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Serbia said Russia recognized two republics because of Kosovo’s precedent

Serbia said Wednesday that a precedent set by the Western recognition of Kosovo's independence led to Russia's recognition of Georgia's two separatist regions.

Russia supported Serbia's objections in February when Kosovo declared its independence, but the U.S. and most European Union members recognized the breakaway province as a nation.

Serbia refrained from openly criticizing Russia for its armed intervention in the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia earlier this month, and the Serbian Foreign Ministry statement Wednesday does not explicitly criticize Moscow's recognition of South Ossetia and the other Georgian region, Abkhazia.

"Serbian officials have repeatedly warned that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence and the recognition of this illegal act could set a precedent and destabilize other regions in the world," the Serbian statement said.

Those predictions have come true, it added.

"Serbia respects international law and advocates the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of internationally recognized states, primarily of Serbia," the statement added.

Analysts say that Serbia's lack of criticism of Russia was due to fears that Moscow could stop supporting Belgrade by dropping its opposition to Kosovo's independence in the U.N. Security Council.

Russia says the West badly undermined its own arguments for the sanctity of Georgia's borders by supporting Kosovo's independence.

But Kosovo officials see no parallel between Georgia's breakaway regions and Kosovo.

"Kosovo is a unique case and cannot be compared to any other in the world," Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu told Kosovo TV. "The status of Kosovo was solved through international mediation."

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 after it launched a military campaign in the province against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian separatists. Slobodan Milosevic, president at the time, was forced to pull out of Kosovo after NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in retaliation for its brutality to civilians in Kosovo.

The new pro-Western Serbian leadership, which came in after Milosevic was ousted in 2000, has refrained from using force in Kosovo but has refused to give up its claim on the territory it considers the cradle of its religion and statehood.

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