Russia Says EU, NATO Forces in Independent Kosovo Illegal

BRUSSELS -- Russia warned the European Union and NATO on Wednesday that their presence in Kosovo would be illegal if in support of a self-proclaimed independent state.

Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said the EU had no basis in international law to deploy a police and justice mission in the breakaway Serbian province, since that required a United Nations mandate.

Moscow has backed Belgrade's refusal to allow Kosovo its own state, blocking a UN Security Council resolution that would have granted the territory supervised independence.

"Any attempt to circumvent the UN Security Council would put the EU mission on a very shaky legal basis," Chizhov told a news conference.

He said the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo known as KFOR would be in breach of its UN mandate if for example it intervened to put down protests by Kosovo's Serb minority against a declaration of independence.

Both the EU and NATO consider that UN Security Council resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 after NATO bombing drove Serb troops out of Kosovo, provides adequate legal basis for the continued presence of outside peacekeepers and overseers.

The UN Security Council has not taken a position on this. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders have said they intend to declare independence within weeks but will time their move in coordination with Washington and Brussels.

Chizhov said the United States appeared to have already given a green light "but that means additional responsibility lies with Brussels," adding Moscow was not giving up hope of preventing such an outcome and was using all diplomatic means.