Russia warns U.S. and EU over Kosovo independence

MOSCOW – Russia warned the United States and European Union on Monday that it would take a series of unidentified measures if Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence.

Russia’s Kosovo negotiator, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, declined to give any details about the steps, but said a recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the West would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe in the province.

When asked if Russia had a plan of action if Kosovo declared independence, he said: “Yes, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has prepared a whole host of steps and measures. These measures fully accord to our position on independence for Kosovo.”

The leaders of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, who make up 90 percent of the breakaway province’s 2 million people, say they are within weeks of declaring independence from Serbia.

The United States and major European Union powers are expected to recognize the move despite opposition from Belgrade and Russia, Serbia’s main big power ally.

Russia has been trying to show its clout on the world stage by playing a tough diplomatic game against the U.S. and EU over Kosovo, using its huge energy clout and seat at the United Nations Security Council to hinder independence.

Russian officials say independence for Kosovo would destabilize the Balkans and fuel separatism all over Europe and the Former Soviet Union, including in breakaway regions Moscow supports in the Caucasus.

“Independence for Kosovo would lead to a division of the province, the isolation of its Serbian area,” Botsan-Kharchenko said.

“The result of unilateral recognition of independence could be a situation close to a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said, adding that Serb refugees would flow into northern Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign to halt killings and ethnic cleansing by Serb forces against the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority in the province.

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