MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned the West on Monday that recognizing a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo could set off a “chain reaction” of problems in the Balkans and beyond.
Russia, which has backed its ally Serbia over the status of the breakaway Serbian province, would also demand that any unilateral declaration be rescinded.
“I want to stress that UDI of Kosovo and recognition of such independence will not remain without consequences,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Nicosia.
“It will create a chain reaction throughout the Balkans and other areas of the world,” he said, speaking through an interpreter after talks with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Kosovo with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Monday, Russian news agencies reported, quoting the Kremlin press service.
The talks came on the day mediation efforts between Serbia and Kosovo Albanian leaders officially expired and after Kosovo Albanians said they would start immediate talks with Western backers about an independence declaration.
Russian mediator Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko spelt out the tougher diplomatic line from Moscow.
“Unilateral declaration of independence would constitute a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. In this case Russia will demand that such a decision be cancelled, be annulled,” the envoy said of the existing U.N. resolution governing international action in Kosovo.
Russia, which holds a veto in the U.N. Security Council, has already blocked one Western-backed independence plan.
Washington and almost all EU member states support Kosovo’s independence from Serbia as the best option for stability in the Balkans and leaders of Kosovo’s 90-percent Albanian majority say they will declare it within months.
Without approval from the UN, any decision would not be legitimate, Botsan-Kharchenko said.
“There are no other legal grounds. Any interpretations of Resolution 1244 on Kosovo are preposterous.”
Reporting by Conor Sweeney in Moscow and Michele Kambas in Nicosia; editing by Keith Weir