12:53 Apr. 12, 2016
Radical leader predicts surge in voter support before election
At the end of a busy street an hour from Belgrade, past outdoor cafes, discount clothing stores and second-hand mobile phone outlets, artists at a tiny wax museum worked day and night for two months to complete a tribute to Vladimir Putin.
The figure stands alongside a Yugoslav communist party flag and a panoply of such local luminaries as late strongmen Slobodan Milosevic and Josip Broz Tito, thanks for Putin's support of Serbia's opposition to the Kosovo's independence.
"Around 75 percent of Serb citizens respect Putin and Russia, so we decided to let Putin be the first foreigner," said Dragan Markovic Palma, the mayor of Jagodina, which unveiled the statue last month. "Russia has helped a lot."
As Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic campaigns before April 24 general elections, his bid to prepare the country for European Union membership is facing a lurch to nationalism. It includes throw-back sentiment for Russia in the country of 7.2 million people as the EU is itself shaking under doubts about its future and resentment lingers over the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.
One of the beneficiaries has been the Radical Party, which wants to end talks to join the trading bloc.