The man nearly certain to win the Russian presidency Sunday, Dmitri Medvedev, says Kosovo independence has jeopardized security and stability in the Balkans.
Medvedev, campaigning Wednesday in central Russia, said Western recognition of the February 17 independence declaration by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority has put Europe in what he called a difficult situation.
By comparison, he said the United States, which backs Kosovo independence, is not facing the same political risks as Europe.
Russia, Serbia's strongest ally, has condemned the Kosovo declaration, saying it will spark secessionist movements elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Today, Medvedev promised continued political support for Belgrade.
In other developments, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch is accusing some Serbian ministers of using Kosovo's secession to enflame regional tensions.
In a statement, the organization cited five incidents of violence in the past week, and urged Belgrade to speak with "one voice" against unrest in the region.
In northern Kosovo Wednesday, Serbia's Tanjug news agency says about 100 Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica were continuing to protest the loss of their jobs. Demonstrators are demanding that the two local courts that employed them be returned to Serbian jurisdiction.