PRISTINA, Serbia – Russia denounced Kosovo's independence declaration Sunday and called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow holds veto power as a permanent member.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said Russia supports Serbia's "just demands to restore the country's territorial integrity" and wants the Security Council to renew efforts to reach a settlement on the issue of Kosovo's status.
The ministry said Kosovo's independence declaration violates Serbia's sovereignty and the U.N. Charter and threatens "the escalation of tension and ethnic violence in the region, a new conflict in the Balkans." It warned other nations against "supporting separatism" by recognizing Kosovo.
Russia has stressed its opposition to any decision on Kosovo's status that is not accepted by Serbia. It has warned that recognition of Kosovo by the United States and other nations would encourage separatists in the former Soviet Union, across Europe and around the world.
Underscoring Russia's claim that Kosovo's declaration violates an existing Security Council resolution on Kosovo, the ministry urged the U.N. mission and NATO forces there to carry out their mandate by "annulling the decisions of the Pristina government organs and taking severe administrative measures against them."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed the ministry statement in comments on state-run Vesti-24 television. He called Kosovo's declaration an "illegitimate act.
Peskov said "all possible international mechanisms, first of all the United Nations and its Security Council," would be called upon to address the issue, and that Russia would closely monitor the response of other countries to the declaration.
He indicated that Russia would support any reasonable moves by Serbia but said nothing about any further action by Moscow. "As for potential steps, probably one can speak first of all of potential steps by Serbia," he said.
President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia "knows what it will do" in response to a Western-backed declaration. But he said Moscow would not "ape" the West — indicting it would not immediately recognize long-standing independence claims of pro-Russian separatist regions in ex-Soviet Georgia.
The Interfax news agency quoted the leaders of those regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as saying they would soon appeal to Russia and the United Nations for recognition.
"We believe that we have a greater right to recognition of our independence by the international community than Kosovo does," Irina Gagloyeva, spokeswoman for South Ossetia's separatist government, told The Associated Press. "It will now be harder for the West to ignore our demands."
Abkhazia's Vice-President Raul Khadzhimba, also reached by AP, said the province would step up efforts to win recognition — "first of all from Russia." Neither Gagloyeva nor Khadzhimba would confirm plans for any formal appeals, however.
The United States and others expected to recognize Kosovo contend that it sets no precedent. And analysts say Russia is unlikely to risk a potentially devastating break with the West by swiftly recognizing the regions, emphasizing that the Kremlin is more concerned about pushes by the pro-Western leadership of Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO.
Putin has built his popularity on restoring Russia's pride after a period of post-Soviet humiliation, and Moscow's firm stance on Kosovo comes amid growing Kremlin assertiveness toward the West. Putin has held out backing for Kosovo as a glaring example of double standards and dangerous disregard for international law.
As Kosovo's parliament was declaring independence, several dozen activists demonstrated outside Serbia's embassy in Moscow in a show of support for Belgrade. Some held flags bearing the words "I am for an indivisible Serbia."
A man in an Uncle Sam hat used a buzz saw to open a crate symbolizing Pandora's Box, releasing a black-robed Death figure who cut a hole in a globe with his scythe. Red fluid dripped out in a dramatized echo of the Foreign Ministry's warning of potential Balkan bloodshed.