Russia warns West against recognizing unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER

Associated Press Writer

GENEVA (AP) -- Russia warned the West on Tuesday against recognizing a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, saying it could set off a chain reaction of secessionist movements in Europe and around the world.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not mention any of the planet's hot spots by name, including Russia's troubled southern republic of Chechnya, but said recognition of Kosovo independence without it being approved by the U.N. would bode ill for global security.

Kosovo's parliament is expected to declare its split from Serbia soon, possibly as early as Sunday.

"We are talking here of the disruption of all the basic fundamentals of international law in Europe, which is a result of years of suffering and wars and strife," Lavrov told reporters at the U.N. in Geneva. "It would undermine the basics of security in Europe. ... It would inevitably result in a chain reaction in many parts of the world, including Europe and elsewhere."

Serbia wants to keep hold of Kosovo -- considered the cradle of its medieval statehood and religion -- although it has had no control over the province since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign ended a crackdown against ethnic Albanian rebels and forced Belgrade to pull out.

The U.S. and most EU nations support statehood for the U.N.-run province, where 90 percent of the population of 2 million is ethnic Albanian. However, traditional Serbian ally Russia opposes statehood for Kosovo.

Lavrov asked how minority Serbs and the majority ethnic Albanians would live side-by-side in an independent Kosovo when they cannot do so now, while Kosovo formally remains a province of Serbia.

"What do we do with Serbs living in Kosovo?" he asked. "There are no answers to this question."

Some 100,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, some of them scattered in central and eastern Kosovo while the rest are grouped in the troubled north bordering the rest of Serbia. Although NATO peacekeepers patrol Kosovo's north alongside a multiethnic local police force, the area is dominated by minority Serbs and has eluded full U.N. and NATO control.