Russian experts warn West will push through Kosovo independence

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Russian experts believe the West has decided to grant Kosovo independence despite objections from Russia and Serbia to the proposal, adding that Russia will veto a UN Security Council vote expected later Friday.

Moscow has rejected the third draft resolution based on special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan to grant Kosovo independence without the prior consent of Serbia. Russia, a longtime ally of fellow Slavic Serbia, insists on a decision that would satisfy both Belgrade and Pristina. “Kosovo's independence is, in a broad sense, predetermined. What is not yet predetermined is exactly how it will be achieved,” Sergei Markov, the head of the Institute of Political Research, a Kremlin-connected Moscow think tank, told RIA Novosti.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday ahead of the Middle East Quartet meeting in Lisbon, “We are committed to an independent Kosovo and we will get there one way or another.” “If Condoleezza Rice said so, this means that the West has already gone three-quarters of the way. We could prevent this move only through titanic personal efforts by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov or the President [Putin],” Sergei Oznobishchev, the head of the Institute of Strategic Estimates, a Kremlin-connected Moscow think tank, told RIA Novosti. The crisis could be defused “only through high level one-on-one talks,” he said.

Both experts think that Kosovo, despite Western convictions, will be seen as a precedent throughout Europe. “Western politicians can say what they like, the truth is, this is going to set a precedent. In fact, Europe, with all its different ethnic minorities, groups, and territories, who want sovereignty, is sitting on a time bomb,” Oznobishchev said. An independent Kosovo will encourage others to seek independence through very different methods, the expert said. “Those sovereignty-minded groups will feel free to choose the means, and the method employed might not always be the best, and not always humane,” he said. Markov linked the issue of independence for Kosovo with those facing territories on Russia's borders. “For Russia independence for Kosovo is not as important as an independent Kosovo, without an independent Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdnestr,” he said, referring to the three unrecognized breakaway regions of Georgia and Moldova.

Russia has said granting Kosovo sovereignty would violate Serbia's territorial integrity and has also expressed concern about the future of the impoverished province's Serb and other minority population, about 180,000 in all. Kosovo Albanians have meanwhile warned they will take independence with their own hands if it is not granted. Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since NATO's unsanctioned 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a war between Serb forces and Muslim Albanian separatists in 1999. (rian.ru)

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