were made and it remained unclear whether Russia was ready to lend the 1 billion euros ($1.50 billion) Serbia wants.
But pressed by lucrative offers by the likes of China, Medvedev appealed to history to prove the special links between the two Slav nations.
“Russia and Serbia are united today by common spiritual values ... including by our desire to defend an honest assessment of history,” Medvedev said at Soviet-style gala night marking 65 years since Red Army and Yugoslav forces freed Belgrade from Nazi occupation.
The anniversary is seen as a source of pride by Russia, and by Serbia which was humiliated by NATO bombings 10 years ago and Western recognition of independence last year of its breakaway region of Kosovo.
Russian leaders have reacted angrily to European criticism of the wartime role of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin whose troops invaded eastern Poland in 1939 under a deal with Nazi Germany whose forces swallowed up the western half of the country.
The pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was broken when Nazi forces attacked the Red Army in 1941.
Some 27 million Soviets died in the war, as well as 1.7 million Yugoslavs.
“Serbs do not need to be told whose was the right cause,” Medvedev told Serbian lawmakers.
“You courageously fought the Nazis, but such resistance was not offered everywhere,” he said. “Some states not only backed Nazis, but also fought on their side, some chose collaboration.”
Medvedev said some forces in the West were seeking to revise history to achieve political goals; a clear hint at former Soviet eastern European allies which have now joined NATO.
“No one can dare idealising the Stalin’s regime,” Medvedev said. “But it was not the Soviet Union that started the war.”
Editing by Jon Hemming