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Economic ties pull Serbia toward EU membership, but Russia resists

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during their meeting at the Presidential Administration on January 17, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Jan. 17, in Serbia. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a high-profile visit Thursday to Serbia, Moscow's closest ally in the Balkans. Serbia's leadership has long touted cooperation with Russia, but the alliance has frayed as Belgrade has come to see it as the main obstacle on the way to EU membership.

Why it matters: The EU insists that Serbia must peacefully resolve its longstanding differences with Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, before it can join. Serbia has indicated that it’s ready to do so in exchange for an accession deal, but Russia, eager to keep Serbia from joining the EU, is trying to leverage strongly pro-Russian popular sentiment to gum up, and perhaps ruin, the fledgling compromise.

Violent clashes erupt in Greece

Protesters clash with riot police in Athens on Sunday during a demonstration against the agreement to rename neighbouring country Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia.
Protesters clash with riot police in Athens during a demonstration against the agreement to rename neighbouring country Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia, Jan. 20. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

A protest by tens of thousands of people in Athens against the government's deal to rename the country's northern neighbor to the Republic North Macedonia turned violent on Sunday after protesters threw stones and fireworks at police, who responded with tear gas, BBC reports.

Details: This comes as the Greek Parliament is expected to vote this week on ratifying the agreement for the name change — paving the way for Macedonia's admission into NATO and the European Union. Greek nationalists have long opposed the name "Macedonia" for its northern neighbor, claiming it implied territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name. The Macedonian Parliament ratified the agreement this month.

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