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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Hints at Veto on Kosovo

APKosovo Serbs calling for Russian support in Kosovska Mitrovica on Friday.
MUNICH, Germany -- Russia will not support any international plan to resolve Kosovo's status that is not accepted by both Serbia and the province's ethnic Albanian majority, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

"Only the Kosovars and Serbs can resolve this," Putin told a forum of the world's top security officials. "Let's not play God and try to resolve their problems."

Putin's remarks raised the specter that Russia might use its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block a U.S.- and European Union-backed proposal that envisions internationally supervised statehood for Kosovo.

"If we see that one of the parties is not happy with the solution, we will not support that decision," Putin said. "If one participant in this problem feels hurt, this will drag on for centuries."

Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership have failed in negotiations to reach agreement on the province's future, with Serbia demanding the province remain within its territory and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians wanting independence.

The Kosovo proposal -- unveiled recently by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari and which needs UN Security Council approval to take effect -- does not explicitly mention independence, but spells out conditions for self-rule, including a flag, anthem, army and constitution, and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.

Thousands of Kosovo Serbs rallied in protest of the proposal in the northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica on Friday. They waved banners reading "Long live Serbia" and "Russia, help!''

Moscow has said any solution favoring Kosovo's independence could encourage separatist movements elsewhere in the world, including in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday issued a strong warning that granting independence to Kosovo could spark a "chain reaction."

"If we imagine a situation in which Kosovo achieves independence, then other people -- people living in regions that are not recognized -- will ask us: 'Are we not as good as them?'" Ivanov told reporters ahead of a meeting of his NATO counterparts in Seville, Spain.

"This concerns obviously the post-Soviet space, but also regions in Europe," he said. "This can create a chain reaction ... we must be careful not to open Pandora's box."

Serbian officials also have warned that an independent Kosovo could also serve as a precedent for independence movements elsewhere, notably in Spain's Basque Country or Catalonia.

The United States has said, however, that the Kosovo situation is unique because the province has been under UN rule since 1999, when Serb forces were ejected following NATO bombing.

"I hope that Russia would embrace these aspirations for Kosovo and the Balkans," U.S. Senator John McCain said Saturday at the Munich forum attended by Putin. "So far, it has not."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said after the Russian president's speech that it was premature to speculate about whether Russia would block a UN resolution on Kosovo. "We still have a long way to go because the two sides must negotiate between themselves," Peskov said, but added that granting Kosovo independence against Serbia's wishes would set "a dangerous precedent."

Kosovo has been under UN and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.