Europe

Serbian PM to visit Putin ahead of April 2 presidential vote

Presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Prime Minister and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) speaks and gestures during a pre-election rally in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, March 24, 2017.  Serbia's populist prime minister says he will pay an official visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the trip apparently intended to boost his bid for the Serbian presidency. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Prime Minister and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) speaks and gestures during a pre-election rally in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, March 24, 2017. Serbia's populist prime minister says he will pay an official visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the trip apparently intended to boost his bid for the Serbian presidency. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Serbia's populist prime minister says he will pay an official visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a trip apparently designed to boost his bid for the Serbian presidency.

The former ultranationalist now self-declared pro-EU reformer, Aleksandar Vucic, has been playing a balancing act between the West and Russia over the future of Serbia.

Serbian media said Saturday that Vucic hopes his visit to Moscow on Monday will finalize a deal with Putin over a delivery of six MiG-29 fighter jets ahead of the April 2 presidential vote in Serbia. Vucic hopes to win enough votes to avoid a runoff two weeks later.

Serbia has turned mostly anti-Western and pro-Russian after a NATO military intervention 18 years ago that ended with its former ethnic-Albanian province of Kosovo declaring independence in 2008.