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Russia Threatens to Block Kosovo's UN Membership

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow can use its seat on the Security Council to block Kosovo's membership in the United Nations. The statement coincides with the arrival in Belgrade of the first planeload of Russian humanitarian aid for Kosovo's Serb minority. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Russian capital.

Addressing lawmakers in Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said increased tensions in Serbian areas of Kosovo and general dissatisfaction in Serbia is the direct result of what he called irresponsible and short-sighted policies aimed at the unilateral declaration on Kosovo's independence.

Lavrov accused the European Union of sanctioning and encouraging that independence.

Lavrov says that Russia, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is in a position not to allow Kosovo to become a full-fledged member of the United Nations. There is, he adds, no way around this.

Political analyst Alexei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center says Russia can count on a few former Soviet republics, such as Kazakhstan, to support its position on Kosovo in the United Nations. But he notes that the threat of a veto no longer has the impact it did when Moscow's Security Council seat was held by the Soviet Union.

Malashenko says Russia will have a difficult time enforcing its opposition, particularly if a majority of U.N. members favor Kosovo's admission. He says Russia and Serbia will need to go beyond words to deal with the political realities of Kosovo's independence.

Malashenko says Belgrade will ultimately need to back down, because its future is with Europe. Serbia's relations with Russia, he says, represent a tactic, adding that Belgrade and Moscow would both like to find a compromise solution on Kosovo.

Meanwhile, the first shipment of Russian humanitarian assistance, including children's food, arrived in Belgrade for delivery to Kosovo's Serb minority. Russia plans to send two or three more planeloads, for a total of 140 tons. Critics say the assistance is of little consequence and merely represents a public relations campaign.