Serbia's President to Receive Controversial Russian Award
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky by Russian President Vladimir Putin - which testifies to the warm links between Belgrade and Moscow but also puts him in the company of a number of leaders not known for respecting democratic values.
The presidents of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus all received the same order from President Putin.
All of these countries have poor levels of human rights and some of them, such as Turkmenistan, have been marked as extremely repressive by the international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch HRW.
The official website of the Russian President says the Order of Alexander Nevsky is normally awarded for outstanding personal achievements in nation-building, years of honest public service and for high results in carrying out official duties.
Other merits are strengthening Russia's international prestige and defence capacity, and achievements in the economy, science, education, culture, arts and healthcare.
Putin signed the order awarding Vucic his medal on January 7 for his "great personal contribution to the development of multilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation".
The decision has sparked discussion in Serbia on the importance of the award, and as well on the company that Vucic now shares.
"The Order of Alexander Nevsky ... is primarily intended for meritorious state officials of Russia for 20 years of work. Putin laughed at @avucic and despises him - rightly," one of the opposition leaders, former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic, tweeted.
The Serbian public is not very familiar with the Order of Alexander Nevsky, as the Russian President has usually handed deserving Serbian...