Russia's Likely Next President Visits Serbia, Signs Pipeline Deal

Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom and President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor, presided Feb. 25 over the signing of a deal potentially worth $1.5 billion to route a 550-mile natural gas pipeline through Serbia.

The pipeline deal may boost Russia's influence as an energy supplier to the continent. Few details were released, but analysts suggest Serbia is giving away some of its most valuable assets to Russia at bargain-basement prices.

In response to concerns that Moscow's control of key energy routes could be used as political leverage by rewarding countries that support its policies and threatening hardship for those that do not, Medvedev said the project, known as South Stream, and others pending with Serbia "form the foundation of energy stability for all of Europe in the future."

The agreement was the center of his visit, but Medvedev also criticized Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia and Western support for the move, saying it "absolutely" violates international rules.