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23 May 2024

Russia fights Kosovo independence

By Agencies

Russia stepped up its opposition to Kosovo's independence on Monday with parliament preparing to condemn the split from Serbia and the government urging UN chief Ban Ki-moon to take a tougher stance.


The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, Sergei Mironov, said parliament would shortly promulgate a text condemning the independence proclamation by ethnic-Albanian dominated Kosovo.


The text "will state that Kosovo's unilateral independence declaration flouts international law," Mironov was quoted by Interfax as saying.


The text would also call for a re-examination of Russia's relations with separatist territories within the former Soviet Union, a clear reference to two separatist provinces of Georgia that have Moscow's de facto backing.


"We clearly and unambiguously state that Russia will be obliged to re-examine its relationship with so-called unrecognised territories in the post-Soviet space that are part of the natural national interests of our country," Mironov said.


Ahead of a further session at the United Nations, Russian foreign ministry official Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko urged the UN Secretary-General Ban to stand up for UN resolutions and rules that he said backed Moscow's stance, Interfax reported.


"We think he should clearly define his position. He should remain loyal to the United Nations' charter and to the Security Council's resolution 1244 on Kosovo," Botsan-Kharchenko told the agency.


Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, has consistently opposed Kosovo's bid for independence, siding with its ally Belgrade.


On Sunday, Russia failed to secure Security Council backing for a bid to declare "null and void" the independence declaration by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.


Russia's Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov has campaigned in Europe against international recognition of Kosovo, notably visiting Cyprus, which with its own divided position has said it will not grant recognition.


Russian newspapers on Monday said Russia was likely to use Kosovo's declaration to put more pressure on neighbouring Georgia, which has two separatist provinces that adjoin Russia.


Despite opposing Kosovo's independence, Russia has said that it could serve as a precedent for the separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


At a news conference in Moscow on Monday the leaders of the two provinces said that Kosovo's independence reinforced their own independence claims.


South Ossetia's unrecognised president Eduard Kokoity said that the two territories, having claimed independence 17 years ago "have more right juridically, politically and historically than Kosovo to be recognised."


Analysts say Russia is balancing its position as it seeks to use its separatist allies in Georgia to gain diplomatic advantage over the leadership in Georgia, which is seeking to join Western institutions such as Nato.


At the same time Moscow has said it does not plan to recognise independence for the two provinces, reflecting worries about separatism within Russia.


Moscow could open representative offices in the capitals of the two Georgian provinces, a step just short of de jure recognition of independence, Kommersant said.


The editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Fyodor Lukyanov, said Russia's "rhetorical" reaction to Kosovo's independence was unlikely to be matched by deeds.


As for the separatist Georgian territories, the problem for Moscow is that they lack the support from numerous other countries enjoyed by Kosovo, he said.


"I don't expect any attempts to stop the independence in practical terms because actually it's impossible if the United States and most of the European countries decide to recognise Kosovo," he said. (AFP)