11:59 GMT +320 October 2019
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    A woman wears a tee-shirt showing a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    'I Like Vladimir': Russia's Special Place in the Heart of Balkan Nations

    © AFP 2019 / OLIVIER MORIN
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    The Balkan countries, according to Handelsblatt, treat Russia as a global power and are (understandably) wary of the European Union that failed to deliver on its promises given after the end of the Cold War.

    On the streets of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, young people sport t-shirts emblazoned with the image of Russian leader. "I like Vladimir," one of them named Darijo Marakovic told the German newspaper. "Putin always gets what he wants. … To an extent he is our god," he noted adding that the Russian president is the only hope for the Balkans.

    It is not about T-shirts or hoodies in Serbia – in the neighboring country banners are all the rage. Billboards praising Russia as a big Slavic brother and Putin as a "model Slav" adorn streets of Serbia's key city of Belgrade, Handelsblatt pointed out.

    A recent poll conducted by the Politika newspaper showed that over 61 percent of Serbs want their government to strengthen ties with Russia, the German business publication reported. Many locals pin their hopes on Russia as the only country which can help them and they have grounds to think this way.

    Last year, Moscow was swift in providing assistance to Serbia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina hit by devastating floods said to be the worst in over a century.  

    "Dozens were killed; hundreds of those who lost the roof over their heads were waiting for help. When Brussels was discussing what steps should be taken, Russia offered real assistance by sending helicopters, equipment to clear debris, medical aid and rescue workers," the German newspaper wrote, citing a 73-year-old Serbian selling vegetables in Belgrade.

    "Russia feels deep connection to the Western Balkans populated by Slavs and Orthodox Christians," Handelsblatt noted. They evidently return the affection.

    During his brief visit to Belgrade last year, the Russian president was greeted with cheers and chants "Putin, Putin." Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic called Russia a "big ally" of his nation. "Serbia will not jeopardize its moral principles due to some negative attitudes towards Russia," he added.

    Residents of Belgrade with pictures of Vladimir Putin and Russian flags during Russian president's visit to Serbia on October 16, 2014.
    © Sputnik / Sergei Guneev
    Residents of Belgrade with pictures of Vladimir Putin and Russian flags during Russian president's visit to Serbia on October 16, 2014.

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    Tags:
    geopolitics, Vladimir Putin, Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Russia
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