Serbs in for long-haul fight against Kosovo state

BELGRADE – Serbia is ready for years of resistance to Kosovo’s independence and counts on Russian help to defend its claim to the “occupied” territory, nationalist leaders said on Sunday.

“Kosovo will never get a seat at the United Nations as long as Serbia has the support of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin,” said Aleksandar Vucic of the opposition Radicals, Serbia’s biggest party.

Serbia would rely also on China, India and other friendly states to block Kosovo’s entry in international bodies, he said.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who has led the diplomatic battle to block Kosovo’s secession, was due to address the Serbian people later in the day and take a line similar to that of the Radicals.

But his minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, said there would be no move to close Kosovo’s borders.

Kosovo’s Albanian majority are due to declare independence later in the day, formally severing ties with Serbia, which sees the territory as the religious and historic cradle of the nation and vows never to recognize the secession.

The pro-government daily Politika said Kosovo’s declaration of independence “will not be the end of a part of our history”. It will be “the beginning of struggle, a marathon”. The fight would be very hard “because prejudices about Serbs are deeply rooted”.

CALL THE VOLUNTEERS

The most extreme reaction came from the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije, who denounced the Serbian armed forces for doing nothing.

“Serbia should buy state of the art weapons from Russia and other countries and call on Russia to send volunteers and establish a military presence in Serbia,” he said.

The 73-year-old bishop told the daily Glas Javnosti that Kosovo’s independence was “a temporary state of occupation”.

Serbian commentator Bosko Jaksic said the outrage of the hard-line church was predictable. “Church bells will ring, and we know the bishop will repeat that we’ll have to fight for Kosovo for 500 more years,” he wrote in a column in Politika.

In Kosovo, celebrations had already started, and top-selling daily Koha Ditore called for reconciliation between the province’s 2 million Albanians and the 120,000 remaining Serbs.

“The past should not be forgotten, but it belongs to the past, and should be forgiven,” the daily wrote.

But the daily Express carried a banner headline on its independence day edition that left no doubt about the feelings of some Albanians at finally escaping Serb rule, which lasted throughout the years of the old federation of Yugoslavia.

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