Kosovo president accuses Russia of destabilising Balkans

Kosovo president accuses Russia of destabilising Balkans
Kosovo's president has accused Russia of using its traditional ally Serbia to 'destabilise' the Balkans
2 min read
17 February, 2022
Vjosa Osmani accused Russia of destabilisng the Balkans [Getty]

Kosovo's president accused Russia on Thursday of using its traditional ally Serbia to "destabilise" the Balkans, as Moscow faces off against the West in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia, which has long backed Serbia in its disagreements with the West, does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state and has blocked it joining the United Nations. Kosovo, like Ukraine, hopes eventually to join NATO and the European Union.

Ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo declared independence from Belgrade in 2008.

"Today Kosovo, the region but also the whole globe is facing dangers caused by the aggressive course of Russia," President Vjosa Osmani told parliament in a speech to mark the 14th anniversary of her country's independence.

Osmani added that Russia was using "its traditional ally Serbia... to cause destabilisation in the Balkan region".

Tensions between Pristina and Belgrade over Kosovo's treatment of some 120,000 ethnic Serbs living on its territory are a serious obstacle - along with factors such as endemic corruption - to the country's efforts to join NATO or the EU.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, triggering Western fears of an invasion, and on Thursday the United States repeated its warning that a war could be imminent.

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Moscow denies any plans to invade but is seeking sweeping security guarantees from the West, including an end to NATO's further eastern enlargement.

Arber Vllahiu, an independent political analyst, drew a parallel between Moscow's stance on Ukraine and the Balkans.

"Russia has a big interest not only in stopping Ukraine from joining NATO but also in preventing the western Balkans, including Kosovo, from joining the EU and NATO," said Vllahiu, a former ambassador of Kosovo to the Czech Republic.

At talks in the Kremlin this week with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Russian President Vladimir Putin cited NATO's bombing of Serb forces during the Kosovo crisis in 1999 as an example of what he said was the alliance's aggressive behaviour.

Scholz said NATO had acted to prevent genocide, a reference to the persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.