Moscow on Serbian Presidential-Election Map

Serbia's pro-Russian presidential candidate visited Moscow on Wednesday, reaching out for the Kremlin's support days after a trip by his incumbent rival.

Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic led President Boris Tadic by about 5 percentage points in the first round of Serbia's presidential vote on Jan. 20, and both sought Russia's support before the Feb. 3 runoff.

Tadic visited Moscow on Friday to attend the signing of a multibillion-dollar energy deal that would make Serbia a key hub for Russian gas supplies and strengthen Moscow's dominance of the European energy market.

Tadic was met with pomp, which appeared to reflect the Kremlin's backing. But increasing Russian clout in Serbia could also be an attempt to dissuade his Western inclinations.

Nikolic received a less ceremonial welcome, meeting quietly with first deputy prime minister and presidential front-runner Dmitry Medvedev, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

Nikolic, however, tried to cast the meetings as a proof that the Kremlin was not putting its support behind his rival.

"In Serbia, the visit of the country's delegation for signing the deal is presented as Russia supporting one candidate -- President Boris Tadic," Nikolic told Russia Today television. "I think this visit refutes any suspicion that Russia has taken anybody's side."