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Russia Hints at Security Council Veto of Kosovo Resolution

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says any resolution on independence for Kosovo will fail in the U.N. Security Council, unless it gains the backing of Serbia, a close Kremlin ally. As VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports, Russia has a specific interest in opposing an independent Kosovo.

Speaking after a ministerial meeting in Bishkek, the capital of Kirghizstan, the Russian Foreign Minister told reporters that his country's position on Kosovo is well known, and is backed by international law.

Any decision on Kosovo, says Lavrov, is possible only on the basis of agreement between the two sides directly involved in the matter.

Complex historical forces have pitted ethnic Albanians, who became Kosovo's majority in the 20th century, against Serbians, who trace important elements of their past to the province, where they were once the majority.

The United States and its European allies have drafted a resolution to give the two sides four months to reach agreement on Kosovo's status. If they fail to reach agreement, those allies would support Kosovo independence under international supervision.

Foreign Minister Lavrov says no U.N. resolution on the province can pass without the agreement of Serbia, a traditional Russian ally. While he did not openly say Russia would exercise its Security Council veto, he made clear that his country would do exactly that.

Moscow is dealing with a number of so-called frozen conflicts, violent intractable disputes involving ethnic minorities in and around Russia.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the Politika Foundation, a Moscow research organization, says the Kremlin does not want Kosovo to be used by secessionists in a number of areas to violate the interests or territorial integrity of Russia.

Among these areas, says Nikonov, are Moldova's Transdnistria region, as well as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus. The analyst adds that for residents of all those unrecognized states, Kosovo will obviously become a precedent.

In a related development, the prime minister of Abkhazia, Alexander Ankvab, was slightly injured in an attack on his vehicle as he traveled to the regional capital, Sukhumi. Abkhazia is seeking independence from Georgia, which resents the presence of Russian troops in the area. Moscow says its forces are there strictly as peacekeepers.

Last week, one of Foreign Minister Lavrov's deputies, Andrei Denisov, told the Interfax News agency that the international community needs to formulate a legally-binding document on which principle to apply in Kosovo-type conflicts, respect for a country's territorial integrity or the right of a people to self-determination.

U.S. President George Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed Kosovo at their meeting last week in Kennebunkport, Maine. They did not announce any breakthrough.