Kosovo's independence funded by drug money, Russian NATO envoy says

Other News Materials 22 February 2008 20:43 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa)  - Russia's envoy to NATO charged Friday that Kosovo's independence fight was funded by local drug-lords as Moscow steps up last-ditch rhetoric aimed at warning the international community against recognising the independence of the former Serb province.

"Drug money is being used at present for development of a political strand on Kosovo's independence," said Russia's newly appointed NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin on Friday.

The former firebrand nationalist lawmaker called recognition of Kosovo a "strategic mistake" and said the move would further complicate Russia's relations with NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to be present at the next NATO summit in Romania in April, where the so-called "Kosovo Precedent" has taken centre stage over Russia's opposition to a planned US missile-defence base in Eastern Europe and NATO's eastward expansion.

Russia maintains that the Kosovo Precedent will lead to an eruption of separatist movements around the world, but analysts said Friday that Moscow also regrets its loss of influence in Serbia, with which it has long had close ties.

Rogozin said Thursday that Moscow was concerned over NATO overstepping its UN mandate in Kosovo and over reports that Kosovo had sealed its border with Serbia.

"Moscow is worried by the possibility of the appearance of alien military bases in the province," Rogozin said via video link with Brussels.

NATO's peacekeeping mission of over 16,000 troops holds responsibility for patrolling the border in Kosovo.

"If the European Union works out a single position and NATO goes beyond its current mandate in Kosovo, there will be a conflict between these organizations and the United Nations," Russia's NATO ambassador said.

Rogozin underlined that NATO must retain its "neutrality" and not get involved in "international politics."

He complained that NATO and the European Union were breaking international law and ignoring Russia's concerns about the move toward recognizing Kosovo.

"We, I think, will need to assume that in order to be respected we have to resort to brute military force," Rogozin said Thursday, despite assurances that Russia would not initiate a confrontation with NATO.