Russia Says Kosovo Will Never Join United Nations

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia has backed its ally Serbia in the UN Security Council, saying Kosovo will never become a member of the United Nations or other international organizations if the breakaway province unilaterally declares independence.

The 2 million Albanians in the Serbian province are expected to declare independence sometime after Serbia's presidential elections later this month.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said in a speech to the Security Council that his country would never recognize a sovereign Kosovo, a view the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, made clear Moscow shared.

"They [Kosovo] would not become members of the United Nations, they would not become members of international political institutions. ... If they go down the road of unilateral declarations," Churkin told reporters Wednesday.

As a permanent veto-wielding member of the 15-nation Security Council, which would have to approve Kosovo's membership, Moscow would have the power to block any request from Pristina to join the UN.

But Churkin would not directly say whether Russia was prepared to block Kosovo's UN membership.

Both Churkin and Tadic urged the Security Council to continue working to find a solution to the Kosovo problem that is acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina. But diplomats say the time for such talks is over.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that the Security Council was blocked and no longer had any role to play on the issue of Kosovo's future status.

Churkin disagreed. "The matter is firmly locked in the Security Council," he said.

Western diplomats say Russia has prevented the council from passing a resolution that would open the door to independence for Kosovo.

But Churkin made clear that Moscow did not feel responsible for the impasse.