Moscow: Vladimir Putin Thursday compared the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline to love, saying Europe needs to show its affection for the Russian project.
Speaking on a visit to EU aspirant Serbia about Brussels' reluctance to back the Russia-led South Stream gas pipeline, Putin said Moscow could not go it alone.
"That is just like love. It can only be happy if there are two participants of this wonderful process and both want to develop a relationship," Putin said, smiling.
"Same here. We cannot unilaterally build a pipeline system worth billions of dollars if our partners are still thinking whether or not they should implement this project."
Putin spoke hours before his planned arrival in Milan for high-profile talks with EU leaders and after he issued a Cold War-style tirade, accusing US President Barack Obama of a "hostile" approach.
The crisis in Ukraine has made the pipeline, which is already under construction to bring Siberian gas to the European Union -- bypassing Ukraine -- a new focus of tensions between Moscow, Brussels and Washington.
The South Stream pipeline is a major project to reduce Moscow's reliance on Ukraine as a transit country following disputes with Kiev in 2006 and 2009 that led to interruptions of gas shipments to Europe.
The European Union has called on all 28 member states to stand united in resisting pressure from the Kremlin over the project, saying the pipeline breaches the bloc's competition rules.
Putin said today that politics was hurting business.
"I am deeply convinced, absolutely convinced, that this project is beneficial for European consumers because it significantly reduces transit risks," he said.
A number of southeastern European countries are currently heavily dependent for gas on Russian pipelines that pass through Ukraine.
"Politics stands in the way of economy, causes damage."
Serbia, an EU candidate with strong relations with Russia, has remained committed to the South Stream pipeline.