Russia denies ditching Serbia over Kosovo independence

Russia denies ditching Serbia over Kosovo independence

Serbia’s media has distanced itself from Vladimir Putin amid suggestions Russia might withdraw its support on Kosovo.

Russia vetos Kosovo’s attempts to join the United Nations and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has not imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, despite EU and US pressure.

And Russia’s ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Bocan Harchenko said Moscow had not changed its attitude towards Kosovo and will not recognise it. 

He said Russia’s policy on Kosovo since it declared independence with western backing in 2008 was “durable, long lasting and confirmed several times”.

“Of course, there are no changes at all, Russia is consistent [and] does not recognise Kosovo,“ he told Serb television.

Russia and Serbs have close ties, based on shared Slavic and Orthodox heritage and they fought together in both world wars.

In late April Putin said Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence made a precedent for similar declarations by the two Russian occupied enclaves in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Putin told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” had the right to declare sovereignty as “the precedent was set” by Kosovo. 

Guterres reportedly replied that the UN does not recognise Kosovo. 

Normally supportive Serb newspapers said Putin had betrayed Serbia.

The splash headline in the pro-Kremlin Srpski Telegraf declared: “Putin stuck a knife in Serbia’s back: he traded Kosovo for Donbas”. 

Kurir, a pro-government newspaper, declared: “Naked interest: Putin’s statement protects Russia’s interests in Donbas, without taking into account Serbia’s position in Kosovo and Metohija!”. 

Media criticism of Russia has previously been seen as anti-Serbian.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on February 25 said Serbia respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity but Russia’s support for Serbia during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s and Moscow’s support over Kosovo would not be forgotten.

Vucic on April 26 met the president of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, and said Serbia will continue on its path to potential EU membership, while preserving ties with Russia.

That day, Vucic also met US regional envoy Karen Donfried and discussed Serbia’s attitude towards the “situation” in Ukraine, according to a Serb presidential statement. 

Kosovo’s international status is a highly emotional issue for many Serbs and is seen as something of its national heartland. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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