Vladimir Putin

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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.

BuzzFeed: Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about Moscow tower

Cohen and Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. Photos: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez and Martin H. Simon - Pool via Getty Images

President Trump directed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow — charges to which Cohen has since pleaded guilty, BuzzFeed News' Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report.

Details: The report — which cites "two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter" — alleges that Trump and Cohen had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the Moscow deal during the 2016 campaign, and that Cohen provided "regular, detailed updates" to Trump's children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly obtained evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress through witness interviews and internal documents and communications from the Trump Organization.

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