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The event was attended by Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Aleksandar Vulin, Defence Minister in the Serbian Government, Goran Vesic, Deputy Mayor of Belgrade, Alexander Chepurin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Serbia, Kirill Tyurdenev, CEO of NIS Company, and also representatives of Gazprom Neft and NIS. The Russian Necropolis in Belgrade is one of the largest resting places of Russian émigrés in the world. First and foremost, though, it harks back to the most glorious period of Serbian-Russian companionship – when Tsar Nicholas II brought Russia to Serbia’s aid by entering World War I, with Serbia in turn opening its doors to around 40,000 Russian refugees only a few years later. The importance of the Russian Necropolis has been recognized by Gazprom Neft Company, which assisted in the renovation of this complex, consecrated in 2014 by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, and the Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Prior to the start of today’s volunteer drive, Serbian Patriarch Irinej welcomed all those present, saying: “We are on the holy resting place of numerous bodies of Orthodox Christians and our Russian brothers, who gave their lives in the fight for the freedom of our people. Therefore, we are grateful for their sacrifice as they gave life for what is most valuable, that is, for their fellow men. Many Russians have found refuge here, their second homeland, and, as a result, numerous Russian scientists, professors, architects, historians and doctors who came, improved us with their knowledge, and for this we are eternally grateful.” Nadezda Kushenkova, Director of Russian Centre for Science and Culture "Russian Home" in Belgrade Nadezda Kushenkova, Director of the Russian House Centre for Science and Culture in Belgrade, was quoted as saying: “Dear friends, we are gathered here today symbolically, at the New Cemetery, to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the 180th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Serbia. This complex was consecrated by patriarchs Kirill and Irinej in 2014, and has been rejuvenated as a result of close cooperation between Gazprom Neft, the Russian Embassy and the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church. I would like to use this opportunity to render my special gratitude to NIS, and to its CEO, Mr Tyurdenev.” Goran Vesic, deputy Mayor of Belgrade Goran Vesic, Deputy Mayor of Belgrade, stated that Russian immigration has left an indelible footprint upon the development of Belgrade, especially in the period following World War I. “That is why this Russian Necropolis in Belgrade is a monument not only to Russian-Serbian friendship, but also to everything that those who fled Russia have given our city. It is up to us to guard the memory of all Russians who have participated in development of Belgrade, as well as our friendship, and today we may proudly say that we are not only safeguarding monuments, but that we are also building a new common future. One such example is the cooperation between NIS and the City of Belgrade, with NIS each year allocating funds for the beautification of our city, thus showing that it is a socially responsible company in its relationship with in the city in which it operates.” Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin had the following to say: “Serbs and Russians share their history, not only because they were born as Slavs, but also because they are Orthodox. They share it since they pursue common values that have always placed them on the same side. We are here today to confirm once again that values of freedom are, in fact, the rights of choice and decision-making. Imagine the First and Second World Wars without the contributions of Serbs and Russians; Would world history be written the same way? Who would have ruled the world? This monument reminds us that we should aim to match the deeds of our ancestors. The relations of Serbia and Russia are the relations of a joint future.” CEO of NIS, Kirill Tyudenev CEO of NIS, Kirill Tyurdenev, said on this occasion: “Both in Serbian and in Russian language, ‘volunteering’ is a word which denotes goodwill: good is the aim, and will is the highest power of each man, and all that we do in this way has a special significance. This place has special symbolism, because when we respect our past, we understand the value of the future. The connection of our peoples is centuries long and strong, and in front of this unique monument to heroism, history and culture, we become close with those whose homeland is Russia, and resting place is Serbia. It may be a duty, but also a privilege. Within NIS, volunteering actions are frequent, and act as a way of thinking about and aiding our communities. We are proud that the acts we perform for others build better things in ourselves. I am positive that today’s event will bring with it a valuable new dimension for all of us.” Alexander Chepurin, ambassador of Russian Federation in Serbia Alexander Chepurin, Ambassador of Russian Federation in Serbia, thanked to all those who came to participate in this noble activity, and ceremonially opened the volunteering activity. The Russian Necropolis was founded during the 1920s, within Belgrade’s New Cemetery, with around 400 Russian emigrants being buried there. The necropolis is the final resting place of a large number of prominent Russian scientists, army commanders and church dignitaries who found a second homeland in Serbia after emigrating. As a socially responsible company, NIS endeavours through this volunteering action to preserve the memory of our ancestors’ feats and to continue strengthening Serbian-Russian relations.