TIMELINE: Key dates in Serbia’s contested Kosovo province

Kosovo Albanians will proclaim independence from Serbia on Sunday, ending a long chapter in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia but cementing a bitter ethnic front line in the Balkans.The major Western powers back independence for the province, which has been run by the United Nations since NATO drove out Serb forces in 1999. Serbia and Russia are opposed.

Here is a chronology of key events since 1989:

June 1989 – Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic uses the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, when the Ottoman Turks defeated the Serbs, to warn that Serbs will never yield control of the province. He starts stripping away its autonomy.

July 1990 – Ethnic Albanian legislators declare Kosovo independent. Belgrade dissolves Kosovo’s autonomous assembly.

July 1992 – Writer Ibrahim Rugova becomes president of the self-proclaimed republic in clandestine elections. Albanians try to build a parallel state following principles of non-violent civil disobedience, and a Serb crackdown ensues.

1998 – A guerrilla insurgency by the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army gathers pace and Serbian forces are accused of indiscriminate and brutal reprisals.

March 18-19, 1999 – Peace talks in France end in failure.

March 24 – NATO begins bombing Yugoslavia.

June 10 – Milosevic agrees to withdraw troops from Kosovo and NATO ends bombing. About 45,000 NATO troops begin entering Kosovo a day later as Serbian forces pull out. Thousands of Serb civilians flee Kosovo amid a wave of revenge attacks.

November 18, 2001 – Kosovo holds first general election. Rugova becomes president.

March 17, 2004 – Following the suspicious drowning of three ethnic Albanian boys in Kosovo, Albanian mobs attack Serb enclaves in the worst violence since 1999. Nineteen people are killed and hundreds of homes torched.

March 8, 2005 – Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is charged with war crimes and resigns to face trial in The Hague.

Oct 24 – U.N. Security Council agrees to talks on Kosovo’s future, mediated by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

Jan 21, 2006 – Rugova dies of lung cancer.

April 3, 2007 – With no compromise in sight, Ahtisaari proposes independence supervised by the European Union.

June 7 – At a G8 summit in Germany, Russia makes clear it will veto a draft U.N. resolution circulated by Western powers. Three days later in Albania, U.S. President Bush says “the time is now” to make Kosovo independent.

August – In an attempt to appease Moscow, envoys from the United States, the EU and Russia mediate a new round of diplomacy and talks.

December – Talks end in deadlock. The West says it will proceed with the Ahtisaari plan.

Jan 9, 2008 – Ex-guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci is elected prime minister, and promises Kosovo will declare independence “within weeks” in coordination with the West.

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