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Russia's Medvedev to visit Serbia, Hungary

Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin- backed frontrunner for Russia's presidential election, will visit Serbia on Monday.

The visit of Russia's first deputy prime minister comes at a time that Moscow has lined up with Belgrade in opposition to the Western-backed declaration of independence by the breakaway province of Kosovo.

The RIA news agency quoted Medvedev's secretariat as saying the trip would be focused on South Stream, a €10 billion ($14.65 billion) project designed to bring Siberian gas to Europe via the Black Sea. Medvedev will also visit Hungary.

Putin has said Western recognition of Kosovo despite Serbia's objections and bypassing the United Nations, would encourage separatism elsewhere in the world.

Medvedev, expected to win election next Sunday, has not revealed his foreign policy priorities although he has promised to continue Putin's course.

Kosovo, which put Russia at odds with the West, has helped Moscow to further improve ties with old Slav ally Belgrade.

Putin and Serbian President Boris Tadic last month signed an agreement under which Serbia would join South Stream, a joint project by Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom and Italian energy giant ENI. Medvedev is the chairman of Gazprom's board.

The EU, worried about its dependence on Russian gas, has been promoting a rival pipeline called Nabucco which would take gas from Central Asia through Turkey to Europe. But it has been having trouble finding enough gas supply to justify the project. (Reuters)