Official Russian sources are condemning the U.N.’s “policy of appeasement” toward militant ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, claiming that Western influence has resulted in the “escalation of terrorism” in the strategic — but volatile — Balkan region

Moscow is denouncing the recently adopted provisions for self-rule for U.N.-administered Kosovo — nominally still part of the Yugoslav Federation. Russia and Yugoslavia both denounced the U.N. move as preparing Kosovo for outright independence, a move every government in the region opposes.

The Russian Foreign Ministry ominously warned the chief of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, or UNMIK, Hans Haekkerup, that he “should be in complete understanding” that he bears “great responsibility” for any further military clashes in the region, and expressed continuing support for the “sovereignty and integrity” of Yugoslavia.

The statements were carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

NATO itself is at risk in the clash between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Greece, a NATO ally and traditional friend of the United States, recently reaffirmed its close ties with Yugoslavia — including military ties.

Turkey, another NATO member, although technically a secular state, shares religious ties with the Muslim ethnic Albanians. Observers note that a sudden eruption of warfare in the region could pull the Greeks and the Turks, who for centuries occupied the entire Balkan peninsula, into the fighting — but on opposite sides.

Kosovo has been administered by UNMIK since the end of NATO’s 78-day air war against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Moscow has consistently and bitterly accused NATO and UNMIK of favoritism toward the ethnic Albanians, who seek to separate Kosovo from Yugoslav control. Russia has never wavered in its support of Yugoslavia’s claims to Kosovo — even after the fall of the Milosevic regime last October.

During the mid-April visit of Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic to Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reaffirmed that Russia is “an old friend of Yugoslavia.” Zizic responded that Yugoslavia places “special emphasis on Moscow’s support.” Russia “offered broad cooperation” to Yugoslavia during Zizic’s visit.

Another old Milosevic friend, the Peoples Republic of China, is continuing its friendship with Yugoslavia. While Zizic was in Moscow, the Yugoslav Vice Premier, Miroljub Labus, was in Beijing, ensuring continued economic relations between China and Yugoslavia.

“Concrete steps for continuing earlier commenced cooperation” were agreed upon during the talks, according to Radio Yugoslavia, the official broadcasting service of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Both Russia and Yugoslavia quickly expressed anger at UNMIK’s self-government plan. The new Kosovo constitutional framework includes an executive with a president and prime minister, an elected assembly and a court system independent of the Yugoslav judiciary.

Elections to fill the posts provided in the self-rule document will be held in November.

Moscow claims that the self-rule provisions will evolve into “full-fledged constitutional organs,” resulting in Kosovo finally declaring independence.

No regional government now in power in the Balkans supports any change in the region’s borders, the product of years of bitter ethnic strife.

UNMIK’s “constitutional framework” for Kosovo was signed on May 15. The self-rule document was produced by a committee, which included three Albanians and two Serbs. All three Albanian members attended the signing, but neither of the Serb representatives were present.

According to Radio Yugoslavia, one of the Serb committee members, Alexandar Simic, declared that Kosovo’s new charter would “encourage radical Albanian nationalism and … terrorism not only in Kosovo, but also in the entire Balkan region.”

Referring to ongoing conflicts in southern Serbia and Macedonia, Simic stated that “the international community will find it even more difficult to prevent an expansion of radical Albanian extremism” throughout the Balkan region.

While both Moscow and Belgrade charge that the new Kosovo charter runs counter to U.N. Resolution 1244, which affirms Kosovo’s ties to Yugoslavia, UNMIK states that it is acting within proper guidelines for the establishment of an autonomous Kosovo, as previously stipulated in agreements ending NATO’s air war.

One of the Albanian representatives attending the charter signing was Ibrahim Rugova, a long-time advocate of ethnic Albanian political power in Kosovo.

In March 2001, Rugova traveled to Germany seeking to explain “the reality of Kosovo” to German political leaders, while advocating “the independence of Kosovo as soon as possible,” as reported by Deutsche Welle, the official broadcasting service of the German government.

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